Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lesson #2: Tantrums Are Bad

(But not evil)

Returning to the small child who wanted Oreos, we can all see that tantrums are undesirable. They're indicative of poor discipline which results in all sorts of behavioral issues later in the child's life. Bottom line: tantrums must be stopped.

This does not, however, mean that parents (or nannies/babysitters) should bargain with the child in order to stop a particular tantrum. Don't treat the symptom; treat the cause. This is often the easiest and most entertaining disciplinary issue to deal with; it's also very rewarding as results can be seen within days of beginning treatment.

Step 1: Don't feed the tantrum.
When a child asks for something he wants and is refused, it results in a meltdown. Why? he wants to scare you or annoy you until you finally give in. Basically, he wants attention. What frustrates him more than anything else? A decided lack of attention from the authority figure he's targeting. I always find it amazing how many parents just can't see this. They feel the need to calm their child and distract him, when all they end up doing is creating a monster.

Let's look at an example from a different job Miss Byrd has survived.

Three year old Princess was the baby of the family and was given whatever her little heart desired. if her will was thwarted, a tantrum brought the desired results as she was known for throwing up when she got hysterical. Miss Byrd had been told this when she hired on, but felt sure it was a problem that could be addressed, despite the parental skepticism.

Within the first week of Miss Byrd's stay, little Princess came running up, asking for a bowl of Goldfish while Miss Byrd was preparing lunch. The request was refused on the grounds that lunch was about to be put on the table. Due to a scheduling fluke, both Mom and Dad were home just then, but getting ready to run some errands together. Seeing her opportunity, Princess ran to Mom and asked her for Goldfish. Not wanting to be circumvented so easily, Miss Byrd informed Mom that Princess had already been told no. Thankfully, Mom supported Miss Byrd's authority.

Cue the royal tantrum.

As Mom and Dad were putting on coats and rushing out the door, they were trying to bargain for peace, "We'll bring you a special prize. You want a KitKat? How about a Reese's cup? Calm down, sweetie, we'll bring you something." And out the door they went, leaving a screaming child and an exasperated nanny.

The moment they were gone, Miss Byrd put her royal highness on the stairs and told her to sit until she had calmed down and was ready to eat lunch. Then she cooked her own lunch and quietly sat down the enjoy it. But Princess had yet to play her trump card, and she knew it. (So did Miss Byrd.) The crying and sobbing reached a fever pitch and the gagging started. At this point Miss Byrd simply said, "If you throw up, you're in BIG TROUBLE." Then she went back to her lunch in silence.

Immediately, the sobbing slowed down and the hysterics gentled into just a normal crying fit. Soon Princess could breathe normally again, and was able to apologize for her behavior and settle in for a very cheerful lunch. She did not get any Goldfish; Miss Byrd never lost her patience; and Princess never threw another tantrum while in Miss Byrd's care.

The incident was reported in full to Mom and Dad, but they failed to see the moral of the story and continued to promise special prizes if Princess would only calm down. Miss Byrd learned very quickly to eat her dinner and flee to her basement quarters in the evening as there was a guaranteed tantrum at least once a night in the upper regions of the house.

Now, we've proven that tantrums are bad and easy to cure. But why do I insist they're not evil? Simply because they are sometimes a nanny's best friend.

I know, I know: example needed!

Miss Byrd's first day flying solo at her current job ran something like this:

Mid-morning Miss Byrd and both children were listening to music upstairs while Miss Byrd rocked Monkey and read books to Bug before heading back downstairs so that Monkey could have her next bottle. But books got boring quickly for the two year old, so he headed into the bathroom for some fun. It being early in the new job, Miss Byrd hadn't quite learned how far she could trust the little Bug, so she told him to come back out. He flat refused. So Miss Byrd had to go in and drag him out by the hand.

Cue the tantrum.

He screamed himself hoarse for at least ten minutes. In the midst of this, Chunky Monkey was supposed to be enjoying her mid-morning bottle and wasn't.

Cue the baby tantrum.

Suddenly, Miss Byrd had two screaming children on her hands. She completely ignored the two year old, but tried her best to calm the three month old, knowing that it was a lost cause as only food would make her quiet down. But going downstairs and leaving Bug unsupervised was forbidden by her contract. And so Miss Byrd settled in to ride out the squall, hoping that her boss wouldn't call to check up on the kids just yet.

Eventually, perseverance paid off and Bug figured out that he wasn't gaining anything by his hysterics. So he quieted down and agreed to go downstairs and play. Miss Byrd was able to feed the hungry baby and peace once again reigned supreme.

When naptime rolled around, Miss Byrd was able to tuck both kiddos into bed without a fuss. They were so worn out from their extended crying jag, that neither made a peep for three hours: a record that has yet to be broken in five months of employment.

And that was the day that Miss Byrd learned not to hate tantrums.

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