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: