A few weeks ago, while I was in the process of making valentines for the kids, my 3-year-old daughter threw an epic tantrum. As I was getting everything set up, she asked if she could have some paper to draw pictures while I worked. I agreed, and she went and got it herself.
She sat next to me at the table and we chatted about her preschool life. We talked about how she was excited for her Valentine’s Day party, who her friends are, things about her sisters. It was all very cute and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
And then I looked over and saw that she had nearly a whole ream of paper, and she had already used about 3/4 of an inch of it. I immediately said, “Oh no, sweetie. You can’t have that much paper. We need to save it for other things.” I took away most of it, while still leaving her with some blank pieces (I did want her to stay happy while I finished up my own projects), and then the tantrum ensued.
“You so rude, Mommy! It’s all your fault! You ruined my draw! And it’s all your fault! You so rude! It’s not enough paper! I need onetwothreefourfivesixfirteen papers! It’s not enough!” And so on and so forth. For about 45 minutes.
I stayed calm. I didn’t give in, even though I really really wanted to. I finished the Valentines while my daughter’s life ended under the dining room table.
I tell you, when it comes to wearing you down, this child holds the world record. She completely trumps anything my other two children have ever tried in the tantrum department and when she wants something she doesn’t budge. Ever. She is incredibly strong-willed.
And I admit. I give in to her a lot. A LOT. It’s just easier that way. But, this time with the paper? I’d been reading a new book that TLC Book Tours sent me called Give Me, Get Me, Buy Me by Donna Corwin, and there was no way I was giving in. And I’ve really been working on it ever since.
This book has been great for me, because even though I’d like to say I do everything perfectly in my discipline and parenting, I don’t. Sometimes I rock, yes, but most of the time I’m just barely getting by. And sometimes, I fail miserably.
Corwin really addresses the reasons we give into our children’s demands so easily. They are varied and many. I recognized myself in some of them, and not necessarily in others. Am I following my own parents’ model? Or am I rebelling against it? Do I think I’m showing love by giving my child everything she wants? Am I afraid of something? Do I have a sense of entitlement myself? Am I competitive?
She then gives excellent tactics on how we can prevent or reverse a sense of entitlement in our children. What it came down to for me, is that we need to find better ways to show our children how much we love them, rather than simply giving them everything they want and feeling that is an appropriate way to show love. We need to spend time with them, give them attention and teach them to be charitable. We need to teach them responsibility and this wonderful concept called “delayed gratification.” We need to teach them morals and manners. And all of these things can be done without buying them the latest and greatest—in fact, they are probably much more easily done when we’re not buying them the latest and greatest.
I’m so glad I have this book now. Because at the moment, my kids are young enough that giving into their every whim isn’t all that expensive monetarily (especially since we don’t have TV in our home), but pretty soon they’ll be wanting iPods and game systems and cars. And we have to draw the lines now if we want to survive teenagerhood.
So, back to my daughter and her epic tantrums. She’s three, it might take a while, but I have already noticed a marked improvement in her ability to get over it when the answer is no. Like, tantrums only last 5 minutes now, instead of an hour.