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Practice Unhappiness

Dear readers,

I’ve gotten many emails and questions over the years about tantrums. Parents wanted to know: Did I recommend walking out of the store or not shopping with the child again until they grew out of that phase? Did I advocate spanking or put the child in time out? How would an “obsessive” parent, i.e. one determined to make sure their child was emotionally, physically, and spiritually growing up right, handle the “fit”?

Here is your answer:

You are going to practice unhappiness with your child.

1) At a time and location where you have all the time and privacy you need: the next time your child asks for something they want (not something they need), say, “No.”

2) Stick by the “No.” Hug your child if they need comforting through the fit. Tell them you love them but the answer is unchanging.

3) Ride the storm. Do NOT cave in.

4) When your child has calmed, sit him/her down and, on a conversation level he can understand, tell him how PROUD you are that he practiced unhappiness and was able to calmed himself down. Give him the words he can think when he feels upset at being told he can’t have his way: “Oh well…. it will be okay… maybe another time….”

5) When you two get really good at saying and handling the “no’s” visit a department store and look for those fit-throwing children. Out of earshot of that other family, discuss with your child how that child doesn’t seem to be very good at being unhappy, do they? Let your child feel the pride that he has conquered his tantrum.

6) Prove to him how much you appreciate his maturity by taking him someplace very special. Tell him since you know he can behave so well in public that he can be trusted to control himself.

7) As you continue to practice, talk with your child about how in life there will be many times when things do not go our way.  We must learn how to shrug off the bad times and focus on the good ones

8 ) Repeat the lesson as needed.  If he has younger siblings, they will pick up how tantrum throwing doesn’t work from big brother’s actions and you may well be sparing yourself a lifetime of fits. 

Practicing good behaviors also apply to “wait one minute“.  At a time when you could absolutely hop up and get your child what they are asking for, instead stall yourself and say, “Wait one minute please”.  After one minute has passed, retrieve the item for your child, proving you are trustworthy when you say you will tend to their needs after a minute has passed.  This technique can save your sanity as well as your life when your child’s container of Goldfish spills all over the floor of the back seat and he’d like another snack while you are driving at 65 mph up I-45. 

Good luck with all your parenting adventures and keep the questions coming!


The Obsessive Mother’s Guide to Parenting

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