Tag Archives: tantrum

Family In Partnership

Ever wonder why sometimes the job of being a parent is like playing a curling sport–moving the rock around and hoping the game would turn out. 

See if you can tell the similarities (hints: the athletes=parents, the curling rock=the child)

When it comes to child-rearing practices, they all seem geared toward knowing what to do and what not to do when a behavior or situation occurs. This might make child-rearing look like two entities “against” one another (“adult” vs. “child”), like an “object to object” model. Either the adult does something to a child (i.e., calling time-out, presenting choices, or grounding a child), or the child does something to an adult (i.e., throwing a tantrum, breaking ground rules, or talking back). The “object to object” model, which is not bad, could also leave parents wonder: “Am I doing the right thing for my child because the tips in parenting books and magazines don’t seem to work.”

The “object to object” parenting model often deals with issues as if issues are problematic.  The model only creates structures for behavior instead of realizing that a behavior as an assessment just benefits adults. Let’s take “temper tantrum” as an example. It is one of the top concerns for families with a toddler, and it is usually seen as a problematic behavior for adults. For that reason, tons of strategies are created to prevent such behavior from happening, or to stop it. In the meantime, we look at a tantrum (behavior) as a thermometer (assessment) of how children are well-behaved, or being cooperative. The most limiting aspect of “object to object” approach is that, it often takes place from the view of adults with their own explanations of what the behavior meant to them. Family members are unknowingly stuck in roles that define and limit each of them, what they see and know about the other family members would be partial. What if the relationship between a parent and a child is no longer about dealing with a behavior, or conforming to norms, like, “it should be/shouldn’t be”? 

What if, having a tantrum is not a problem, but an opportunity? What opportunity, you might ask?  What if, it’s an opportunity for toddlers to exercise what self-respect is, and gain control over their environment? As for the adults, could the opportunity be the role of partners, and most importantly, allows our children be partners with us as well?

Another thing I have noticed lately is that, as a society, we see children/youth as “property”. They are not related to as human beings. I am no expert in “child-rearing”, but the notion that children are “raised” seems disturbing, something akin to growing crops, herding cattle or domesticating animals. It views children like chattel, expected them to kowtow to the wishes and the rules of adults who are suppressed from time to time.

What if the purpose of “family” is exploring and discovering the view of ALL individuals, and creating what works for all?  

One of the little boys I work with is three years old. One afternoon, as we were dancing to his favorite music, I noticed it was 5 minutes till dinner time.

Me: It’s almost time for dinner. Let’s go wash your hands.

Little Boy: (with frustration) No. I don’t want to.

I could have insisted he should wash his hands right then because the fact was, it’s also my time to go, and I would be late for my appointment if this washing hand scenario was going to take more than 5 minutes of “my time.”  As soon as I caught myself that I WANTED him to do what I wanted him to do, and wanted him to follow “my schedule/my time (a.k.a. “My view is more important than a three-year-old.”).  I thought, “What would he want me to do at this moment?”

Me: You want to dance some more?

Little Boy: (big smile) Yeah, I want to dance with my friends (his stuffed animals).

Me: I want to dance with you and your friends, too. But I have a problem.

Little Boy: (looked at me) What problem?

Me: I need to go now, AND I also want to dance with you. How can we make it work?

Little Boy: silent for about 10 seconds) How about dance 10 times?

Me: (smile) Hmmm, how about going downstairs and dance with mommy for 5 times?

He grabbed 4 stuffed animals immediately, and joyfully ran downstairs. We danced 5 times, and he washed his hands. Surprisingly, I arrived at my appointment on time.

What if all we had to do was shift our orientation to the baby, the toddler, 2 and 3 year old, pre K and kindergartener, and create partnership from there with our children?  By the time a child is five, they are generally engaged with the same concerns as adults. In fact, their world has much more variety and creativity. They can fully distinguish work from play. They are sexually curious, belonging is an issue, a career or the thoughts of what they want to be when they grow up is fully engaged (i.e., wanting to be a dancer, artist, soccer player or a stock broker). Family is important and so are their friends. They have environmental concerns, money (ownership and charity), education (discovery and learning), physical activities and well-being, being in communication and aware of social conventions (cultural awareness).

What if a partnership between parents and children is created through the notion of “all views are valid, and valued; therefore, appreciated and celebrated”? What would “family” look like then?  

Could this be a time for families to design their own model free from the social standards?


Debunk The Myth Of The “Terrible Twos”

You might think this is about dealing with a toddler’s temper tantrums.

I am a Professional Nanny after all, right?!

No. This is not about how to prevent or intervene with temper tantrums. This is not even about how to make those full-tilt shrieking fits go away so you will now have a perfect, little angelic child that will never misbehave.

Nope.  In fact, I used that title just to catch your attention (and it works!!).

A few months back, Southwest Airlines put a mother and her child off the plane since the little one was inconsolable on board. Later, the airline compensated the mother with $300 and an apology.  Whether people agreed or disagreed with the airline’s decision, through all the comments from the media, I noticed two obvious groups here–the “anti-kids/kid haters” group, and the “if-you-don’t-like-my-child’s-kicking-and-screamings-then-go-somewhere-else” group.  Either way, not much middle ground here. But like Southwest Airlines, I do not have an answer for it. I am not writing this because I have THE answer. What I do have is observations about temper tantrums.

Observation#1: It happens to everyone: Most of us would like to think we are immune from it, but throwing a fit is not an all-right-reserved behavior to a toddler or a teenager. Have you ever seen a full-blown adult throwing a fit? It can be quite “stylish.”

Observation #2: Temper tantrums seem to trigger something in us. Don’t think so?  Next time, notice your body sensations and your attitudes when you encounter an overexcited child in a store. Though, you don’t need to go far to test out my observation–tomorrow, you might find your colleague throws one at work. Whatever those physical sensations/attitudes are, they are so automatic that you won’t even notice they are there. This leads to observation #3.

Observation #3: React to reaction is the dance we do: It seems we don’t deal with the tantrums, we REACT to tantrums. Simply said, we don’t respond to what is happening NOW, instead, we respond to our reactions to a reaction (temper tantrum that is). Just take a trip down your memory lane….. Think of someone that was kicking and screaming, what were your “reactions”– blood rushing through your body? Pit in your stomach? Racing heart beats? The frustration, the “whys”–why are you doing this to me/why can’t you do what I ask you to do/why can’t you cooperate, the “Not again,” and, of course, the embarrassment, and onlookers’ reactions and judgments. You thought your mission was to cease the behavior. Well, think twice. Whatever you come up with, time-out or spanking, giving choices or the attempt to reason with someone who is throwing a fit, you are dealing with your reactions, not what is happening NOW. This observation is not THE key to the kingdom of tantrum-free land (that is a fantasy, really!!). But there might be something else other than reacting, reacting, reacting (that’s like waiting for a bomb to drop, or busy putting out fire).  

Observation #4: The “should” and the “should not”. Have you ever noticed before the outburst “officially” starts, the thought of “It shouldn’t be” or “It should be” comes across your mind? I use the word, “officially” since the battle doesn’t usually start until the thought of “it should/shouldn’t” starts. It’s like an expectation is thwarted. It could be as simple this scenario: “It’s time to eat. Let’s wash your hand.” (the adult’s expectation) “No.” “You need to wash your hands before you eat.” “No, I don’t want to. I am playing” (the child’s expectation). The battle begins–you coax the unwilling child, and the rest is history. 

By now, you might be wondering “Where is she going with this?” Yes, you are looking for answers about a human behavior, called, “Temper tantrums”.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer. It seems temper tantrums are one of the most talked about parenting topics. There are workshops, books, even TV shows (Super Nanny, Nanny 911, Nanny Emma, Manny Nanny, just to name a few) about preventing IT from happening as if temper tantrums were some kind of disease. Well, it sure is dis-ease!!  But, what if tantrum is just one of those moments in life that disrupts the “should be”?  What if we give up our view of “It should be” (or “It shouldn’t be”)?  I am not saying this is THE answer. No. But, what would, or could happen when we give up the “should” and the “should not”? 

As I was enjoying my breakfast with a cup of coffee this morning, howling blasts mixed with yelling came though our wall from upstairs. It had been for more than 10 minutes. “Honey, should we call the police?” I said to my husband. “The kid is crying because her mommy is telling her no. That’s all. She is not abusing her child.” Oh. See how fast I react to my morning episode. I gave my husband a laugher of recognition.

Maybe, it might give us an opportunity to relate to, and allow us to discover something other than the “terrible twos.”