Thursday, 19 March 2015

Tantrum Taming

The following piece, written for US website, on the subject of toddler tantrums and how to deal with them, seems to have attracted a surprising amount of controversy. Some parents seem to feel I am raising a monster by giving in to my three-year-old's hysterical reaction to a cup or spoon she doesn't like. Maybe they're right...

Maybe not though. Really, is she going to be spoiled for life because I switched the cup she didn't want? I doubt it? Grow into a Godzilla-like beast, making incessant, uncontrollable demands of all around her simply because I chose not to enter into a battle with her over a spoon or fork?

Or, is there a possibility that somewhere in her childish mind she might even appreciate that I am being decent and kind, and that this might in turn encourage her to adopt the same attributes when dealing with other people? From what I can see of the playground dynamic, a bit of kindness and decency might go a long way.

One woman called it "the worst parenting advice ever." Really? Worse even than those people who still think 'spare the rod and spoil the child' is a sound recommendation? Oh come on!

Naturally, when I saw the type of reaction this was getting, I did think – is this actually bad advice I'm giving out? I mulled over it some more, and I have decided that no, it isn't. Why should my daughter not learn to expect tolerance and an imaginative response from me? I may think she's being silly about the cup, but what matters here is that she does not. The choice of cup means something to her, and so, as a parent, I think its fair enough to try and understand that.

Finally though, the proof of the pudding is, as ever, in the eating. I cannot predict the future, but I can see what happens in the now: when I resist my daughter and refuse to change the cup, she is capable of having a full-blown tantrum over it - not always, but it does happen. Whereas, if I make an effort to enter into her mindset and say, 'ok, you hate that cup, I get it! What a horrible cup!', then suddenly she is the one saying 'it's ok, its only a cup.' Instead of screaming with frustration because no one understands her, she feels listened to and as a consequence her behaviour becomes much more reasonable.

But, of course you can decide for yourselves:

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Boys V Girls? Vive La Difference

I had two lovely boys, and then a lovely girl came along. "You wait," the mothers of girls said ominously. "Girls are a totally different ball-game..."

So I waited, and nothing seemed terribly different. A baby, basically, with the usual sort of baby demands. Then a toddler. Then a pre-schooler. And then wham! There, suddenly, was the difference they had been talking about.

My sons went to Montessori – the same Montessori as my daughter in one case – and came home with tales of what they learned, usually animal-related, and paintings they had done.

My daughter, now four, comes home with a minute blow-by-blow account of who was nice and who was mean to her. Which other little girls let her play with them, and which didn't. Who let her sit next to them and who didn't. This kind of analysis goes on and on.

Her detailed examination of the social scene in her Montessori rivals Jane Austin for the level of awareness and sophistication she brings to it. And finally I understand what other mothers of girls mean when they say sadly 'children can be so mean to each other...'

here is a piece I have written on the topic for