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Decoding "Tantrums" - Why Do We Feel Embarrassed By Them?

Some years back (many more than I would care to admit to),  I remember me and my cousins had gone out with our Aunt and Uncle and parents to the market. CP in Delhi as I recall, as posh as it could possibly get. My cousin at that point was a mere toddler, I may have been in my teens.

As is quite common, not just with kids, but adults as well, he saw something in the market which he liked, and wanted. For xyz reason, he was refused. The result - he lay down in the middle of the shop, started crying, and refused to get up. 

By any stretch of imagination, this scenario is not an uncommon one. Parents across the globe experience it, not just with toddlers, but even older children. Barring the last year and a half, when kids have primarily been at home, we have in our last decade of experience at Morning Glorie's preschool and daycare in South City1 Gurgaon, had many parents come to us and talk about how their baby was likely to "throw a tantrum" if they did not get what they wanted - gender no bar.

Let us analyze this situation to figure out what exactly is happening -

How would you react as a parent?

Sit back and reflect. In the past, faced with such a situation, what has your reaction been? Have you responded by either giving in to the demands? Or have you reacted negatively by reprimanding your child there and then? Have you felt embarrassed by the display? As something which is telling upon your parenting?

Or, have you remained calm, not reacted, and let your child understand on their own that their behaviour will not get a rise out of you?

Think about it. Why should you as a parent feel embarrassed if your child is just being a child? Even more important to assess - why do you think your child feels that a meltdown will get the reaction they want out of you? This requires deeper introspection. 

Negative vs Positive Reinforcement

Kids read the room very well - this includes their parents. They figure out pretty early on what will get a reaction from their parents. If they get a reaction from you only against a negative behaviour (even if the reaction is negative), then they learn to behave in a manner that will get you to react. In the simplest of terms, this is often termed as attention seeking behaviour.

On the other hand, if they understand that you appreciate all the good that they do, then it is a win-win situation for everyone.

Important to understand, why we sometimes forget to acknowledge things done right, but more often than not tend to not be able to ignore things not done right.

Why Do We Feel Embarrassed In Such Situations?

We have typically been conditioned over generations about "good behaviour", and decorum which must be maintained while in public situations. While there is nothing wrong in that, it is important to reflect and understand why we should feel embarrassed at all if a three year old is not behaving as we want them to. A few things to reflect upon -

1. Ignoring an outburst will more often than not lead your child to overcome it in a few moments - a calm and patient parent will typically find it easier to manage such a situation.

2. Sometimes, your child may just be tired or hungry, and this may lead to an outburst.

3. If possible, distract them from the situation that caused the outburst.

4.  Have regular conversations at home regarding the value or resources and discuss situations (from your own life) where it was not possible to get what you wanted. How that is ok, and we can always find something else to give us joy and which worked out better for us.

Why Your Child Can't Help Their Outburst

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, who told me that many children suffer from Sensory Processing Disorder. Truth be told, I was not aware of this, as we never came across any child who had been diagnosed with this in our 10 years experience as a preschool and daycare in South City 1, Gurgaon, or during our online homeschooling program.

As yet, I do not fully understand how this works, but for some children who find it difficult to process sensory information, this may manifest as what is commonly termed as "behavioural issues" - this may include what are perceived as temper tantrums.

So really, there are many children who can't help their outbursts, and as parents and caregivers, we must be aware and look out for the signs. Losing patience or feeling embarrassed can lead to much harm, because children need help to manage and overcome this situation. Today, there are several therapies which are available - one only needs to approach an expert. We only need to remember that this is nothing to be embarrassed about, and it is ok to seek help where required. It does not make one a lesser parent or caregiver.

Up Next - Online Homeschooling - The Smarter Education System


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