Sunday, September 18, 2005

Tantrum Crying in Older Children

You've seen them in the grocery store, at the local fast food restaurant, and at the park. You know who I mean: those OTHER parents who have no control over their children. Their kids scream and cry and yell while they blythly go their merry way with the shopping or whatever their business is. They ignore their little one's cries and don't do a thing to make the crying stop. Even other people's looks and comments about child abuse don't seem to phase them. They go about their business and the child keeps on crying. The rest of us have every right to be annoyed, right?

Well, not exactly. A good chunk of parenting is how the mom or dad responds to whatever the child is doing. And a valid response to crying, after one has made sure that baby is safe, comfortable, and his or her needs have been met, is to ignore it. Now, I'm not talking about a teeny infant who has no other way of communicating. I firmly believe that the very young babies cry for reasons and that they need attention to solve their problems. No, the ones I'm talking about are the older infants, the toddlers, and the preschoolers. These children have learned that crying gets results and can make parents change their minds, and that's not a good situation. The correct name for this sort of behavior is a temper tantrum. The little one is using his or her crying to manipulate the adults.

Even older kids cry when something is truly wrong, so it's important to assure yourself that the baby is indeed not hurt, uncomfortable, or otherwise in distress. But once you are satisfied that basic needs are met, you are left with crying from the emotional stress of not getting his or her own way. The child is trying to manipulate the adult into a decision that may not be good for him or her. The wise parent ignores this behavior! That is why you may see a parent with young children somewhat hurriedly going along in the grocery store while seeming to ignore the baby's cries. You probably don't have the whole story. The youngster may very well be crying because the parent exercised a parental right to choose something for the baby. Little ones can cry if they don't get the toy or candy that has attracted their attention. The baby might be crying because the parent won't allow him or her to run loose and knock over displays. There are all sorts of set-ups for conflicts between parent and child out in public, and usually, the parent must maintain control to keep the child from behaving inappropriately. And babies cry when they don't get their own way.

So the next time that you hear the howls of an older infant, toddler or preschooler in a public place, have a little bit of sympathy for that parent. He or she is probably doing the hard part of parenting: saying "no" to a stubborn and willful child. That takes guts, especially when the outside world is watching and accusing you of being a bad person because you made the little one cry. And if you're the parent, stick to your guns. You know what's best for your baby, and you are in charge. If you've decided that the crying is tantrum related, don't give in just to shut the kid up! You'll undo all of your hard work and have an even tougher time the next round. Do what you have to do and then get the child somewhere where the crying won't bother others. If it's possible, take the child out of the situation.

Crying, angry babies are a natural part of life. Kids do that. It's how the parents respond that is important. Don't chastise a parent for doing his or her job! It's not always convenient or pleasant, but sometimes children have to learn limits to their behavior. This will undoubtedly make them mad, and they are likely to cry. Parents should not give in, even in a public place to save themselves embarrassment. Don't make the job any harder by criticizing them!

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