Nip tantrums in the bud


Q: My 30-month-old has started throwing tantrums when I do not give her or do for her what she wants. During her fits, she cries, screams, tries to hit and even bite me, and then, if I prevent her from hitting me, will hit herself. My mother says this needs to be nipped in the bud. She recommends spanking. I say my daughter really doesn’t know what she’s doing and is too young to be disciplined for this. I’m also concerned about her self-hitting. What do you say?

A: I say your mother is right. But then again, I disagree with her concerning her recommendation that you spank your daughter when she has a tantrum. By the way, I prefer to call them “high self-esteem seizures” because they are the rage of the naturally narcissistic child at having someone — a parent, usually — refuse to immediately satisfy his or her unquenchable lust for entitlement.

First, your daughter’s tantrums are knee-jerk reactions; nonetheless, she is a highly intelligent member of a self-aware species. Don’t confuse “she cannot explain what she is doing” with “she does not know what she is doing.” Believe me, she knows what she is doing. She is trying to get her way and she believes that becoming an emotional volcano will accomplish that objective. You’ve probably given in a time or two, haven’t you? Yes, you have! Fact: If a parent gives in to one tantrum out of 20, 20 more are instantly loaded into the clip.

Second, you would do well to nip these seizures in the bud, or bloom, whatever the case may now be. As I said, however, I do not recommend spanking. I have no problem with spankings per se (research done by objective people does not find psychological harm — and even finds benefit — when spankings are infrequent and hand-administered by loving parents), but when the issue is a toddler’s tantrums they are not likely to accomplish anything.

Third, your daughter’s self-hitting does not merit concern. As you make clear, she does not hit herself randomly but only when you prevent her from hitting you. Under the circumstances, her self-abuse is what is known as a “displacement.” Also, she probably saw that hitting herself provoked a reaction from you, so she persists. She is, as I said, highly intelligent.

Fourth, the most effective means of nipping these seizures in the bud or bloom is to assign them to a designated tantrum place. When our daughter Amy was this age and her sense of entitlement got the best of her, my wife and/or I simply directed her or dragged her kicking and screaming to her very special tantrum room — the downstairs half-bath. We put her in, told her that this was the only room in the home where tantrums were allowed, encouraged her to scream to her little heart’s content, closed the door, and walked away.

For what usually was less than a minute, Amy would scream, shriek, kick and pound the door, and otherwise go completely berserk. Then she would become silent and, we assumed, sulk. Then she would emerge, go straight to her room and begin entertaining herself as if nothing had happened. We even invented tantrum places on the spot if they occurred in public. One time, for example, I confined Amy to a display bedroom in J. C. Penney’s until her tantrum over wanting a Dracula Colorforms set had subsided, during which time I simply sat in a nearby recliner, dreaming of a life in Tahiti without children.

In short, tantrums are no big deal unless allowed to become a big deal. With that in mind, nip away! Now, be a good daughter and go tell your mother she was right … mostly.

Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at questions@rosemond.com; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Living

Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer mark a musical milestone
Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer mark a musical milestone

“Not Dark Yet” (Thirty Tigers/Silver Cross Records), the first duo album from sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer, is a powerful musical milestone in the long and winding careers of the Alabama-raised and Nashville-tested singer-songwriters. Produced by kindred spirit Teddy Thompson, the singer-songwriter son of seminal British folk-rock...
Georgia Women of Achievement seeks nominations
Georgia Women of Achievement seeks nominations

Georgia Women of Achievement board of selection is seeking nominations for next year’s induction into its hall of fame. Founded in 1992, the organization honors women who have contributed to Georgia’s history. To be nominated, a woman must be clearly identified with Georgia and have made exceptional or enduring contributions in her field...
5 ways to stop killing your back with bad posture at work
5 ways to stop killing your back with bad posture at work

"Sit up straight!" may sound like nagging straight out of the 1950s, but it's spot on advice for the 21st century workplace. Constant shifting around to get comfortable at your work computer, and hunched over a smart phone at home, wreaks havoc on your back, neck and shoulders. Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each...
Famous Norman Rockwell study drawing of umpires fetches $1.68M at auction
Famous Norman Rockwell study drawing of umpires fetches $1.68M at auction

An original study drawing of a famous illustration by Norman Rockwell sold for $1.68 million Sunday night in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports auction. The 1948 study, or preliminary work, for “Tough Call,” which was used as the April 23, 1949, cover of The Saturday Evening Post, belonged to the family of John “Beans&rdquo...
More HGTV ‘Flip or Flop Atlanta’ coming your way
More HGTV ‘Flip or Flop Atlanta’ coming your way

Ken and Anita Corsini named their company after the red barn their first offices were in. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com This was posted on Monday, August 21, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog HGTV has rewarded “Flip or Flop Atlanta” a quick second season renewal. Why? The first five episodes...
More Stories