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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

They say temper tantrums are in the domain of the Terrible Twos, but by age 5, for some children they have evolved into effective negotiation techniques.

Want to watch another TV show? Cry and scream until it is allowed. In the mood for a bowl of ice cream? Cry and scream, and throw in some kicks for good measure.

Of course, that kind of thing is atrocious. Children should not behave that way, and adults certainly should not reward that kind of behavior by giving what the child wants.

If I had dared to demand something from my parents — and I suspect this may be the case for you, too — not only would I have been refused that television show or bowl of ice cream, but those things would have been banned for at least a month.

However, in today’s world, it seems adults are afraid of children. Do anything — anything — to keep the child happy.

Are tears a sign of mental anguish that will damage a child for life?

Or are they merely the child version of the way an adult quietly struggles with will over desire?

Or are they a guaranteed way for the child to get what he wants?

It’s easy to say “no” to a polite request which will be dropped. It’s hard to continue to say “no” in the face of screaming, when all you want is peace and quiet.

Who cares if the kid eats too much ice cream in front of the TV as long as the house is peaceful?

Throwing a temper tantrum doesn’t work on me, but has been is effective for my child in other settings. It seems that every now and then she checks to see if I’ve come over to her way of thinking.

It happened the other day on the way home from day care. Another child was not required to wear a jacket, but I said Mary Evelyn had to wear her jacket home.

First she refused to put it on, but I gave the countdown that usually works wonders: “Five — four —three —”

She had it on when I got to “Three.” I never have to get down as far as “Two.”

That’s a good thing, because I’ve never figured out what the consequences will be if I get to “One.”

During the first four miles home, she sobbed.

“Nothing will make me stop crying until you say I can take my jacket off!” she wailed.

“OK, dear,” I said, turning the volume of the radio up slightly.

“Nothing will make me stop crying and screaming until you say I can take off my jacket!”

`”OK, dear,” I replied. “Let me know when you’re done, and we can talk about our days.”

The crying and screaming got louder and louder.

Suddenly, the cries changed. They seemed more ... real.

“Mama!” she shrieked in mortification. “I’m ready to be good now! I want to be good!”

It appeared that the temper tantrum scared her. She didn’t know where it was going from there, or what to do next. She just melted into worry.

“OK, dear,” I said. “You can be good now,” and I put out my hand for her to hold. “Screaming is not a good way to ask for things, is it?”

“No, Mama,” she replied, sniffling and holding my hand. “I’m done now.”


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