You walk in to the local suburban food court and hear a faint wailing sound that gradually builds in intensity and volume as you approach. A child is in major distress.
“Red, red, I want the red one Whaaah….!”she screams
You see a two year old, eyes scrunched up and streaming with tears, mouth wide open and that awful tortured sound, “Whaaaaaaaaaahh” What are they doing to this poor child?
“Red one! – RED ONE WHAAAAAHH…!”
Someone who looks like mum is holding a yellow cup and a take away food tray as the line of future customers continues to grow. There is also a red cup on the counter. Mum tries to move away but a fresh wave of wailing ensues and ends with the child on the floor.
“Red red red..” the little tortured angel is sobbing now. Desperately reaching for the red cup that has been left on the counter.
“For God’s sake give her the red cup!” you scream in your head, “What’s the big deal? Is it worth all that?”
Rewind five minutes and at the counter are a mum and 2 year old discussing the menu.
“So would you like a red one or a yellow one honey?”
“Yellow.” Mum grabs the yellow one. “No no no red!” Mum rolls her eyes, replaces the yellow one and grabs the red one.
“Yellow!” Alright honey last chance, Yellow or red?
“Yellow it is.”
And cut to top of page for a repeat performance…
As a parent it is so easy to give in to these demands but what does that teach our kids? That they can get whatever they want by screaming and throwing a tantrum?
Yes, I get embarrassed – it is hard not to with your child writhing on the floor uncontrollably, foaming at the mouth in a public place. But does that mean that the little terrorist should get what she wants? No, no and double no.
The funny thing I’ve noticed is that regardless as to whether or not a child gets their way the tantrum usually ends at about the same time. That is when they realizes that they will either definitely get what they want or definitely not get what they want.
It is not about the object but more about the outcome and how she can bend me to her will.
The time at which the outcome is not assured is when my joyful bundle screams the loudest and longest. It’s that little period of indecision that really kills you and they know it and that is when they do their best to alter events in their favour by putting you under pressure.
It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized just how good at acting kids become. My child even had me fooled for a couple of days with her latest rendition of being mortally wounded. The tears were real, the snot was definitely real and it wasn’t until she instantly stopped crying that I realized that I had been had.
I don’t really know how or why it is worth it. I can’t give you any scientific evidence. I just feel that it is. It’s the vibe. It’s MABO, it’s all that. Allowing my child to get what she wants by throwing tantrums can only lead to more tantrums. Sounds obvious doesn’t it?
In actual fact a tantrum is a child’s way of requesting a boundary. They are asking you, the parent, what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. If you give in to their demands they will think that it is acceptable and continue to behave in the same way.
To me, those little battles that don’t seem to matter at the time are the most important ones. Yellow or red, yes or no, apple or orange. When you finally make up your mind you have to stick with it regardless otherwise your child will think you are a pushover and walk all over you just for the sake of it.
By the way, in my books there is nothing wrong with being flexible and changing your mind (as you all know). I just don’t think that it is a good idea to let your child think that their bad behaviour is the reason for the change of mind, otherwise they will keep on doing it.
Make up some other reason. We found it better to wait half an hour or so and then announce a change of plans as if it was our idea in the first place rather than caving in at the high point of a tantrum.
By that time the whole previous incident is generally forgotten anyway and we are able to keep a little bit of power as the decision makers in the family. A little bit.
I can promise you that the more you solidly stick to your guns the shorter the tantrums will become. They probably won’t disappear altogether mind you but your child will quickly realize that they will not get their way by throwing a hissy fit and will try another strategy to test your resolve and the boundaries you have set.
Our cheeky little monkey has moved in to the flattery will get you everywhere category.
“Daddy – I like your shirt. Can I have the red drink pleeeease?”