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mean what you say, yes, there will be tantrums…

Posted by on Jul 15, 2011 in Blog Posts | 6 comments

Recently I was killing time between piano lesson and swimming. (We have two activities at any one time, like piano, swimming, or karate and swimming… but now they happen to be almost back-to-back…) Anyway, we were at TJMaxx, and I got some little organizer things that we needed, but M of course begged for stuffed animals, crappy-crap-crap. I had not primed her as I usually try to do, with, “We’re not getting X, Y, or Z, we are here for A,” but the truth is, I didn’t have an agenda so we wandered (we also checked stuff out at Pier 1, and enjoyed a small impulse purchase of a pig-shaped flash-light…)

So M is begging for this hideous poodle-bag. I don’t want to get it, but I say, “You remember that if we buy a new stuffed animal, we have to get rid of one of your old ones.” I was being wishy-washy. Waffling in my own mind, “well, how bad can it be, it is kind of cute, it will make her happy, and buy me some tantrum-free time…”
M: “I will, I will get rid of one!”
Me: “Um, no, what I meant was we are not buying it…”

I didn’t want her to buy it, I should not have engaged or tried to rationalize. She had a mini-meltdown. She got over it. We talked about how disappointing it can feel to not always get everything you want when you want it. (note, the photo is not our pile of animals, but we are getting close to that amount…)

Setting boundaries, being straight-forward and not intimidated by the threat of tantrums is part of the deal. That’s parenting. It’s also part of helping kids learn how to eat. Kids will have tantrums, they will be disappointed if you’ve allowed grazing and are now transitioning to structured mealtimes and snacks. If you no longer engage in negotiations for dessert, there will be tantrums and outbursts. If you’ve been used to eating in front of the TV, they will pitch a fit when you turn it off, your teen will likely sulk if you institute a no-texting rule at the table. It’s OK. They won’t like all the changes right away, things will improve.

But, if you try to make a toddler, child or teen happy all the time, try to protect them or prevent disappointment in every way, or be wishy-washy about your expectations, no one will be happy.

What do you think? What has your experience been?

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  1. Ellyn Satter

    Love the idea of Stepford children–wouldn’t love having one around. What fun is having a child with no surprises who can’t think for her(him)self and pitch a few tantrums?

  2. Emgee

    You’re right, tantrums are going to happen, especially at certain ages. However, I do want to recommend, “Parenting with Love and Logic,” by Jim Fay & Foster Kline. It involves natural consequences and sharing control when possible, plus teaching kids to make decisions. It’s also quite entertaining, I especially recommend the books on CD if you can get them. And no, I don’t own stock in the company. 🙂

  3. Jennifer

    You mention tantrums only when transitioning towards the DOR. I find that this article and Ellyn’s books (sorta) imply that once you are doing the DOR right that the tantrums disappear…

    While I agree that having the DOR in place does reduces tantrums around food, my three year old (and my older when he was younger)can find many reasons to tantrum both at the table and not. The bread is the wrong shape, I cut something the wrong way, she wants something else to eat, she doesn’t like her cup, her brother’s cookie is prettier. I could go on and on.

    She has all these types of complaints(fits)while not at the table. I don’t want pink boots! I hate this shirt, get it out of the house right now! I am not brushing my teeth! Don’t help me mommy! You should have helped me mommy!etc. etc.

    Just because we don’t serve her different food when she asks for it, does not mean she does not try to get different food sometimes. Loudly. Similarily, she will try to get us to let her ride in her brothers booster seat even though we never let her. She will persist in her wants for long periods of time. We gave up sippy cups almost TWO YEARS ago and I am still am having to deal with her begging me to buy her Dora sippy cups.

    I have found it unhelpful that Ellyn Satters books were not more clear on this. BUT, I have assumed she is not saying that a tantrum free table is what parents of small children “doing everything right” should expect. But then I read this article which again emphasizes only trantrums when parents are doing things wrong (not doing the DOR). Katja can you please clarify on these points?
    Do your clients stop having fits and complaints at the table when they are well entrenched in the DOR?

    • katja

      When you refer to the article, do you mean my blog post? if so, I must clarify! I will write a quick new post… No, when you are doing DOR (by ‘right’ I think I mean as well as possible) then you don’t get Stepford kids who sit politely every second, but, imagine, with your daughter’s strong will how much worse things would be if you WERE bargaining and negotiating over food etc… If there is a different article, let me know…

    • Heidi

      Tantrums definitely happen, regardless of how “well” you do anything. DOR is no different. I would say, however, that there are battles I choose to fight and battles I do not. We never gave up sippy cups, although my son rarely uses them. If he wanted his drink in a sippy cup and we still had one, I’d let him have a sippy cup – I just don’t see the point in fighting a battle over that, because I don’t perceive it as being that important.

      If I can figure out why he wants to do X, Y, or Z that he knows he’s not supposed to, and give him the reasons why it’s not possible or find something similar that is acceptable, I will. I choose my battles very carefully and give him as much freedom to assert his own wants as possible, while still setting firm limits on the important things, like not running out into traffic. I *think* that’s part of the reason we have so few tantrums from him (and always have – he’s five now but even between 2/3 years, in prime tantrum territory, we’d max out at maybe three tantrums a week).

      I don’t know if that helps. I think that, as parents, we can sometimes get sucked into thinking that we have to constantly assert our authority, lest our kids turn into unmanageable monsters. I may occasionally go to the opposite end of the spectrum but, mostly, I think we set reasonable limits and that he responds well to those limits combined with lots of little freedoms for him.