I was right – this is the tantrum chapter (if you aren’t planning to read the entire book and you have toddlers or teenagers, you might want to skim Chapter 7 in the book store). As a sociologist, I generally think that our behavior is learned, rather than innate. One thing that makes me question this belief is watching a toddler begin to have a tantrum. The first step is when they drop themselves to the ground – how did they learn this? You want them to get into the shopping cart, or sit at the table, or whatever, and if they have other plans, they respond by sitting or sprawling on the floor. Advanced moves include grabbing onto a sturdy chair leg or some other anchor (to make it even more difficult to pick them up without someone getting injured) or dragging themselves along the floor to keep you chasing after them (yeah, sometimes my daughter dusts the kitchen floor for me this way), but the first step always seems the same. My daughter doesn’t have too many tantrums, but she is pragmatic about it – she sits down first, then looks to make sure we are watching before she goes through the trouble of sprawling out, tucking her face to her chin so she won’t bump her head.
Barbara says that kids usually have tantrums before major milestones in their lives, as well as during the times mentioned in the previous chapter. They probably happen because kids are not yet able to verbalize their emotions, even if they are very smart, articulate children. She recommends helping validate and find words for their feelings and emotions when they are little so that they are better able to deal with frustration, anger, etc., when they are older. This can be tricky in public places or in front of extended family and friends, when everyone has an opinion and wants to to control your kid, but I guess part of parenting is learning how to get over feeling embarrassed by our children.
She gives separate advice for toddlers and teens, but the major thing is we should not punish them or make light of their feelings. For little kids, we can help them put words to their frustration, and to help prevent outbursts by making sure they are not hungry or over-tired when we go out in public. For kids of all ages, we should model calm expression of our feelings (saying “I am angry, hurt, etc.” instead of hiding our emotions), and help them do the same thing instead of adding to the problem by grabbing them, yelling, etc.
One section in this chapter provides seven rules for confrontation, which are useful for our dealings with everyone, not just our kids. Here is my paraphrased list:
- Express your feelings in an appropriate voice (sound angry if you are angry).
- Explain your feelings (don’t expect the other person to know how you feel).
- Verbalize your “belief” without sarcasm or put-downs (“I believe we should all clean up after ourselves” instead of “You are a lazy slob!”)
- Be specific about what the other person has done that you disapprove of.
- Tell the other person what you want them to do, and be specific.
- Listen to the other person’s perspective, and take it into fair consideration.
- Negotiate a fair, mutual agreement.
I can’t really do this chapter justice, but I’ve given you a little. She closes with a great quote, one that I am going to try to remember:
The Sufis advise us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through three gates. At the first gate we ask ourselves, “Are these words true?” If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go. At the second gate we ask, “Are they necessary?” At the last gate we ask, “Are they kind?” – Eknath Easwaran, Meditation
Scroll down for other posts about Kids Are Worth It:
Other posts about Kids Are Worth It:
Part 1: Kids Are Worth it, by Barbara Coloroso
Part 2: Do You Want to be a Butterfly?
Part 3: “Scratch-and-Sniff-Sticker and Star Syndrome”
Part 4: Real World Consequences
Part 5: We Don’t Do Sarcasm
Part 6: If You Have Strong-Willed Children, Lucky You
Part 7: Tantrums, Toddlers, and Teens
Part 8: Teach ‘Em a Lesson
Part 9: Sex, Drugs, and Teenagers
Part 10: Fighting like Cats and Dogs?
Part 11: Children as Professional Con Artists
Part 12: Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Part 13: I Love My Picky Eater(s)
Part 14: Please Baby, Sleep
Part 15: Big Kid Undies
Part 16: Birds and Bees