- No, you are not going to “give in” to them!
- No, you are not going to “naughty chair” them. No, you are not going to “talk about it”.
- What you ARE going to do, is add three of the most POWERFUL words on the planet to the word YES and turn temper tantrum -ing toddlers (or teens for that matter) into patient, cooperative thoughtful family members.
Don’t believe me? Well here is a true story that demonstrates just how effective these 4 words are, when used correctly.
I was walking with my good friend and her two children ages 1 and 2, whom I absolutely adore, and the family dogs. The goal was to get some exercise and reconnect with each other while getting the kids out of the house for some much needed fresh air and sunshine. Unfortunately, once we started walking, the kids started in with some classic demands and, well, here is what happened…
It started out with a “Waaaa” from the one-year-old and several whiny “I waaaant toooo waaaalk” from the two-year-old. Like most parents, my friend eventually gave in and let the two-year-old walk, and, as you know, if you let one out, you have to let the other one out, right?
I was immediately impressed with my friend’s circus-like talent. She started by holding the one-year-old in her arms, trying all the while to push the stroller while keeping the other child on the sidewalk. Soon enough, she was juggling two kids, a stroller, and the dogs in beautiful, chaotic synchronization. Amazed… if not utterly stunned by what she had taken on, I remained quiet and observed. And yes, of course, I eventually offered to help.
No doubt some of you recognize this story and are smiling, nodding, or even shaking your head with that blank, shell-shocked look on your face. Well, keep reading because there IS relief to this timeless riddle.
Alas, the girls did not want to walk OR be held OR do anything else for very long. And, it soon became clear that changing their position up, down, over, around and through, wasn’t even their GOAL. What they really wanted was to keep their mommy busy with them, at the expense of everything else – including visiting with me.
Very quickly, neither my friend nor I were having any fun. I had lost interest in the endless circus act, and we were not able to talk and connect with these two ruckus munchkins demanding all of the attention. So, we soon retreated home and the walk was officially over.
The next day when my friend and I had a quiet moment, we discussed the events that had unfolded the day before. We talked about how quickly the walk had degenerated from a time for two adult friends to connect, into a circus routine with the children in the center ring, running the show.
As you probably know, this is a situation parents find themselves in quite often. If you’re just now expecting your first child, or are thinking about having children, all you have to do is look around the next time you are in the grocery store. You’ll see moms carrying the baby, cajoling the toddler, or bouncing the baby while trying to make it through at least putting the essentials in the cart.
And then there are fathers, gallantly trying to avoid a public tantrum by giving in to their little one’s pleading cries for gum, candy or treats. And, as in my dear friend’s case, there are constant accommodations in response to pleas for freedom from or return to the stroller. This is called The Slippery Slope – that place where parents find themselves when they know at any minute things could go from good to bad, or from bad to really bad!
So, what’s a well-meaning, law-abiding parent to do?
It’s all about training. We can either train our kids to believe that life is all about them, and that it is their job to keep us busy with them, OR we can train our kids in the fine arts of patience, respect, flexibility, cooperation, and manners – arts that are also valuable life skills that will pay dividends faster than you can say “play date!”
OK, I get it. But just HOW does one do teach these fine arts?
Start small by creating opportunities from everyday life, and for those moments that catch you off guard try this simple strategy I call, “Yes, As soon as…” Quick, easy, and highly adaptable, using this strategy results in simple, but effective exchanges like this:
Child: “Can I walk?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as we get to our road.”
Child: “Can I watch TV?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you finish your homework.”
Child: “Can I have a cookie?”
Parent: “Yes, as soon as you eat something healthy.”
The tantrums and the whining usually begin when we tell our children, “No.” And, it ends when we either give in or get mad. Neither one breaks the cycle or teaches our children anything useful. So, say “Yes,” instead, AND… make sure that “Yes” is part of an agreement between you and your child. You agree to let your child do something or have something they want, when they prove to you that they can handle the privilege.
If you have trouble getting started, remember this.
It may not work the first time, and is not intended to stand alone, so you should also:
- Have faith in your kids – they can handle both the disappointments and privileges.
- Have your kids help you find solutions to problems if you are stuck.
- And always, always, take the time to make a plan.
Now, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine what it will be like if, after 6 months, your family was tantrum-free. It’s all worth considering isn’t it?