Friday, December 11, 2009

You Can't Always Get What You Want

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" was one of the first rock-and-roll songs I knew as a child, because my dad would sing it whenever I got upset about not getting my way. (The Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited" was another one, for more positive occasions.)

Kate is starting to enter a phase (phase? do we ever really grow out of this?) of getting upset when she doesn't get her way. She'll be playing with something she shouldn't be, and when we say "no" and take the item away (or take her away from the item, in the case of the blinds or open refrigerator), she will start to cry loudly and pathetically and kneel down with her face pressed into the floor. The funny part is, if we ignore the little fit, it generally stops within ten seconds. (Score one for Mommy and Daddy.)

She's not being "bad" by crying, and she's too young for "discipline" anyway, but I am definitely bearing in mind how crucial our responses to this kind of behavior are to the formation of her personality and character. She won't remember two years from now how we took away the rubber band she was having so much fun with, but hopefully she will understand that you can't always get what you want and that tantrums are not effective or desirable.

We emphasize staying calm. (Probably shocking to people who've known me for a long time, "calm" is a central tenet of our parenting in general.) The couple times I've said "no" too loudly or harshly, it scared her and made her cry from fear. I hear it's important to keep one's face and voice deadpan when admonishing children, so they don't misbehave just to get a rise out of you.  This is the same reason I hear one must try, try, try not to laugh at misbehavior (even though kids' antics can be hilarious). Kids love attention, and smiling or laughing while telling them "no" sends mixed signals. (Right now, it's Kate's response to the "no" that cracks us up. The "drama queen" thing will be much less funny in a couple years, I imagine.)

I'll let you know how well we handle these issues once Kate is actually consciously misbehaving (right now she's just curious and loves to explore, and we want to encourage that so long as it's not dangerous), but I hope we're setting the tone for good behavior early.

How do/did you handle small kids' tantrums and misbehavior?


Anonymous said...

Our daughter went in a semi-tantrum phase where she would lay down on the floor and bury her head. Our first thing was to make her get back on her feet immediately. We would tell her to stand up and if she didn't she would get a swat on the fanny for not obeying. Then we would deal with the other behavior of not getting what she wanted. Just remember that "it too shall pass"!

Katie Bug said...

Katie Bug just started throwing these mini-tantrums this week. I am so glad to hear that she is not alone! We are responding pretty much the same way, but we do say "no" when she tries to hit. Thankfully, that's not too often.
It's so hard to know the right way to respond to undesirable behaviors. I'm praying for wisdom each day!


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