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:



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79 Thoughts on “The tantrumy brat!

  1. Loved how you presented it.

    If you are convinced, what you are doing is right for your child, how people react around you, shouldn’t bother you at all.

  2. Much food for thought here, Rachna. However, I’m not sure if I would agree if the same thing happened in a closed space, like a restaurant, for example.

  3. Hmm, I enjoyed reading this and agree it is food for thought. Especially as the parent of a small boy. Out of interest, what would you suggest when something of this sort or just general disobedience happens in a closed space (as Corinne writes)?

    • Thank you Colleen. Parenting is so challenging whether your child is young or old. My younger son, Gautam, is 6 and can throw some terrible tantrums. I inserted a footnote above explaining why the parents’ behavior was correct.

  4. This phase,when kids throw tantrums is very difficult for parents.Often they are alarmed that their child will grow up to be a monster but it passes quickly if handled wisely.

    • Apt words, and nothing less expected given your knowledge in this subject, Indu. Children know how to blackmail parents in social situations very well. And, this is exactly what the child counselors that I approached have told me.

  5. Rahul on April 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm said:

    There are no laid down rules but the more attention the children get and sometimes bordering on indulgence result in this kind of behavior. Parents are the best judge as long as they themselves know what they are doing!

    • There can be multiple reasons why a child throws tantrums. But to bring about behavior change, this is the right approach. I have added a footnote above to explain.

  6. A thoughtful incident. Though a small child, Vanessa,being the only girl appears to be drawing the attention of the onlookers. This is the reaction of most children. The children who are of the same age tend to ignore the younger one. In such a situation I will blame the parents. It is a small family. The parents must ingrain in the minds of the siblings that they must always be for each other. They must be made to realise that even in the presence of out siders the elder child must make the younger one comfortable.

    • Yes Ushaji simultaneously the parents need to figure out the reason for this attention seeking behavior in their children. As the counselors say, it is the parents who need to look deep within to understand what is going wrong with their parenting. Yes, parents need to do all those things as well as spend more time with their children.

  7. I can relate to this story, Rachna. My nephew is 4 years old and his tantrums in a public space embarrasses us so much. Ignoring him for a while is what we do usually. I liked your suggestion of open spaces vis-a-vis enclosed places. Will share this with my cousin! Thanks 🙂

    • Thank you Shilpa! Of course that ignoring must come with the other caveat of the parents spending more time with their children in activities. That is the only way to attack the root cause of attention seeking that brings on this behavior.

  8. Very well brought out Rachna. Dealing with tantrums and not letting other people’s opinions effect you.

  9. Just loved this. And I so agree. Ignoring is the best tactic, being attentive just adds fodder.
    Do some more posts like these Rachna, will help confused moms like me 🙂 Thank you

  10. CLosed spaces is what am scared of. Mnay times a movie is spoiled due to kids. Some immediately walk out. Some don’t hvae that common sense 🙁
    May be in a park or on road its well and good but I feel one should look out for options to avoid tantrums in closed spaces like u told

    nicely put

  11. The important thing is not lose cool when your child is throwing a tantrum. Most kids outgrow and it is just a phase which requires patience and perseverance. It is in the child’s interest when you say no and do the right thing. Public places can be embarrassing but what’s right should be done.

    • True Alka! Not losing the cool is very important. But being in a social situation, a parent feels pressured to set things right immediately :(. I saw my elder son outgrow it. That said, there are some parents who are so completely wrong in the way they bring up their kids and their own behavior that I think that their kids have no hope. Saying no is very important and also the understanding that a child requires your time and undivided attention. You can’t expect them to thrive while you sit in front of the computer or your smartphone and leave them to languish in front of their TVs or gadgets.

  12. I should bookmark all these posts and come back and read them later when I will need them. I can relate to these kind of posts only from my memories as a child still and compare how my parents dealt with me.

    • I understand TF! Sometimes only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches :). Seriously, I do not even know how to compare these experiences to those of my childhood. For once, my mother did not consider being a parent a strain or a tedious chore. And she hardly had any help from my dad in raising us in terms of help in kitchen or chores. She did not face the challenges of gadgets, technology and media influence that we as parents face. So even I go back and think about how my parents would have dealt with it but sometimes the challenges are new and so are the approaches.

  13. Well well, I am at a loss of words because I have only been on the end from where I see kids as a species not to be taken out of the house, unless they know how to behave. People even take infants or cranky kids for movies(which are not kids movies) and then spoil the experience for everyone around. And , crying kids on trains are the worst. 🙁

    • True Akanksha! I understand your agony. Parents really must avoid taking ill mannered kids to such places. But the real problem with most parents is that they don’t want to address that something is wrong with their child’s behavior and take remedial steps. They just expect that others should understand and that kids will grow up and get okay. Well, that will not happen and that gets my goat. The sad truth is that parenting is challenging, hands-on and very demanding. And most folks just get into it and don’t understand the time and commitment needed to raise well mannered kids. Then to assuage their guilt,they pamper them with gifts. Bad behavior all around. Thus we see alarming number of brats around us.

  14. I liked the way you put across the point.Sometimes you have no option but to take the kid to weddings or malls where the tanturm disturbs the ambience and the kid is aware of it.It is trying those times

  15. I just think most parents invite the worst kind of wrath by only partially following the solution you have alluded to. They try to ignore the bratty child long enough to have it create havoc for everyone around, and then give in to the little monster’s whims!
    Partial compliance is worse than no compliance!

    • Absolutely true! The worst part is that the ignoring you see of atrocious behavior of their kids is a non issue for most parents. Most I know don’t even approach a professional or read up about it. They think it is their God given right to unleash their ill mannered child and expect others to understand. And the premise is that the child will get okay on his/her own once they grow up. That never happens but most of us are too blind or busy or ignorant to deal with it. It is tough being judged at every step as a parent. But most parents of our generation have no idea what they are doing. They either outsource it or spend time with their kids very grudgingly, one eye on their smartphones. As a parent, I understand when another parent faces a tough situation. But my contempt is no less when I see a bully or an ill mannered brute.

  16. II don’t have any kids yet but I had watched a UK program (don’t remember the name though) in which they say that most of the time the reason for toddler’s tantrums can be due to parent’s negligence towards the kids or display of more affection to one child in front of the other. Kids do not understand good or bad, but parents as adults can.
    Counselors explained it to the parents that, they should spend more time with the kids, play with them (indoors and outdoors, be a role model instead of just giving instructions), or take a walk with kids so that they will not feel (subconsciously) that they are neglected and hence worthless.

    • Yes Bhavana! The reasons for tantrums could be many and some of them you have mentioned. Parenting is such a balancing act and tough job and sadly no place that teaches you what to do :). And even if they did, each child, parent and situation is different. You are absolutely right! Since the root cause of tantrums is attention seeking, the parents need to address that simultaneously. So actively engaging the kids and spending more time with them one on one is really important. No matter what your other engagements are.

      Apart from this, as parents we have to look at discipline as an important part of parenting. Pampering them or splurging money on them to assuage our guilt of spending less time can never compensate. I guess most parents of our generation need to understand that parenting comes with 24X7 commitment and responsibilities. Thank you for your insightful comment.

  17. Hi Rachna, guess folks who’ve raised kids and been in similar situations with their kids will understand when they see other parents handling tantrums. At times, it’s hard to tell if parents are handling or blissfully ignoring 🙂

    On a side note, have a question (asking for a friend) – “I am in charge of the Lok Sabha and often find myself unable to handle the tantrums of the members. I’ve tried everything – from banging the gavel incessantly to completely ignoring tantrums to even openly weeping at times.. Nothing seems to work. I’m at my wits end. Any ideas on how I can handle my truant flock?” 🙂

    • hehe Srini yes parents recognize another struggling parent when they see one :). Of course, most parents are actually not doing anything which worsens the situation. The sad part is that most of us have access to resources like technology or counselors but never even bother to try and understand the situation. It is blissful ignorance at the cost of others most times :).

      Even God cannot come down and handle the truant folks in Lok Sabha. I am just a mere mortal. Baith jaiyiye, baith jaiyiye in that school teacher tone is hardly having any effect :).

  18. The more pampering we do to kids, the more they get adamant and throw tantrums. But as parents, we have to take a call on when to pamper them and when to scold them. Every step we take actually decides on the child’s reaction. I’ve seen children rolling on the floor crying in a supermarket demanding the mom for chocolate or toy. It looks scarry sometimes! Do we just buy the chocolate and keep the baby calm, or just let it do all the tantrums and wait for the child to calm down. The decision is really tough and as a parent, one cannot take the same decision all the time. God, Parenting is so tough and very challenging!

    • My own son did that in a supermarket demanding candy, and I walked out leaving him wailing there. He came out after 5 minutes of ruckus. When I got home, I explained why his behavior was obnoxious and why I wouldn’t take him along to the mall if he misbehaves ever. You would be surprised to know that this particular behavior was never treated. Staying calm and collected works every single time. Kids are intelligent. They quickly understand what will get them the goodies and what won’t. Yes, we do pamper them on special occasions. But bribing is a no-no. We are falling into a deep hole if we allow the kids to dictate what we must buy and when we must do what. Sadly most parents think they are taking the easier way out by giving in when effectively they are ending up raising very volatile, ill mannered kids used to having their way all the time. You are right! Parenting is bloody tough.

  19. You know, now I feel blessed that I am almost out of that phase 🙂 I had really tough time bringing up my son..he throwing tantrums phase passed pretty soon, but was extremely hyper. I could clearly see what you mentioned with my daughter. As soon as she turned two, she would show all those traits. Fall on the ground, Wail loudly and cry by closing her eyes without tears rolling 😛 ‘S’ said, just leave her. You won’t believe, within less than 3-5 minutes she would compromise and be her normal self …:D I know, all kids aren’t that easy. With work and other stresses, parents are just giving in…I liked Purba’s post too the other day…

    • haha I know scary days those! My younger son did that whining on the ground thing. These days, his tantrums consist of sulking and crying over silly things. Best left alone when he does it otherwise he goes ballistic — screaming and scratching — hthe works! Most times we can’t leave them alone because everyone else is glaring at us to do something. But I’ve gotten thick skinned :). And of course, if the behavior continues, parents have to see where they can compensate for the attention seeking in the time they spend with their kids. The problem with saying No when you have always been saying yes is that it won’t work. It has to be a gradual process that will set a brat right which will be a mix of patience, firmness, discipline and consistency. Wish there were easy answers in parenting :). And of course when our kids are older, we conveniently forget what brats they were earlier and turn up our noses at other poor parents struggling with the same situation :).

  20. Now I know when to shoot murderous looks and when not to 😛 I agree, enclosed spaces like fine dining and/or movie theatres shouldn’t be on the list of go-to places. But it’s a tricky situation. I remember going to a spa-resort where they had rules that families with children under 10 weren’t allowed if they had their kids along. It seems like a cruel or unfair rule, but then others who have reservations have also done so for the calm and quiet. It’s a confusing argument, but at the end of the day, one needs to be considerate of others too.

    • And that is understandable from another person’s pov who is looking for peace and quiet. But, I have noticed that these days we are just very intolerant and opinionated. Even parents will tell other parents, “Make him quiet.” It is not easy to control a full on tantrum child. Of course, a parent must walk out of the restaurant or the theatre when a child throws a tantrum there. But many times, the parent is as helpless as an outsider in controlling a kid. Being considerate is all I ask for too. It is tough being a parent and doing the right thing in the first place. Being judged all the time is really cruel and irritating. That is not to take away from the fact that most parents are really doing the wrong thing. That is why so many brats are around us.

      • True that. I have no idea yet and cannot relate to the other side yet, but I do agree that we as a species seem to be really low on tolerance. We find it so so easy to judge people too! But hai, brat menace ka kya ilaaj 🙂 and like everything else, a few bad apples (bad as in – like you put it as wrong parenting techniques) end up giving a bad name to a much larger set even if it’s a one off disturbance that the child may be causing for a genuine reason.

  21. I agree that ignoring and not giving in is the best way to deal with children’s tantrum, but that does not work with every child. Children with serious behavior problem may injure themselves or others in one of their fits. I have seen this happen…
    BTW my strategy is to ignore them during the tantrum and take some time to get back to them, so that they realize I am not happy with the behavior. Also in some cases, they are informed that one of the gifts or games that was supposed to be for them has been cancelled ;). After studying and learning so many lessons, I never got to use them on my kids at all as they are quite well behaved and usually reprimand me for being naughty. LOL

    • Farida, I can only talk from my own experience and from what I’ve read and heard from the counselors. Each child is different. And throwing tantrums is a normal part of growing up simply because a child finds it very hard to have a handle on their emotions. Do read the links above shared before your post. I agree that they must be talked too once they are calm and explained how their behavior was not acceptable. Oh yes, I use timeouts and time-away apart from revoking privileges as well :). Each situation calls for a different solution!

  22. One rule might work, that is if the kids listen to you and abide by the rules set: No tantrum outside the house. At home we can ignore them royally and they will usually pipe down, because they have no audience and are not pressing any reaction buttons on us to get their way. Well, this had worked in my time. Kids and parents are more intelligent these days…..

    • And Zephyr the sad part is that you cannot be sure about that. Yes, every time we venture out, we repeat how one ought to behave. Sometimes the younger one listens and sometimes not. Kids are definitely more intelligent,and there must be something wrong that my generation of parents is unable to figure out. We have more resources, are better equipped to understand but are more strained for time as well as commitment as we have our heads in multiple things.

  23. All these comments are such interesting reading as well. One theme (in the comments) that strikes me is that the parents of today don’t seem to know how to properly raise/ handle children today with enough attention in the areas that matter and so are creating children who grow up more spoiled that previous generations…I think this is interesting. Does anybody have any idea why this is so? What are we failing to get right here? What is it distracting many from the job parenting is? I guess what I really mean is where is this behavior in children and parents coming from?
    Please don’t anybody read this as a challenge, I am genuinely curious and interested in hearing answers!:)
    What is lacking here?

    • rohan (@rohan_xy) on April 9, 2013 at 6:10 pm said:

      i can answer,but it won’t change the approach of parents towards kids and kids can’t adapt to this kinda parenting in contemporary why to waste time in finding answers which won’t be helpful to raise kids. am not writing answer here,but i can give simple example to find answer.

      did ya ever taste a country vegetable curry and hybrid vegetable currry,if you know the difference in taste and why the difference is,you have answer in this example.

    • Colleen, the reasons can be many ranging from overparenting, overinvolvement, nuclear families, lack of patience, social media, both parents working and parenting being looked at as a chore. Alas, the extra money cannot really compensate for lack of love or attention and cannot build bridges later in life. I read one article on this. Will try to fish the link for you. My parents were extremely detached, really. No timetables made for us; no climbing on our heads, no interfering in our quarrels. But we want to set everything right. We want the child to learn from our experiences and deny them the opportunity to have their own and fail and learn. There are so many things that our generation of parents is doing wrong.

  24. I don’t know.I don’t think there is one single formula for all the kids with identical behaviour.
    Only person who knows the answer and cure is the Mother… is all free advise

    • True chowlaji. There is no one formula but there are patterns that must be watched out for. Leaving things as it is and hoping they will be fine will hardly work for today’s kids.

  25. Interesting post, something I as a parent am able relate to. And equally interesting comments, I must say!

    Each child is unique, albeit, every kid wants our attention and it is only the expression of it that would differ. So unless we make quality time for them in our very hectic schedules, there’s just no telling how our children will grow up to be.

    My elder daughter (now 10 years) wasn’t the “tantrum” kind, my younger one (4 years) is. My elder daughter is becoming more difficult of late – she is stubborn, lazy and getting more & more disobedient, which is really annoying me and I’m finding it difficult to handle her. I make her schedule a timetable which she sticks to for 2-3 days and then, she’s back to being herself! Sometimes she’s at her best behaviour volunteering to do things, sometimes she’s just plain lazy with a “no” to everything. I’m just telling myself (or rather coaxing myself) that this phase too shall pass. My little one is a brat, but she knows how to stay in the good books with her disarming smile and her warm hug. And since she’s just 4, I’m telling myself that when she grows up, she’ll get over her tantrums.

    The only saving grace is that both my kids are extremely well behaved outside of home. I’m counting my blessing, seeing so many ill-behaved children around.

    Now I’m off to reading those articles (links found on your comment section)…

    • Thank you for sharing your experience RGB. Each stage offers a different challenge I guess. I completely agree about making time for them no matter how busy we are.

  26. These tantrums are mostly attention seeking acts. Ignoring is one thing and talking to them after their fury is down is another. But everything needs patience and time!

    In our house it was the elder who was doing the attention seeking act. They feel ignored after the second one is born. It was not easy for me to passify him. I used to give all the importance to him than the smaller child. Still….it was not easy.

  27. Wonderful post Rachna . Things were so much easier when I was throwing tantrums and handling it was my parents headache ! Being a parent is so damn tough eh !

  28. Very well analysed, Rachna! I am usually patient with kids and am rarely annoyed. I also sympathize with the parents who are reasonable. But there are parents who are extremely annoying,

  29. That’s a great story to exemplify a good way to handle tantrums! I do follow this completely! My kids know that they will only get my attention when they can talk to me calmly and not when they are crying and screaming! I guess in the story you related, it was a combination of not having a play companion and being ignored by her brother and friend. I feel the parents handled it brilliantly!

    • True Roshni. The child was feeling ignored and left out. It happens so many times with my younger one when there are so many games that he feels left out of because he cannot play them. And then he will not even want to go play with someone else insisting that he wants to play with bhaiya. Now how does one involve a 6-year-old in physical sports like football and cricket? *scratches head*

  30. hmm, this is a post that would be an eye-opener to most parents. It also makes me think how lucky I am to have an extremely well behaved child.

  31. Its a very nice post Rachna. I’ll try this on my little one as she is getting more and more out of our control. Thanks for posting.

  32. That’s a lesson. Kids indulge in all kinds of tantrums to get attention or get what they want. If pampered such habits are hard to control with age. I know such living proofs.

    • And don’t we all, Saru? 🙂 It is getting worse and worse with each passing day. And our generation of parents though more involved are clueless about how to handle it.

  33. I don’t have kids but I have tried it on kids of other people. 🙂
    And yes, it works every time. Ignore them and they will be all right after a while.
    But I think this tactics stop working as children grow up. That is when you have to sit and talk, I guess.

    • You have to sit and talk here as well, Amit. The difference is that you do it after they calm down. I guess it applies to adults too. When we are really upset, hardly are we in a frame of mind to listen. To kids who can’t control their emotions, it applies even more. Nice to know that you are able to achieve this state with others’ kids :).

  34. Nice post Rachna!!

  35. I think it works in most situations. I have noticed that tantrums get worse when there are a lot of people to run around kids, trying to placate them. Will definitely tell my sister to try it out on her lil boy when he is old enough for tantrums! I really liked the way you presented the post. 🙂

  36. Pingback: How to handle tantrums of the adult kind? - Rachna Says

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