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Issac Asimov is one of my favourite authors. I have lost count of the number of times, I have read the Foundation and Robot series. Hardin in particular is a fascinating character, famous for his epigrams. The mayor of Terminus is the perfect politician.
He lets events unfold and nudges them ever so slightly to move in the direction he needs. No brute force, no drama. Just patience and intelligence, but mostly patience. His USP is that he does almost nothing. And that is not easy to do. When everything is going to hell in a hand basket, it is our instinct to try to do something, anything at all. But sitting back calmly and being patient is probably one of the hardest things to do in these situations. But we moms may benefit from this method of handling a tantrum.
Of course Hardin has the advantage of being in a world set up by Seldon, following the rules of psycho-history along a neatly calculated path. So may be he can take it easy.
But what about us moms? We don't have psycho-history worked out to reassure us that our child is going to have a happy and prosperous future. How do we prepare them? How do we steer them towards a happy and productive life without being control freaks? How do we keep them safe and not clip their wings. And how do we deal with tantrums without either spoiling kids or scarring them?
Now, of course, as we know there is no perfect parenting method and we need as many tools in our bag as we can get, so here is me suggesting one. The Hardin way, of dealing with a tantrum. Do nothing, or at least almost nothing.
This method of dealing with tantrums works best if you are not in a rush. Also be certain of your stance because if you decide to do it this way, you have to stick it out. So use it only when you know that there is no time crunch and if you are certain of yourself. Experiment with it on a day that you are not feeling too stressed out.
I tried it yesterday when my daughter wanted me to feed her and it worked well. She has been eating by herself for a while. But, some time ago, after seeing me feed her sister, she started demanding to be fed too. I would explain that her sister was still a baby and needed to be fed, while she was a big girl and could eat by herself. This worked for a few days. But after that she decided that it wasn't a good enough reason. She wanted to be a big girl and still be fed.
I would refuse most of the time and after a little fussing she would give up and eat by herself and very occasionally I would feed her a few bites. But yesterday she decided to have a tantrum about it.
“Why won't you feed me?” She kept repeating and even though I answered the question a few times she just kept repeating it and crying. And everytime I gave her the answer, she would get even angrier because to her that meant I wasn't going to feed her.
Normally at this stage I would start getting angry. Answering the same question over and over again can be really frustrating and the whining and crying along with it makes me want to tear my hair.
So this time I decided to not engage. But not in an angry, I wont talk to you, way. I just decided to do nothing, like Hardin, and let her take her time to work things out. I sat right there, with her, but I wouldn't answer the same question over and over again. Instead I started reading a book. This helped me stay calm. I only answered questions she asked, if I hadn't already answered them in the course of the tantrum.
The tears ebbed and flowed, the volume rose and fell, it took half an hour (It felt like 3 hours! Camouflaged earplugs may have helped. If anyone decided to sell these to moms they could make a fortune.). But finally my girl had figured out whatever was bothering her.
Then she asked “Mama, will you sit next to me while I eat?”
“Yes, of course.” I smiled and hugged her and sat next to her while she ate.
That was it. It was over. No shouting, nothing said in anger that I may feel guilty about later, and no giving into the demands. It felt good. And my daughter was happy too. She had processed my answers and come to terms with the situation and she was not unhappy anymore.
This is not a magical solution. It is a tough one. It only works if you have enough time to deal with the tantrum. It is also very hard, not to react to the constant whining, crying or shouting, but still stay right there and hold your ground and be nice.
But it feels really good later.