To tantrum or not to tantrum? That is the question… Or is it?
I had a conversation today with a mom in my practice, whose young daughter is reportedly a menace to shop with. She adamantly insists upon foods whose child-directed packaging appeals to her, wants treats while shopping, and will throw a tantrum if she doesn’t get what she wants. I empathize with the mom – but worry that by giving in to the tantrum – she may be “buying peace” at a very high price tag.
Let me explain by stating that I am proud to have a very feisty daughter. In fact, her fire-y personality is one of the things I most love about her. But the downside of that is that I have had my fair share of public tantrums. And yes, you read that right: I have had tantrums in public… but she has had more.
When Audra was a toddler, she could tantrum with the best of them. While I may have looked the picture of calm to an onlooker, internally, I was breathing my way through the episodes, just like I breathed through the contractions of her birth. (And some days, I couldn’t have said which was worse)
I quickly realized that the question wasn’t whether or not I had a child who would throw tantrums – (I did, and it sucked). The question was this: What would I stand to lose or gain if I gave into them?
Giving into a tantrum may save face in public, or quiet a loud child – but remember it’s a temporary gain. What we LOSE is much more. We sometimes forget that our brilliantly perceptive children learn from modeling and experience. They observe their world for cause and effect. And when we give in to a tantrum, they learn that tantrums get them what they want.
See, I am stubborn enough that I decided tantrums would never be rewarded. I simply could not afford to add fuel to the fire that is my feisty daughter – not if I wanted to keep my sanity. (And I’ve always been a little concerned about what our teenage years may bring)
I saw my options as being:
1- give in (but like I said, I am usually too stubborn)
2 – ignore (this strategy works well, although onlookers may not approve…In fact, I could tell stories of being congratulated by older women in the check out lines: “Good for you for standing your ground, mama”)
3 –have a mommy fit.
Since I did not want to opt for number 3 – I learned that I had to take care of myself enough so that tendency was not likely to occur. Any parent could tell you that tantrums happen most during those days when WE are most tired, stressed, rushed or pushed to the max. So taking care of ourselves is not a luxury or a selfish act – it is a necessity for simple survival when you are a parent.
I would remind myself that I am not trying to be my child’s best friend. In fact, I think it would be delusional of me to try to go through my parenting life without making my children angry at me. It would be downright parenting suicide to think that I could always make them happy and that this would be a solution to all of our troubles. I think I was wise enough to recognize that by giving in to tantrums, I would be creating a monster. In actual fact, I would probably become a monster, too, out of pure frustration.
So, if your child throws tantrums – Go ahead and buy peace. Give in to the tantrums. Win the grateful looks of other shoppers. But know that when that child becomes a teenager you just may have your work cut out for you. For me, I just think the price is way too high.