Thursday 9 October 2008

Dealing with Tantrums

I watched the baby throw a tantrum not long ago and it made me smile. Tantrums don’t make most people smile, so let me explain. He drops onto the floor, starts pummelling the carpet with his hands and feet and cries loudly while I sit there and watch. He then stops and looks at me to gauge my reaction. When he sees me sitting there laughing my head off, he gets up gives me a dirty look and slopes off in a sulk with his bottom lip sticking out.

I have been through this self-same process with each of my kids, maybe I have been very lucky, but when they have realised that their tantrum is going to get them absolutely nowhere they haven’t tried again. Maybe I am a hard-hearted mother, maybe a lazy one, but a child that shouts and screams for something just does not elicit much sympathy in me and looking at how orchestrated their little attempt at getting their way is just makes me laugh (if you watch them carefully the first time they do this you will see they take a peek at you to see if its working).

Of course all kids are different, Little Lady whinges, guilt-trips me and tries to reason with me, Gorgeous is just like Little Lady and gets bored quickly so howls, stamps his foot, gets bored then wanders off. Little Man uses the harassment technique – keep asking in a whiny voice until you get it. Even if it takes hours. Even when the boss lady starts shouting. Even if you are threatened with a smack (which you know won’t get carried out). I love persistence in people, I love it when they are so determined that they just won’t give up. I love this trait in Little Man, but not when it is being used against me.

Saying that there are always the kids which seem impossible. One of my good friends has two very mild-mannered sons, her third son (the middle child who is supposed to be the peace-maker and arbitrator in most families) is impossible. When he is about to throw a tantrum, nothing will stop him except getting what he wants – no distractions, no mollifying, no cuddles, no promises, no scolding, not even a spanking will avert the screaming fit. The poor women gets so mortified in public that she just gives in to what he wants. I have a little cousin like this (age six now) who just doesn’t stow bawling until she gets her way despite threats of a walloping. I’m not sure what you do with such children – I would be tempted to let them cry, and cry and cry until they knacker themselves out and go to sleep.

I believe in not judging other mums if they are doing something different to you, because none of us is perfect, but I still can’t get my head round mum’s who chase their child around, pleading and begging (please eat, please behave, please don’t cry). My gran always said that it’s good to let a child have a good cry when they need to. That’s not to advocate ignoring a distressed child, but “I want chocolate/toy/to run around the restaurant even when you’ve said no” is not distress its rudeness. One of my mum’s best friends saw the way I deal with my children and commented that “It’s good that you are making your kids grow up rough”!!!, I was a bit offended, but she said that because she had a lone son who she mollycoddled so that he could do very little for himself (and then promptly forgot all about her as soon as he married).

I will always remember the words of the excellent midwife who visited me after Little Lady was born. I complained about how she wanted to feed for hours and I was exhausted, she was not sympathetic in the least and turned around and said: “Are you her mother or is she your mother?” I still haven’t come to a conclusion on that one seeing how Madam tries to boss me, but she had a point.

“When your child cries your heart hurts, when someone else’s child cries, your head hurts” ~ Maulana Tariq Jameel


  1. Assalam Alaikum...this post couldn't be written on a better day! My four-year-old daughter is throwing tantrums again. I had to carry her (over my shoulder, you mind) home from the playground the other day! Not so funny...imagine the other people's faces...ohhhhh, that woman has no control over her child... She's a little firecracker my little one and a master manipulator! I think I will try your gran's advice next time...

  2. Assalam-alaikam Sister Umm Nassim,
    I am just picturign you with your little one over your shoulder walking down the street - hilarious, but I am sure it wasn't for you at the time. I do love girls with spirit - when they are good they are sweethearts and when they are naughty...