Is your child becoming more and more whiny, arrogant, rude and violent? Studies have shown repeatedly that problem behaviour in children is typically the result of misplaced adult attention. Often we have seen at gatherings and parties adults teasing a child with questions such as “Whose toy is that?” or “Where is your mother?” or “This is not your mother/father”. As the child keeps getting flustered with these questions the adults seem to feel more mirth. After a while when the child starts his or her crying spell they quickly stop and offer comfort. This could have an adverse effect on the learning that your child makes. He or she will tend to believe that attention and comfort can be gotten by throwing tantrums.
But is it really your child’s fault in this case? We as adults often instil behaviour patterns in our children without realizing their full implications. From the above incident we can make an observation that the adults first drove the child to a tantrum by causing him or her to feel insecure about the toy or the identity of their parents. When then the child gives in and throws a crying fit they all rush to comfort him or her and shower attention. Children with impressionable minds learn that they can demand attention and get their own way by throwing fits or tantrums. This learning he or she will implicate in other situations too and if successful it can become a character trait.
In a study conducted by psychologist Betty Hart, Ph.D. And her colleagues in the University of Washington, the effects of attention were studied on Bill, a 4 year old ‘cry-baby’. Bill had between five to ten crying spells each morning – crying when he fell, bumped his head or if another child took away his toy. Each time a teacher went to comfort him. Hart and her colleagues observed that this adult attention, though intended for comfort and reassurance, might actually be the reason for his crying.
To test their hunch they asked the teachers to glance at Bill to make sure he was not hurt or injured but not go to him or speak to him next time he cried. On the contrary teachers would compliment him when he went about mishaps without crying. This resulted in his crying spells to fall from the average of around seven per morning to almost zero.
To make sure that their observation was correct teachers were asked to again pay the same attention to bill when he cried and it resulted in him reverting to his old pattern of crying several times a day.
So even if we as adults are well meaning the extra attention could be causing more harm to our child. As parents we are mainly concerned with getting over with the tantrum instead of trying to understand what caused the child to throw such a fit in the first place. We try and bribe the child into submission or placate them with treats or expensive toys and gifts. What we are really doing is making the child think that throwing tantrums is a fast track to getting treats or toys that he or she would not usually be given. This only results in your child growing more whiny, rude, arrogant and violent instead of learning to be patient and gentle.
As a parent you need to figure out where you stand in respect to your toddler’s behaviour. It is okay for all kids to have bratty days but when the nagging, whining and misbehaving to get their way becomes a part of their behavioural trait then you need to stand back and ask yourself the below:
- Do you usually tend to give up in exhaustion rather than enforing limits?
- Do you let your child constantly butt in and take over adult conversations?
- Do you rather keep buying gifts and toys to avoid tantrums even though your child has more than enough already?
- Do you give in to his or her demands at the supermarket for treats instead of speaking to him or her as to why they can’t have it to avoid tantrums
If you are answering yes to most of the above then you have a problem and need to start dealing with it as soon as you can.
So why do we cave in? Here are some of the most common causes:
Why Adults Encourage Tantrums in our Kids
We feel Guilty: In today’s family dynamics with both parents working we are riddled with guilt about not spending enough time with our children. Guilt ridden parents are likely to over compensate, over indulge and under-discipline their children to try and make up for the lost time. Kids, who are highly intelligent persons, tend to catch on to this quickly and raise tantrums to get their way.
Exhaustion: Similarly due to the fatigue of working all day and staying up all night for your child causes you to give in out of exhaustion. This teaches your kids that household rules aren’t for real.
Over-reliance on Parents: Kids who depend entirely on their parents for everything from getting dressed to fetching their food they tend to get spoiled. Your goal should be to encourage your baby to be able to do his or her things themselves while providing necessary guidance but not doing it for him or her.
Giving Them what you didn’t have: Parents want to give their children the best of everything that they could not have. But buying them too many things can backfire. They will not learn to value the things they already have and instead always look for new things.
You think Your Child can do no wrong: We have all encountered parents who smile indulgently as their children talk back to adults, be violent with other children or destroy public property or break things at other peoples’ homes. These parents are clueless as to how to deal with their children and so rationalise it to be cute and funny. Their indulgence only leads the children to think this as acceptable behaviour while others are less than pleased with them.
So what do we do? As adults we need to remember that our kids learn from what we teach them. So we need to be consistent with rules no matter how exhausted instead of giving to their demands. Once your child learns that throwing tantrums is less likely to give him or her the desired result they will be less prone to try it again. It may be tough to resist spoiling now, but in the long run the results will make you proud. Your child will learn how to manage feelings, cooperate with others, follow rules, and over all exercise self control. These lessons once ingrained in childhood will continue to be beneficial throughout his or her life.