Thursday, September 14, 2006

Preventing Tantrums in Public

By Brandi M. Seals

There seems to be something about going somewhere with your child that can illicit the most extreme tantrums you have ever seen. You could be at the grocery store, eating in a restaurant or doing laundry at the Laundromat. Your child does not care, he will open up those lungs and scream like there is no tomorrow if he does not get his way.

People with children who do not do this are either extremely lucky or know how to nip these problems in the bud. I know each mom has her own way of preventing tantrums in public, but do they really work?

I know quite a few people that insist that the best way to keep junior happy is to promise him a reward if he behaves. I have to admit, I hate the idea of rewarding kids for behaving. It is like rewarding them for acting like they should. I know it works in the moment, but doesn't it set you up for problems?

Your child will begin to expect gifts and rewards just for doing what is right. Everything will need an incentive and the incentives will have to get bigger and bigger. No one wants that, and quite frankly most people can't afford to buy something ever time their kid does not screw up.

I suppose in the moment, no one really thinks about the long-ranging affects of rewarding everything. They just think it works and are happy with that.

Some parents ignore the tantrums. To a point this works. Sometimes kids are just looking for attention or a reaction. When they do not get it many kids will give up. Others will wail louder. If your child does not straighten up within 5 to 10 minutes, it is time to implement something else. After all, your child is not bothering just you, but also everyone else in the area.

Several years ago I was working in a department store. I was the children's department clerk. I loved it over there, except when parents refused to discipline their children. One time a little girl of maybe 4 decide that she needed a pair of purple pleather pants. Her parents thought she was too young for such a mature look. The girl then spent 30 minutes screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. Her parents did nothing.

The children's department was towards one end of the store, the girl could be heard all the way at the other end. I got calls from coworkers making sure that nothing terrible had happened. The parents finally gave in and bought the pants. The girl was so thankful that her tantrum continued and ended with her finally being removed from the store by her father after she tried hitting and kicking him.

Clearly this is an extreme example. I don't know many people who would let their child escalate to this level. But it is easy to see how these parents got here. They are trying everything to get their child to behave. They get her what she wants, reward her for being good, and have a hard time enforcing rules.

What kids need are firm guidelines. If you say no to something, kids need to learn that they cannot get their way regardless of how long they whine, plead or cry. That goes a long way towards stopping tantrums. If kids know what they cannot get away with, they won't try it, especially if there are consequences.

One thing that has amazed me over the years is the number of people who do not remove a tantrum-throwing child from a situation. It may be inconvenient to leave your shopping cart and drag your kid out of the grocery store, but you will be setting an example. You will clearly show your kid that you will not put up with his behavior and you wouldn't dare subject others to it.

While this article may seem like I'm under the false impression that children never act up, I am not. I realize that they get cranky and do not always to the right thing. If I'm in an area with children I expect to hear them and see them play. I am very understanding of a crying child. I do not, however, expect to be subjected to more than 10 minutes of wailing, kicking, screaming or other tantrum maneuvers.

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