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No! No! NO!

We've all seen them -- well, those of us who are parents, anyway. We've all heard them and cringed. They take on many forms and can happen at a moment's notice. And no adult, parent or not, likes them. What am I talking about? Tantrums, of course.

Late yesterday, DCer asked the following:

What do people do when the child won't do the chores and time outs throw the child into a serious tantrum? I'm tired of ending up at the ultimatum too fast, but the "let's make it a game" scenario always ends up being "let's watch Daddy do it and leave the room halfway through." And I don't mean it "always" does, I mean this has never worked once without someone going into time out first and coming downstairs to apologize and begrudgingly set the table.

Tantrums are particularly prevalent in my house at the arsenic hour or around bedtime. They take on ugly shapes when we've backed ourselves into a corner rather than give the kids an illusion of choice. Clearly, some kids simply lose control when they are tired or hungry or not getting their way. And they really don't care if you're in the middle of the grocery store, a restaurant, a crowded Metro train or any other public place. At his 5-year appointment, I asked our pediatrician about the tantrums, particularly the ones that involve kicking, spitting and punching. Doc's answer: They're normal. Continue to set the rules and be consistent. In other words; this too shall pass.

Maybe some of the problem with tantrums is that kids' brains are wired differently than ours. Listen to Herb Cohen, author of "Negotiate This! By Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much," who was quoted in a Sunday Post story on negotiation:

"Adults believe that 'no' is forever. Children believe that 'no' is getting a bad reaction at this particular point in time. They think, 'Let me try five minutes later.' If the answer is still 'no,' they try again 10 minutes later. They persist, they persevere, they are relentless."

So, let's hear it. (And please, no shouting!) Share your tantrum tales and creative and not-so-creative ways you've handled them. What works? What doesn't?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 31, 2007; 6:45 AM ET  | Category:  Preschoolers
Previous: What a Chore! | Next: Birthing Plans

Comments


When my oldest son was about 3 (he's 21 now), he would throw tantrums in the grocery store, and deliberately knock things off shelves. The worst one was the HUGE jar of pickles. Luckily I've lived in the same town my whole life and everyone there knew me. The only thing that worked for me was to immediately pick him up and take him away (telling those in the store that I'd be back to help clean up the mess). We'd go outside and wait until the tantrum passed and then go back and he would "help" pick up the mess, then we'd say sorry to the store workers. I learned pretty quickly to keep the cart in the middle of the aisle. And this behavior did pass pretty quickly, don't know if it was how I handled it or if he just outgrew it (I suspect the latter).

But I did find that no matter where the tantrum occurred, the best way to handle it was to pick him and take him somewhere else. And, because moms learn pretty quickly what the signs of an upcoming tantrum are, I had the most luck if I'd remove him as soon as he got that look on his face.

Posted by: jj | July 31, 2007 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Well, my 3 year old is very serious about the idea that she's no longer a "baby" but a "big girl". And I make sure there are plenty of " bonuses" linked to that status - from extra 10 minutes up at bedtime to whatever comes to my mind . So, when she's about to throw a tantrum over any particular thing, I give her the choice.
For instance: when we got home yesterday I asked her to take off her shoes and go wash her hands. She refused, she wanted me to do it for her and started whining. I explained I had other chores to do and told her: I can help you, but it means you're still a baby and you'll have to go to bed earlier; you choose! And off she went to do it by herself.

Posted by: portuguese mother | July 31, 2007 7:11 AM | Report abuse

I've found the best way to dismantle an all out, scream, lay on the floor and punch the ground tantrum is to find their tickle spot, (feet are good), and give them a good tickling. If your child makes a public demonstration of it, and you successfully use the tickle treatment, instead of the nasty glare that usually accompanies strangers during these unfortunate episodes, you just might be able to cheerfully walk away from the incident as dumbfounded onlookers, teenagers and grandmothers alike, gaze at you with awe and respect of your creative parenting techniques.

Hope this helps.

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 31, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

We were not allowed to have tantrums. We'd get the **** beaten out of us. Try it with your own kids sometimes. It really works.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 31, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

This is actually my mother's story.

My sister (the middle of 3) was quite "spicy" as a 3-4 year old (interpret "spicy" how you will). So when my mother went to punish her one day for a bad behaviour, my sister stood akimbo, looked my mother in the eye and said "What are you going to do, make me sit on my bed?" (This was long before "time outs")

My mother - both aghast and internally laughing at my sister's tone - thought for a second and made my sister a deal: she could be punished now, or she could be punished later at ANY time of my mother's choosing. My sister of course chose the latter and went along her merry way.

A week or so later, our grandmother came over to take us to see a Disney movie, along with our little friends in the next apartment. My sister had her coat on and was one foot out the door...and my mother pronounced to my sister that NOW was the time for punishment.

My sister apparently learned her lesson - at least for a little while....

Posted by: Chasmosaur | July 31, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

When my older daughter was a baby and she begin to tantrum I would pull the camera out and she would immediately stop and pose for the camera. That worked for months.

Now I tell them (8 and 6) to spend some time in their room until they feel better. If they balk about going, I start counting. If I get to five before they to their room, I decide when they can come out. If they get there before "5," they decide. Sometimes they choose to stay a long time, sometimes it is a short time. Before I adopted my younger daughter, my older daughter (4 or 5) would go in, sulk for a while, clean up her room (on her own initiative), and come down. That stopped with the arrival of her sister, but the rest of the strategy still works.

After they are calm, if we still need to talk, we do so.

They share a room, but if they both have to go to their room at the same time, the older one goes into the spare bedroom.

Posted by: single mother by choice | July 31, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Smack the krap outta them. Oh, not the kid --- the PARENT.

Posted by: Spare the Child | July 31, 2007 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Righ now, when we're at home and my daughter starts a tantrum (she's 20 months old), we usually just ignore it (and her). She gets bored pretty quickly of lying on the floor, screaming, while the rest of us go about our business. (Sometimes, this backfires. Once, she noticed that we'd all left the room where she was screaming. So she picked herself up, toddled into the room we were in, then threw herself down again and continued her tantrum).

If we're in public, I pick her up and leave the area. It usually takes her longer to calm down this way, but at least we're minimizing the annoyance to everyone else.

I'm sure as she gets older, our strategies will have to change. But right now, the biggest challenge is not to bust out laughing when she acts like a three-second delay in getting her sippy cup is a tragedy of shakespearean proportions.

Posted by: newsahm | July 31, 2007 9:13 AM | Report abuse

with tantrums in the supermarket we found what worked was before we went in we had our son recite the rules for the proper behavior; no screaming, no crying, no running, etc. if he started to do any of those things we would stop him with a "what are the rules?" that didn't always work but it really cut down on the number of tantrums. taking him out to the car also worked.

Posted by: quark | July 31, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

After 30 yrs as a Veterans Affairs family psychologist and after raising 2 normal sons, I can tell you something about tantrums:

Kids ignore the "no" ONLY when parents have, even occasionally, avoided the consequences. Parents are so often distracted (understandably) or too wishy washy to follow through every time. And both parents and children suffer the consequences of not following through with the consequences.

TH

Posted by: Ted Hyder | July 31, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

What in the world is wrong with saying "no" and meaning it and backing it up. Children will respect authority when they see it. My grand daughter gets her way and Mommy compromises but when faced with a situation where no means no she understands. We need to prepare these kids to function in the real world and they can't always get their way. Learn some hard knocks now and be prepared for the future where it really counts.

I think the best advice is "A parent needs to be a parent, not a child's best friend." And there is nothing wrong with punishment, be it banishment to the bedroom, no phone, no TV, restricted to the house, or in extreme cases, the dreaded paddle. We can learn to follow a road well travelled, where the results speak for themselves, or we can be weak and help prepare our children for a rough time later on. Many of the problems of today's youth can be attributed to well meaning, but poorly focused parenting.

Posted by: jwkoest | July 31, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

This is probably not applicable to the tantrum in the store situation, but I have found the first response to a tantrum should be to ignore the child.

In behavioral modification psychobabble this is called "extinction." A tantrum, by its nature, is an attempt to gain your attention. If it succeeds, you have rewarded the bad behavior. Even if you were to pick up the child and take them to another room, spank them, etc, you have rewarded the behavior (just in a negative way, called negative reinforcement).

There are catches with this. Ignoring a tantrum goes against parental instincts so you have to be concious of your reactions. And, at that, you have to be consistent (so you cannot have a spouse or other caretaker go to the child, everyone has to ignore them). Thus, this takes a good deal of self control on the part of the relevant adults in the child's life.

I could go on about this, but (regarding the store example) this may not work in places where you cannot easily control the surroundings. The only thing I can say is that you need to make explicit to the child the rewards and punishments involved with their behavior before you enter the store. The line between negative reinforcement and punishment is a fine one, but maintaining that level of consistency and clarity is the way to avoid that trap.

Posted by: David S | July 31, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

"If we're in public, I pick her up and leave the area. It usually takes her longer to calm down this way, but at least we're minimizing the annoyance to everyone else."

Now, if every parent followed this rule...

Posted by: WDC | July 31, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

My oldest daughter cured herself of tantrums. When she was two or three, she began throwing a fit in a toy store. Unfortunately, the store had a concrete floor. She threw her head back *once*. It was all I could do to keep from laughing at the look of shock on her face. (Clearly she wasn't hurt, just...surprised.) When she got up, I said, "Not a good idea, huh?" She agreed. That was it.

Her younger sister, on the other hand, threw fits regularly for awhile. I tried calming her (which usually made things worse); I tried ignoring her. Finally one day I said, disgusted, something along the lines of, "When you're done, I'll be in the other room," and left. And she settled down! (She's 18 now, and still our drama queen.)

Posted by: motherhood survivor | July 31, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Our most effective tantrum preventer was the "Friday snack." When living in Brooklyn, NY I often needed to stop into the deli across the street on the way home from daycare. My two and a half year old son was naturally interested in the candy behind the counter. It was late in the day. He was tired and hungry. I was tired. He would scream, pester, shake the stroller etc. So we instituted the "Friday snack." I would bring something good but healthy for him to eat Mon-Thurs. when we left daycare. On Friday he got to pick a candy bar or ice cream from the store. If he asked for candy when we went on the other days I would say, "But Peter, its not Friday." Believe it or not it worked. Kids love traditions. But that Friday snack was sacred. We absolutely had to go on Friday--or the rest of the week would have been miserable.

Posted by: Robin | July 31, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Kids still throwing full-on tantrums at age five? That doesn't really sound normal to me. At least where I live (a foreign country), nearly all kids (barring some exceptional situation that is causing a regression) have outgrown tantrums by that age. It sounds like these kids are suffering from an undisciplined environment where they feel insecure.

With our five year old, this is the age of whining and wheedling and elaborate negotiations. We have to really focus on only encouraging appropriate forms of communication and discouraging the rest by ignoring them, and in egregious cases punishing for repeat offenses. Of course, he now holds us to the same high standards (which means we've had to learn not to yell or tune him out when we are busy).

Posted by: mmc | July 31, 2007 9:48 AM | Report abuse

"We were not allowed to have tantrums. We'd get the **** beaten out of us. Try it with your own kids sometimes. It really works."

Whether you think its abusive or not, this simply does not work on kids under about 4. They just scream more. I'm against it as a strategy at all, but, even if you choose it, it doesn't work on babies and toddlers.

Posted by: Tricia Mander | July 31, 2007 9:49 AM | Report abuse

We've used a combination of these tactics, depending on whether our son (3) is totally over the edge or just barely hanging on. For the latter, distraction or reminding of rules usually works. When the tantrum starts, leaving the room does help. This is also really effective when in the car -- find a safe place to pull over, and everyone else gets out, standing where he can't see you, and let him know that he has a minute to pull himself together so everyone can be together again. Phrasing timeouts as opportunities to get control of themselves helps, as does making it a choice to go to timeout. No, I'm not nuts -- I frame the choices carefully -- basically "you can do what you've been asked or you can go to timeout, which do you want?" If he doesn't respond, then he's chosen the latter, and it's clear that's the deal.

The bottom line on all these is that they only work if you do it like you mean it. No wiggle room. If they start negotiating, you negotiate the opposite direction, so they're losing more the more they negotiate until the original deal is taken. You're the parent, you have the control whether you realize it or not, all you have to do is use it like you mean it!

Posted by: just do it - and mean it | July 31, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

This is going to sound odd, but we have a 19 month old who really doesn't have tantrums. Is this something that will come down the road, or is the fact that he's pretty verbal and can both tell us what he needs and understand our answer (which is often no) heading off some of it at this point?

Our problem is that he hits me in the face. It's almost always done out of excitement. We tell him there's no hitting mommy and put him in timeout when he does it. His dr. suggested putting him in his room alone for a few minutes, too. I've even given him cushions and stuffed animals to hit instead. Nothing stops the hitting. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Amy | July 31, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I don't remember ever getting away with throwing a tantrum. I do remember getting smacked if I didn't do what needed doing. My kids, on the other hand, never got smacked, but didn't throw tantrums that much that I recall, either. I think humor with a sardonic edge, or humiliation worked best. Laughing at the kid, particularly in a public place is good. If memory serves, "ridi pagliaccio!" got the kid's attention, especially if sung loudly with a certain cruel flair. PJT

Posted by: Philip J Tramdack | July 31, 2007 9:52 AM | Report abuse

fr Philip J Tramdack:

>...Laughing at the kid, particularly in a public place is good...

No, it's not "good". It teaches the child that you have no respect for their feelings.

Posted by: Alex | July 31, 2007 10:03 AM | Report abuse

No, it's not "good". It teaches the child that you have no respect for their feelings.

Posted by: Alex | July 31, 2007 10:03 AM

It's kind of hard to have respect for someone who is smashing her head against the floor, over and over and over again.

Posted by: Bob | July 31, 2007 10:23 AM | Report abuse

When my kids were little (ages 3-5), I'd try to identify something they wanted out of every situation. Like, at a grocery store, we'd wheel directly to the cereal section and put their favorite in the cart. If one of them later threw a tantrum, I wouldn't say a word . . . just go around and put back EVERYTHING ("Mom! What are you doing?!!!"), including their cereal--and leave the store. Even at that age, they could see it was a huge waste of time, all for nothing. I explained that, unfortunately, we just couldn't subject other people in the store to that behavior. And now, there's no cereal. It took a few episodes, but they even started reminding each other, when we went shopping, not to lose it.

Posted by: Sophie | July 31, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I think we drag our kids around on errands too much and expect them to enjoy it. One common thread I see is that tantrums occur in the grocery store. At my house, with virtually every tantrum (2 1/2 yr old) I can see the cause in my choice to deviate from our loose schedule and miss naps, or even moreso, not to eat as balanced a diet as usual or just push the poor kids patience and attention span bey. My daughter is very senistive to refined sugar and while a cookie gets us over a rough spot when mom isn't feeling too creative in her parenting, we pay for it later when she crashes. I really try to look at things from her perspective because I know she isn't trying to be a brat and I know its not fun to cry like that, it makes you feel terrible, so you wouldn't likely choose it. Even if its not justified, she is really feeling it. I can see the usual differences in opinion emerging on this blog between white collar and blue/pink/green collar contributors. There are studies that show that in general white collar parents encourage their kids to be free thinking, question limits, push the envelope and blue collar teach them up front to blindly follow rules.

Posted by: AttyMom | July 31, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I use to tell my children, "If you want to show off in public, I'll show off with you!" That did not mean, "if you lay down in the floor and have a tantrum, I'll think you're soooo cute and lay down in the floor with you." No! What that meant was: If you show off in public with a tantrum, I will pop your little behind. Were my sons perfect in public? Nope. But if they acted up, it wasn't a performance for everybody else to witness. They knew better. And, no, they were far from scared of me. I was appalled at the author's statement: "At his 5-year appointment, I asked our pediatrician about the tantrums, particularly the ones that involve kicking, spitting and punching." KICKING ... SPITTING ... PUNCHING!!! Who is the adult and who is the child??? By the way, this was my method of keeping my children well-behaved in church: If they acted up in church and wouldn't listen, they would find out when they got home because they would have their supper and be sent to bed long before sunset. After one of those punishments, they didn't act up in church anymore. They are grown now and often say how much they appreciate the discipline -- not then, but now. My older son said, "Don't ever think you were too hard on us. There could have been something you didn't nip in the bud at the time that could've caused us to grow up and get in trouble for as adults."

Posted by: Luv2laff | July 31, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

We have a 2 yr old son and just instituted a method from the book 1-2-3 Magic. Basically, here's an example:

Son is starting to rip a book.
"That's 1." (a warning)
(He keeps ripping it)
"That's 2." (second warning)
(Keeps on doing it or throws something, etc.)
"That's 3 - time for a time-out"
We then pick him up, don't say anything and put him in his room with the door closed for 2 minutes. Right now, he sobs dramatically when this happens.

When two minutes are up, he can come out and we greet him nicely. We don't mention anything about what just happened but go on with our lives.

Since we have just begun this program, he's coming out feeling angry but we are encouraging him to use his words and tell us that rather than do anything like hit someone (he can hit the couch cushions if need be). It seems to be working.

We just started this program and I think it will work well in helping us control our own tempers, especially when we are already frustrated over something else in our lives. I think with our son, as well, he'll learn that there is a path of punishment that begins with "That's 1" and hopefully he'll stop his behavior with "That's 1" or "That's 2" so we only rarely have to get to "That's 3 and time-out."

It puts the responsibility on him to act appropriately.

Hitting, by the way, is an instant "That's 3, time-out" -- no warnings for that!

The key is no other talking ("You know you shouldn't do that, blah, blah, blah") and no emotion (no anger).

I feel positive about this program. I've been looking for something since my husband, frustrated about a work problem, slapped my son's hand for a minor infraction. I've also caught myself yelling at my son when I've been frustrated at something else in my life. It doesn't feel good to take out our anger on a little boy.

My husband was raised with a mom who though loving slapped him for misbehaving and he didn't want to do that to his own child. The program is as much for us as it is my son!

Posted by: RYospyn | July 31, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Amy- I'm not for hitting kids, but I do think that a light slap on the hand - not to hurt, but to hurt his feelings, helps with that kind of hitting. We did this with my little brother, and it worked. He would cry like he'd been spanked, though all we did was very lightly slap his hand, but we made sure he understood that it was punishment. And we told him that we didn't like being hit any more than he did. He stopped before long.

Posted by: Tricia Mander | July 31, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I have been lucky in that our 4 kids really don't throw tantrums. When they have, lying on the ground, kicking and screaming, we simply walk around them and ignore them completely. They see they are getting no acknowledgement, and stop after about 3-4 minutes. If it goes on longer, we carry them to their room where they can continue their tantrum alone with the door shut until they are ready to come out. Seems to work so far. I think the key is consistency. Give in once, you're dead. The little dears!

Posted by: Steve | July 31, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse

9:57 -- Actually we grew up to be pretty kind and considerate of other people, although our mother did have a habit of beating us for any reason and without much provocation. We just learned to walk a wide circle around our mother. My brother went into the Corrections field. When our grandmother died, he got a sympathy card signed by the inmates. I've done volunteer work with abused people; my younger brother wouldn't hurt a fly; my sister worked in social services. Every child who was spanked does not turn into Ted Bundy.

Posted by: 8:53 | July 31, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

AttyMom,
You said: "There are studies that show that in general white collar parents encourage their kids to be free thinking, question limits, push the envelope and blue collar teach them up front to blindly follow rules."
I say: Git outta here! So does this mean that the more education/better economic situation, the better the parenting skills and the better the children? Please clarify because you cannot possibly believe that. I may not be the brilliant-minded, affluent, white-collar professional that you are, but I can promise you that you can only HOPE your daughter turns out as well as my sons have. Not only is my "collar not as white as yours," but I raised my sons as a single parent after being abandoned by my husband when our youngest son was a preemie. I'm not looking for your pity or anyone else's, but I can promise you that me and my sons have an excellent relationship filled with open communication. I did not expect them to "blindly follow the rules," but I expected them to respect the rules ... and me as their parent. We are not equals. I am the parent. They are the child. Then we flow from there.

Posted by: Luv2laff | July 31, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"People who don't punish kids get brats."

I totally disagree with the above. The most respectful, motivated and outgoing kids I've ever met have parents that engaged their children with the appropriate attention and treated them with kindness, patience and respect.

On the other hand, the most obnoxious, uncooperative kids I've know have 1 thing in common: a parent who claims to provide clear and concise expectations and prides themselves on the disciplinary actions they employ to modify their kid's behavior. It's like they constantly chase their kids around providing guidelines and respective punishments. On the outside, the parent appears like a super nag, and all the effort for what? A brat that can't behave unless you promise to punish him?

If you give your kids the proper attention, you won't have to punish them.

Posted by: BlogStats | July 31, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

AttyMom,
You said: "There are studies that show that in general white collar parents encourage their kids to be free thinking, question limits, push the envelope and blue collar teach them up front to blindly follow rules."

This is quite interesting. Last night I was watching one of those gulity pleasure tv shows, "Wife Swap", and it dealt with two very opposite parenting styles: the follow-the-rules-cause-I-say-so, and the be-free-to-be-yourself styles, and they were both a royal mess. Authoritarian parenting styles breed blind sheep who don't know how how to make their own mind without asking for permission first, and Envelope-pushers, free-thinkers breed rebel, self-important and arrogant teenagers who don't know to respect others and other's points of view... this, of course, was the shows' conclusion, not mine... but it does make the point that children need firm limits in a loving and caring environment that teaches them to think for themselves while respecting others.

My $0.002

Posted by: Tribilin | July 31, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

BlogStats-

You can't love your kids into never doing anything wrong. All kids test the limits, and they have to be disciplined to teach them that the limits are firm. No one is saying it is all the time. But you have to have rules. And even the best kids WILL break them sometimes. And you have to follow through with conseuences when they do.

Posted by: Tricia Mander | July 31, 2007 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Well, I'm back - and I'm thrilled that we're no longer completely anonymous, as there are some nasty trolls out there (and this is why I've been silent for so long!!)

Yippee!!

Posted by: RebeccainAR | July 31, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

P.S. I am not agreeing with either statement ("black children have the most disciplinarian problems" or "all black children have discipline problems"). I am merely pointing out a flaw in your logic.

Posted by: Bob | July 31, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

My mother had a great trick when I was little. She managed to convince me that there was a set of unbreakable rules conveniently referred to as "The Rules". These were not mommy rules which could be broken, these rules were inviolate. One of "The Rules" was no temper tantrums in public. All she had to do was remind me of this and I would stop. Everyone who knew me as a kid still loves to tell this story (20 some years later). The downside was that she had little defense for temper tantrums at home, I'm guessing she just ignored them as there are no stories revolving around those.

Posted by: Catherine | July 31, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Folks: Let's get back to the topic at hand, kids, their tantrums and how to deal with them.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | July 31, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Okay, maybe we can just agree that there's no one set of rules, or discipline strategies that works for all kids.

My parents were big on spanking. My siblings all spank their kids, but my husband and I don't spank ours. Ours are the gentlest and politest of the bunch. All of my siblings have a closer relationship with our parents than I do, too.

So, even in the same family, spanking the kids (or not spanking) can have different results depending on the individual kid.

The best parenting advice I've ever come across: Listen to everyone's suggestions, and politely thank them, because the person making the suggestion probably means well. You know your kid best, and if the suggestion makes sense to you, give it a try and see if it works with your kid. If it doesn't make sense, or you try it and it doesn't work, then drop it and move on to the next thing.

Posted by: Sue | July 31, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

My dd went through a "hitting" phase just before she turned two, which seems to happen to most kids about this age. What ultimately worked was when I looked her straight in the eye and told her we were a "no hitting family," and since I don't hit her, she can't hit me, either. She seemed to understand the implication, because she never hit me again after that.

As for tantrums in public, we do our best only to take her out during a time when I know she's unlikely to be tired or hungry, and I *always* bring her a snack. 99% of the time when she has a tantrum, there seems to be an underlying blood sugar problem- think she inherited my hypoglycemia. As long as she's eaten recently, tantrums are pretty rare for us (thank goodness).

Posted by: reston, va | July 31, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

As Stacey asked: kids, tantrums, dealing with 'em?

Several other posters have mentioned consistency, and that's the key I think.

The first few times, the kid is trying it out to see what will happen. With my sons (now 15 and 10, and thankfully well beyond tantrum-age), they didn't get whatever-it-was they wanted, and instead got time-outs. Time-outs worked for us, but they don't always work with every kid.

My sister used to send her daughter to her room, and it wasn't effective at all with her; too much fun stuff to play with in her room. So spankings became the prefered discipline with my niece.

The main thing is not to give in to the tantrum behavior - don't give the kid what s/he wants. And be consistent about not giving in. Giving in, even once, sets up what behaviorists call 'intermittent rewards'. According to the science, intermittent rewards prolong a behavior more than any other reenforcement.

That sounds too easy, now that I'm reading it back. What's really hard, (learned this from younger son) is that sometimes the kid is just getting attention by having a tantrum, and dealing with the behavior without giving the attention/reward can be really difficult to figure out. DH and I had to resort to the "fun parent" (me) walking away, and the discipline parent (him) stepping in.

Posted by: Sue | July 31, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh- one other thing... I have noticed that it seems like the kids I know are overtired a lot of the time. I'm not sure if this is because the parents are working super-long hours and want to keep them up so they can see them after work or what, but so many of the kids I know just don't get enough sleep, and they're constantly falling asleep in the car, in front of the tv, etc. I am always shocked when I see 2 and 3 year olds out at 8 and 9 o'clock at night. I wonder if parents realize how much sleep deprevation contributes to cranky, tantrum-prone kids.

Posted by: reston, va | July 31, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

As far as tantrums in the grocery stores go, an excellent piece of advice I heard is to give your kids a job so they don't get bored. For example, a little child could be the coupon holder, an older child could read off items on the shopping list, etc.

Posted by: StudentMom | July 31, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame when a 5 year old still throws a temper tantrum. Speaks a lot of the parenting skills. :-(

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 31, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I would respectfully suggest that a 5 year old who spits and hits might do well with a trip to a child therapist. That isn't normal behavior, no matter what your pediatrician says.

Posted by: concerned mom | July 31, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

We used to go grocery shopping at Safeway instead of its competitors solely because the store had little tykes shopping carts for our toddlers to push around as my wife and I gathered groceries. The little carts actually made for not only good activity for the kids, but also a little refreshing entertainment for us and other shoppers alike. There's nothing like a happy kid to brighten up an entire store.

Sure, there were a few angry scowls from the child-hating community burgoned with the effort of stepping out of the way from a "excuse me" request from a half-pint patron, and a box or 2 of unsolicited animal crackers did show up on the conveyor belt at checkout, but not once was ever a tantrum thrown at that store.

Nowadays I see so many kids go from being strapped in a car seat to get strapped in a stroller to get strapped in a shopping cart. No mystery to me why the kid feels bad and whines himself into an eventual tantrum. Then the parent threatens him with timeout? Excuse me, but the poor kid has been in timeout for hours already. What he really needs is a chance to get up and run around.

If you give a kid what they need, they will be happy. Happy kids don't throw tantrums!

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 31, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

If you give a kid what they need, they will be happy. Happy kids don't throw tantrums!

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 31, 2007 02:24 PM

Usually i am somewhat on the same page with you but you know that kids get tired, hungry cranky etc even if they get what they need.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 31, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Personally, I love shopping at Trader Joe's in large part because they have carts for the little ones to push and there's an incentive of balloons at the end if they behave.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | July 31, 2007 2:34 PM | Report abuse

I worked at a camp with a 10 year old girl who threw the worst tantrums ever. What do you do for that? We attempted to ignore her, but only so much ignoring can be done by 15 other 10 year olds... Definitely definitely had every tantrummy-desire quelled by her parents throughout her whole life.

Posted by: ami | July 31, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Bob, you said: "P.S. I am not agreeing with either statement ("black children have the most disciplinarian problems" or "all black children have discipline problems"). I am merely pointing out a flaw in your logic."

Posted by: Bob | July 31, 2007 11:33 AM

I'm asking: I just returned from the dentist. Did I miss something?

Posted by: Luv2laff | July 31, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I will add two other dimensions to this:

One is chemical. My cousin used to have horrible behavior problems and temper tantrums- until they cut out all artificial dyes in his diet. Almost immediately he became a sweet, well behaved child.

The other is biological. I had tantrums growing up, until a high age actually. I personally think it was because when I was younger I was very sick, nearly deaf, and as the youngest of a southern family, NEVER told about anything. Combine that with a few sudden life changes, and I think I was a scared girl who tried to be good, but eventually just got overwhelmed with too many changes and it would manifest itself in tantrums from nowhere. Mostly I believe this because my mother told me I was a very well behaved child except for my erratic sput of the moment tantrums. They also preceeded migraines. Over the years we learned to make sure I slept well, ate on a regular schedule, was communicated on what to expect and some of what was going on and that helped a LOT.

But, for the most part of course, tantrums are just kids getting really angry, really fast, for no real reason. I wouldn't have patience for the counting method or bargaining method. I think removing them immediately from the issue, recognizing patterns for causes, and talking to them afterwards about why it wasn't ok is my main method.

Posted by: Liz D | July 31, 2007 3:21 PM | Report abuse

I remember some years ago when I took my kids to Superfresh to pick up a few items. Before going in, I gave them the ol' "I expect you to be good, no asking for candy, no treats, no whining, no begging, I'm not in the mood,..." lecture. Just in and out. OK, Let's go!

It was a pretty productive trip and all the kids were cooperative.

That was, until the very end, when my youngest started jumping up and down and saying "Whopsters, Daddy, whopsters!"

"I told you no candy. Stop it!"

"But whopsters, daddy, whopsters!"

"I SAID NO! Don't ask again!", I raised my voice.

"but whopsters, Daddy, whopsters!"

Now I was just plain pissed and just about to give him the teeth clenching lecture when I noticed his enthusiasm about the whopsters had turned into a whimper and cry. But it wasn't the normal tantrum cry I expected, this one was different, something I've never heard before. Strange.

Then one of the store clerks took me aside. "Um, sir, your son...". Then he pulled a lobster out of the tank for my son to pet. "His mother lets him pet a lobster when she comes here."

Thank God for that store clerk for stepping in when he did. Even so, that's one parenting moment I would like to have back. How could I have missed it? I knew very well that my son pronounced his R's and L's with the W sound.

But we laugh at it today when we misunderstand each other or miscommunicate by saying, "Widdle wabbit weawwy wikes wed whopsters."

Posted by: Lil Husky | July 31, 2007 3:58 PM | Report abuse

"Sure, there were a few angry scowls from the child-hating community burgoned with the effort of stepping out of the way from a "excuse me" request from a half-pint patron..."

I resent being termed a "child hater" because I don't appreciate kids smashing into me with carts and blocking the aisles on busy shopping days. We can love kids and still not appreciate everything yours do! Let them have their own cart, but you still need to watch them, maybe even more closely...

Posted by: CJB | July 31, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

We have a 2 yr old son and just instituted a method from the book 1-2-3 Magic. Basically, here's an example:

Son is starting to rip a book.
"That's 1." (a warning)
(He keeps ripping it)
"That's 2." (second warning)
(Keeps on doing it or throws something, etc.)
"That's 3 - time for a time-out"


My wife and I have friends who are attempting to use this method to discipline their troublesome four year old boy. Let me tell you, it is a train wreck. First of all, the kid knows that there aren't any consequences until he gets to "three." Second, since the kid is always causing trouble, the parents are constantly losing track of what number they are on. Third, the parents constantly look weak (both to their child and the rest of us that are around them).

1-2-3 sounds nice and fair on paper, but it doesn't work. Just be firm with the child each and every time he/she acts out or causes trouble - in other words, FOLLOW THROUGH, and there won't be any need for these new age tactics.

Posted by: philly | July 31, 2007 5:31 PM | Report abuse

My stepdaughter had exactly one tantrum with us when she was two. I think she saw it on the TV her mother lets her watch too much of. We were in a mall in a learning store and we had to leave, and SD didn't want to go. We got her out of the store, but she started screaming, threw herself down on the floor and started having a tantrum. It was SUCH a stereotypical tantrum that my husband and I just started laughing. After about a minute, she realized we weren't falling over ourselves to comfort her, got up, and we walked on, no tears or anything.

Posted by: Kat | July 31, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

I disagree about the 1-2-3 method. The example you give isn't really how it works, though. For something really damaging like tearing a book, you go straight to a timeout (also for hitting, etc.). The 1-2-3 is for things like whining, having tantrums, and backtalk.

Posted by: to philly | July 31, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

CJB:
There are parents who think their misbehaved children are cute and feel you should think they're cute, too. I don't think they're cute at all when they are out of control and I have to be affected by their bad behavior.

Posted by: Luv2laff | July 31, 2007 9:39 PM | Report abuse

... and I AM a parent!

Posted by: Luv2laff | July 31, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Someone upthread implied that kids acted out in the grocery store because they were brought on boring errands too much... I think it is completely the opposite. Kids who act like brats are generally entertained too much and not accustomed to having to behave themselves and entertain themselves in many different situations. From what I have seen, American kids tend to be poorly socialized.

Posted by: maria | August 1, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

When my son was 2 or 3 and tried to throw a tantrum, I just threw one right along with him. Then he looked at me as crazy as I was looking at him (and, of course, everyone else was looking at both of us like we were crazy). But he saw how ridiculous his behavior was. No more tantrums...

I also recommend a book "The Five Love Languages of Children"--the premise of which is that bad behavior can be kept to a minimum when children's love tanks are filled. I think it really helped my parenting along the way, and I continue to reference it as my son gets older.

Posted by: CAH | August 1, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

I ignored all tantrums when my kids were little. Each of them did the "fall on floor, kick and scream in public routine" once and only once. When they stopped, I looked at them and said let's go and that was that. My son developed other ways to have tantrums that were harder to handle, in part because he's ADHD, but I never gave in to one and still don't (he's 14). He's still having tantrums, but each one is different (will this way work?), they're not coming as often and I'm still not giving in.

Posted by: Claire | August 1, 2007 2:18 PM | Report abuse

So is the 5 year old that is doing the "kicking, spitting and punching" the same one you gave your car keys to, so he could get something out of the car himself? What an astoundingly good parent you are.

Posted by: Not Shocked | August 1, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

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