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Throwing a fit

Just because tantrums are part of growing up does not mean you won’t have to deal with them

weDear Suzi and Paolo,

I am a working mom and my project is on night shift for five months now. My problem is my daughter. There were times when I would not be the one who would give her breakfast. But when it would be my turn to feed her, she would not eat and, instead, would go on and play with her toys. I also noticed that she would keep on throwing her toys everywhere. Even when I would tell her it was not right and that she should not throw things, she would say “no throwing.” I know she understood what I said but later on, she would throw her toys again, especially when she’s in a middle of a tantrum. Please help.

 

Roxane Cabile-Montierro

 

 

SUZI SAYS

 

Hello Mommy Roxane! Thanks for writing in. Oh wow, babies do love throwing stuff around.  They really do! For one thing, I think they’re really enjoying their discovery of the concept of gravity. How cool it must be that everything ends up on the floor. I know, cool for the baby but tiring for mommy. Another possible reason why she’s throwing is that she wants to see the reaction of the people around her. For the most part, grownups will surely pick up whatever they throw on the floor. Some people label this as kids manipulating their parents. I think at a very young age, there is no malicious intent from the child. It’s all a game to them. And every time you pick a toy up, it looks as if you’re willing to play the game.

If you would like her to stop throwing things around, you should give a clear warning. Give the toy back and, if she does it again, take away the toy. Now, you must think this through before doing it because your daughter will surely cry and want her toy back. So, think about what matters more to you: for her to stop throwing toys around or for her to have fun? It’s unfortunate that you failed to mention the age of your daughter because that information is important when deciding how to deal with a child. In any case, it will take time before your daughter figures out the warning cues and what comes after that. But she will and, in time, hopefully, she will stop throwing things around.

eAs for feeding time, it should be a focused activity, meaning no toys, no distractions. But if it takes so long to feed a child, caregivers and, maybe, even you would resort to distractions like toys or TV so she would stay in her feeding chair. So set a rule at home that there will be no toys during feeding time. It will be challenging for both the child and the adult, but you will both get used to it. Make sure that whoever is left to care for your child will follow the rule. Consistency is key! Good luck mommy!

 

PAOLO SAYS

 

Hello Roxane. Thank you for writing in. You didn’t mention how old your child is but I assume she’s a toddler, between two to four years old. I say this because she’s exhibiting classic “toddler tantrum” behavior. All children pass through this stage. No doubt, you did, too. People who study children’s developmental phases have agreed that it’s a normal phase that all children, biologically and psychologically, go through. They are simply “hard-wired to misbehave” as one expert puts it. Reading between the lines, I think you feel a certain amount of guilt over having to spend late nights for work and attribute her behavior to your changed schedule. Put your mind at ease. This is a normal phase for kids and your child will go through it, whether your schedule allows you to spend time with her or not. You’re putting yourself through undue stress by making yourself feel guilty and blaming her current phase of development on what you feel is your inability to spend the same amount of time that you used to spend with her. Yes, the more time we have with our kids, the better. But as the saying goes: There’s quantity and there’s quality. They are two very different things.

Now that we’ve put possible feelings of guilt in its place, let’s talk about how to deal with tantrums. Just because it’s natural does not mean we’ll just let it pass. Children throw tantrums because they know that it is a tool to get what they want, whether that’s your attention, or an object, or to influence a certain outcome. The challenge is to remain calm and not overreact. If you get angry at her, it will just get worse, like throwing gasoline on a fire. But then again, if you give in, you reinforce the behavior and she’d think, for sure, that throwing tantrums is an effective strategy to get what she wants. The best thing to do is to make her aware of the consequences of her misbehavior. Keep the terms simple. Tell her if she throws her toys again, you’ll take them away. Strive to maintain your composure and deal with the tantrum in a levelheaded and calm way. Stick to your guns and give her a sample of what will happen if she misbehaves. Keep calm and speak clearly so she understands.

Make the most of the time you are able to spend with your child now. Teach those lessons consistently and recruit your yayas and others who care for your child to do the same. The rules have to be consistent. With patience, she’ll outgrow her tantrum phase. It doesn’t happen overnight and it can be quite a challenge, but you can do it. Good luck!