Mr. and Mrs. Kramer go for a family outing with their two children, Ron and Vanessa. Vanessa is 6 years old and extremely bratty, prone to tantrums. Their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Brown have a son who is Ron’s age, Darius. Darius and Ron, the teenagers, enjoy picnics together, as they are thick friends. They immediately get into the groove and start hanging from the rope and climbing onto the tree house. Vanessa, much younger at 6, is unable to participate and starts sulking. When no one pays attention, she begins yelling and throwing herself on the ground and starts crying loudly. Both sets of parents look at her and ask her what is wrong? She points to her brother and says that he is mean and rude and she wishes to climb the tree first. Her decibel level keeps going up all the while. The parents get back to their chatting, ignoring her and look completely unruffled.
By now, others in the serene picnic spot start looking at the source of commotion.
Some of them especially those who do not have children, wrinkle their noses. “How callous of the parents? Look they don’t even know how to discipline their kids? Disgusting children – they are a reflection on their parents? Why kids can’t be banned?” are some of the comments heard.
Murderous looks are cast in their direction but the Kramers and the Browns seem unfazed though conscious of the biting looks thrown in their direction.
In 15 minutes, Vanessa gets up, wipes her cheeks, dusts off her clothes and starts hanging around her parents in a gesture of conciliation. Seeing her calm, mommy Kramer asks her to sit down. In a firm tone, she asks if the child would like to play Snakes and Ladders with the warning that any sign of tantrum, screaming or yelling would mean immediate end of play.
Vanessa agrees and runs to get the board.
People around are still throwing angry looks in the direction of Vanessa and her parents.
Footnote: Counselors say that the only way to bring about behavior change in children especially when they get into the habit of throwing tantrums is by being calm and completely ignoring them. Under no circumstances should you try to talk, reason, placate or scold when they are in the throes of it. Tantrum is a child’s way of demanding attention. Positive attention means the parent giving in and indulging or pampering a child to make them go quiet then and there. So offering bribes like chocolates, games, toys, sun and moon is done most often which enforces the behavior and makes the tantrum worse the next time. Negative attention is screaming, yelling, beating and threatening which surprisingly also endorses the behavior because the child is getting some attention even if negative. No behavior change happens because the child learns nothing except picks up violent behavior of their own. Difficult as it is, ignoring and staying unruffled is the only way that tells the child that this behavior will not work, and the child will stop and come around. A few times and change in the child’s behavior will be seen if parents are consistent with their own approach. I have personally faced this issue with both my kids and continue to do so with the younger one. Sometimes these are phases and do get better as the children grow up but not unless the parents take the right action. The reason why we see so many brats around is because the parents are doing both the wrong things specified above. When your child behaves this way, it is unnerving and also embarrassing. But this is the way to go. And, from personal experience, this approach works. To an outsider, it may seem like the parent is doing nothing, and that can be irksome. And that is my reason for putting this post up. Putting up this footnote as many questions on the same lines are put in the comments. And, yes, it would be best to avoid taking the child to enclosed places like theaters, restaurants etc. But taking them to open spaces like parks, gardens are desirable so that bad behavior can be checked and rectified.
Pic courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net
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