May 29, 2007
Part I -- Does your child throw tantrums in public?
When your kids misbehave in public it can be downright embarrassing, and it is natural to want to put a stop to such behaviour immediately, especially if others are looking on. A child involved in a fight with other children is one such situation where parents make the common mistake of getting involved. What parents don't realise is that while their interference might settle the situation at that point, they may be sending out the wrong message to their son or daughter.
The rule of thumb is to keep out of fights between children unless there is violence involved, and danger of somebody getting hurt. Mrs Prabhu, mother of six-year-old Seena, kept complaining to me about the problem she faced every time she took her daughter for a playdate with other kids. She described one such situation to me.
She and a few mothers had taken their children to the park. The children were playing on the swings and slides while the mothers sat chatting nearby. Very soon, there was a commotion. The mothers rushed to the spot only to see Seena and her friend Rita pulling at a swing from either side, not allowing the other to sit. Mrs Prabhu told Seena to let go and take turns playing on the swing. Rita's mother, however, didn't say anything to either of them. She just stood there and decided to allow the girls to sort out the issue themselves.
When Seena didn't relent, Mrs Prabhu finally pulled her hand away from the swing. Seena started crying, saying, "I waited for my turn and she just came in the middle. You don't care about me, you only care about other children!" Embarrassed and annoyed, Mrs Prabhu began shouting at Seena, telling her she didn't know how to behave and threatening that they would never make a plan like this again. The poor child was inconsolable and sat alone on a bench for the rest of the evening.
Childcare tips for working parents
Why did the evening, which started out so well, end up with both mother and child angry and unhappy? Here are some points that could have helped Mrs Prabhu deal with the situation better:
- First off, parents need to realise when they should get involved, and when they should stay out of a situation. As long as there is no violence and it is safe, allow children to fight their own battles. You will be doing them a favour by letting them learn the values of co-operation, compromise and problem-solving in the process.
- Trust your child to deal with and face the situation. Be your child's biggest supporter as you let him/ her develop courage and confidence in social situations. Your child may be a victim at times and a bully at others -- recognise that both are learning processes.
- Be concerned about your child, not about what other people think. Don't be unjust to your child, particularly when you don't know how the situation has come about.
- Don't ask your child to be a martyr just to show others that you are a parent who is in control, or that your child is 'good'. Remember your son/ daughter deserves to participate just as much as the other children in all the fun activities.
- Do not shout or humiliate your child in front of his/her friends, even at those times when he/she may be at fault. Talk to her in the privacy of your home and follow through with appropriate consequences. Always remember to connect the consequences with the behaviour.
- Encourage your kids when they behave well. Let them know how much you appreciate them playing co-operatively with others. Remember, the behaviour that you focus on and encourage will be resorted to more often.
- When your child is the victim, listen to what he/ she has to say. Give him/ her your undivided attention. The problem may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to a youngster of that age. Accept their feelings as they are without judging them, belittling them or giving advice. Just listen.
Another complaint most parents have is nightmarish shopping trips. There's always a 'what's in it for me?' attitude that seeps in when you take a child shopping. Children throw tantrums when they see something they want, and parents usually give in to avoid the embarrassment. Most children can skilfully use a tantrum to manipulate their parents and get what they want.
However, there are some techniques parents can use to avoid being held to ransom by their kids:
- Before leaving home, let your child know what you are going to shop for, and whether you will be buying anything for the child. If you are planning on buying your child something, plan a budget from home, if required.
- Discuss with your child the behaviour that is expected of him/ her while shopping, and the consequences of misbehaving.
- Make sure your shopping trips do not interfere with mealtimes, bedtime etc. A delayed mealtime or bedtime could translate into having a very cranky child on your hands.
- Keep in mind your child's age when you take him/ her along. Younger children tend to get restless faster. Make sure you stick to the schedule, and don't extend the trip too long.
- Involve your child in the shopping process and convert it into a learning experience. Allow your child to push the trolley in the supermarket or find things for you. Teach younger children names of fruits and vegetables; show them how the cashier works, or how the grocer uses the weighing scale etc.
Remember, the key to good parenting is communicating with your child and setting boundaries. Knowing what is acceptable behaviour helps your child learn how to interact with you and with others in social situations. Boundaries also help avert socially uncomfortable scenarios like tantrums, and encourage a happier parent-child relationship.
Part I -- Does your child throw tantrums in public?