We’ve all experienced the unpleasant spectacle of a child throwing a first-class tantrum in a public place, while the mother stands by, wringing her hands and trying in vain to reason with the little would-be tyrant. Of course, it might also be the father in this predicament, but men generally have a firmer approach to dealing with these displays of temper. Consequently, they are less likely to experience a repeat performance.
Most likely, this is not the first temper tantrum the child has had. He has found that it is an effective way of getting what he wants. If he screams loud enough and long enough, his doting parent will cave in. He may even embellish his performance by throwing himself on the floor, kicking, biting, scratching, and doing whatever he can to upset his parent and attract attention from sympathetic bystanders.
Children are smarter than adults give them credit for being. A baby soon learns that if he cries, someone will come and pick him up. If he reaches for something on the table, usually someone will hand it to him. If he sticks out him bottom lip and threatens to burst into tears, Mommy will usually give in and let him have or do whatever he wants.
A parent who treats her child in this manner is well on the way to raising a spoiled brat. If you think a temper tantrum at two is stressful, try dealing with an enraged five-year-old who yells at you disrespectfully, while attempting to slap, punch, or kick you because you refused to buy him an expensive item in the toy department. We won’t even discuss what a spoiled teenager is capable of.
Wise parents take a firm stand with their children from the earliest days. Children need adults who set limits, who make rules that must be followed consistently. That is how they learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not allowed. Every child needs to be socialized. He must learn that “No!” means “No!”, and that the parent will not change his or her mind no matter what a good performance he puts on.
At the first sign of a tantrum at home, he should be picked up firmly and placed in his bed or in his room. He is not to be allowed out until he is ready to behave in a civilized manner. You may have to put him back ten times at first, but if you don’t weaken and give in, he’ll soon get the idea that you mean what you say.
If he starts a make a scene in a restaurant, tell him once, “Either stop right now or we will go home.” Then do it. Leaving your meal untouched is a small price to pay to teach your child a necessary lesson in proper restaurant manners.
Once you’ve taught the little one about “Please” and “Thank you”, give him two reminders. The third time he neglects to use the proper response, reclaim whatever you handed to him. He may follow you around for awhile, yelling “Please, please, please!”, but he is unlikely to forget a fourth time.
Most of the problems the developed world is experiencing with today’s teenagers originate because many parents have tried to be friends with their children rather than fulfilling their duty as parents. A child will have friends within his peer group. He needs parents to lay down firm rules, to insist that they be followed consistently, to teach proper behavior, to discipline when necessary, and to prepare him for the adult world where no one is going to cater to his every whim.
Don’t procrastinate, telling yourself you will adopt a firmer approach to discipline when your little one is older. The child throwing the first-class temper tantrum in public has already learned that you can be manipulated. Remember that you are an adult, a parent and you are in control.
Scoop the little rebel up, take him home and place him in his bed until you both settle down. Later, in a calm voice tell him that if he cannot behave when he is out in company, he will have to stay home. Then drop the subject; you have made your point. Your next excursion with your child will probably be much more pleasant.
“Loving discipline encourages a child to respect other people and live as a responsible, constructive citizen.”
Dr. James Dobson