Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 8:01 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt
I’ve been blessed to get such wonderful letters in response to my request for topics I can address in this weekly column. This week’s question is near and dear to my heart.
Dear Country-Dwelling Newspaper Columnist,
I have a 17-month-old who has just begun a tantrum throwing phase. I know it’s been a while since you had a toddler in your house but ... I’d love to get your advice on how to lovingly, wisely, effectively correct this behavior in an age appropriate manner.
Mommy in Need
Dear Mommy in Need,
Kids that age are miserable human beings and I recommend that you drink way more coffee than you’re currently consuming. Uh, wait, no. Let me start again. Toddlers can be a rewarding challenge even to the most seasoned parent. Yeah, that’s better.
I’ve always been a straight shooter so I’ll try to give it to you straight, friend. There’s a big problem with your toddler. There was a big problem with mine. There’s a big problem with toddlers all around the globe. A toddler wants to be the king of his own castle, the ruler of his own destiny, the captain of his own ship. He wants to sing Frank Sinatra at the top of his precious little lungs, “I did it my way.”
But if we let him be the captain of his own ship, he’ll pretty much run the thing aground within 30 minutes and set the whole ship on fire within an hour. The average toddler (or even above average toddler, which I’m sure yours is) will tend to do the following things in a 24-hour period: drink from the toilet, pull the dog’s tail, fall down the stairs, chew on the tip of a blue Sharpie pen and break the crystal butter dish Aunt Marge sent you from the Netherlands. Of course, we can’t allow toilet water drinking or dog molestation or the breaking of precious Dutch memorabilia. So we have to offend the little Frank Sinatra with a pleasant and firm, “No.” Hence, the tantrums you are currently experiencing.
There is a lot of debate about what a parent should do during a toddler tantrum. Some people support calmly spanking the little rear. Others do a time-out in a playpen or something similar until the child can stop throwing a tantrum and calm down. Other parents turn their backs and ignore the behavior completely. I see the merits and pitfalls of all three options. But here’s the deal. Truthfully, I don’t much care which of those you choose to do or not do. But I DO care whether little Johnny gets what he WANTS by throwing a tantrum. When you remove that crystal butter dish from his chubby little fingers and he “throws down” because he simply cannot FATHOM his life without the crystal butter dish, it’s disheartening to see parents actually give the butter dish back to him in order to stop the crying. Oh friend, this is the ONE thing you DO NOT want to do. Calmly stand your ground and don’t get all emotional about it. Trust me. He will get over the disappointment eventually. It hurts my heart to hear parents say things like, “It was windy and we wanted to come inside ... but little Billy wouldn’t let us.” Wouldn’t let you? YOU are a mature adult. Little Billy is a child who would drink from the toilet. You tell me who should be in charge.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website, lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.26.11
Lisa Smartt, The Smartt View