Monday, June 7, 2010

Meltdowns, tantrums and screaming

For a bilingual parenting blog, this one has so far been heavy on the bilingual, light on the parenting. Today I'm contemplating a classic parenting challenge: screaming and tantrums.

Let me start by saying that this post isn't motivated by anything K has done recently. *grin* In fact, my daughter never screams. My daughter is sweet and well-behaved and wouldn't dream of running off or screaming in the store. On occasion, though, a stranger has taken the form of my sweet girl, a stranger who misbehaves, screams and generally carries on with unsociable behavior, and even worse, tries to act like I'm her mother! I am usually busy acting like I don't know her at times like that... (I couldn't get through this paragraph with a straight face, could you? "My daughter never screams", indeed...)

At the risk of puncturing the image anyone may have of K as the ideal child, sitting calmly all day reading a book (in between fixing me cups of tea), a certain amount of hooliganish behavior does occur. She has actually been very reasonable lately, but in months past we have not been precisely strangers to the middle-of-the-store meltdown. I have a variety of methods for dealing with it.

My favorite is, as alluded to above, pretending not to know her. Commenting aloud to my husband that somebody's kid is really misbehaving today, what sort of parents are those? This has mostly entertainment value - not to be taken lightly in the stress of public misbehavior! Hand-in-hand with this goes ignoring. I find ignoring her is effective when she ignores my attempts to calm her down or ask what the problem is. She gets more upset at not being noticed, but then when I engage her again, she responds. Promises of disciplinary measures are pretty lost on this age group, especially when overcome by stress, anger, lack of nap and whatever other factors led to the meltdown in the first place. I don't even bother with those. Distraction can work, if she's not too far gone. Looking her in the eye and repeating her name until she registers what I'm saying is also oddly effective. I do NOT give her what she is screaming for. I don't want to encourage her to think she can get what she wants by screaming.

Nothing groundbreaking there. I post this today in order to pose a single question related to a popular piece of advice:

Who came up with the advice to "just leave the store immediately and go home" or "end the outing immediately" when your child has a tantrum? What sort of privileged life do you lead where that is even possible???

One essential problem? Leaving the store is typically what the child wants in the first place. How is that a win? That's just giving in.

Another essential problem? Clearly whoever came up with that gem doesn't have a 45 minute trip home by public transportation. Your child has a meltdown in downtown Prague (just to pick a city at random...) and you have no choice but to deal with it there and then. "Ending the outing" isn't exactly a solution, unless you fancy spending up to an hour with a screaming child, weathering the disapproving looks of strangers.

Even in UK, where I do have access to a car, I also don't understand what you are supposed to do when you need to finish the shopping, misbehaving child or not. K and I go window shopping just for fun, true, so on those days we can just head for the car and home, but most of the time we are in the store because we need groceries, without which we won't have anything for dinner that night. "End the outing immediately" means no food to eat. Or no clothes to wear, or whatever it was I needed at the store. Presumably I am supposed to leave the child at home next time, so I can complete my shopping in peace? With a relative maybe. Seriously? Lu. Xu. Ry. I giggle at the thought.

Basically the people for whom this advice is useful: 1) have cars at their disposal whenever they wish, 2) have the luxury of completing the shopping trip another time, and probably 3) have someone to leave the child with next time. Otherwise, the next shopping trip would probably end up the same as the last, and nobody would be able to cook, ever again.

I am left with the same giggly, rolly-eyes feeling as when I read in a book on personal economy that you should price-compare and do your shopping at five or six different grocery stores, and that this could be accomplished in an afternoon. I lived in Prague at the time, where that would take days, factoring in having to make trips home in between each store because you carry everything in your hands or on your back. And I didn't even have a child back then. That was not the only piece of advice in that book that totally fell flat once you leave the United States, either.

What do you do when your child (or lookalike claiming to be your child) loses it in public? And what common pieces of wisdom are totally inappropriate for your circumstances or cultural environment?

1 comment:

  1. When we have to go for groceries and daughter starts screaming since hubby and I go together one of us grabs her and tries to calm her down (by talking to her) or distracting her. luckily she does quite well.



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