So my awesome brother's awesome little son is now two and according to latest reports, sometimes throws tantrums. The sudden onset and venom of which kind of startle my sweet brother. So I told him my strategy for dealing with the irrational, full-blown tantrum: Respect.
Yes, it's pointless, ridiculous, silly. The flailing child's sense of self-importance is so vastly disconnected from their pudgy, insignificant little self. But for the child, this is very serious. The subtext of most tantrums is, "I'm a real person! With opinions! And needs! Heed me!"
While you can't hand over the lollipop or postpone bedtime or whatever else they're demanding at the moment, you can indeed fill their need for validation and respect. So my M.O. is to reflect and articulate: "You are mad! You are so upset right now! You are so frustrated that I put honey on your sandwich because you did not want honey!"
In honor of Jesse's upcoming birthday, a shot of one of his first, though certainly not one of his last, screaming fits.
Now, whether or not you are willing to produce a new sandwich is a whole 'nother story. And if this tantrum doesn't wane forthwith, the child should be banished to time-out or bedroom or whatever to cool down. But putting words to the child's feelings doesn't mean giving in to their demands, and I find that half the battle is won by just showing the child that 1.) you get it and 2.) it matters to you. Because sometimes we don't notice how often we treat little children like ridiculous little pets (yes, I realize this is because they act like ridiculous little pets), when really they want to be treated like little men and women.
Fast forward to teenagers: My two admirable young men are demanding that I become even more attuned to this issue. They are so good in so many ways--and yet on occasion they spray paint the garage floor and put wooden spoons in the dishwasher and growl at their siblings and drape dirty socks over the piano and a million other things that require parental correction. And their need for manly respect is even higher because they believe--silly things!--that they are men.
If I snap a criticism at them as if they were little kids, they'll balk and argue and talk back. None of which is okay, and all of which earns them negative consequences. But if I take a deep breath and address them with the tact and respect I would give another adult--voila--the whole issue is avoided.
I'm a firm believer that parents should demand and enforce respect from their children. I'm the mom and, yes, you must listen to my lectures sans eye-rolling for as long as I care to deliver them. But authority can be wielded in tandem with respect. Not only does it grease a lot of wheels, it's the right thing to do.