The Wall Street Journal had a story on “The rich rolling in armored splendor in Brazil.” The part I want to emphasize was about a 19 year-old girl who insisted that she have a pink VW Beetle armored. She wouldn’t settle for another color or another car, like an Audi. Her father said, that safety wasn't his only concern; "My greatest fear is to see disappointment on my daughter's face." Now there’s a kid who has abused and trained her father to give her what she wants. Parents are the number one risk factor in raising kids to be bullies. There are many ways of raising a teenage bully, but one of the sure-fire methods is to give in to temper tantrums; especially if you begin when they’re young.
We’ve all seen parents who give their young children whatever they want when the kids act disappointed or throw tantrums in stores and restaurants. Those parents are preparing themselves to live with sneering, selfish, demanding teenagers. They are training their children to be abusive, teenage bullies.
So what should you do instead? Begin by realizing that your attitudes and perseverance are critical. Dedicate yourself to doing whatever it takes to give your children a better start in life.
The following approach works for all but the most troubled kids.
- Temper tantrums are normal. All children are supposed to try every type of behavior to make their parents give them everything they want -- immediately. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with infants trying temper tantrums. That’s normal. When your children become old enough to begin learning other methods to get what they want, your first task as a parent is to show them, lovingly and firmly, that that approach won’t work. Your second is to teach them patiently what behavior will be more likely to get you to do what they want.
- Teach them civility – patience and politeness. They’ll get a lot from you – after all, you are a loving parent. But they’ll get more, although not everything, when they ask nicely. Of course, some children resist longer than others. So what? Be more persistent than they are.
- Don’t get angry; don’t throw a fit in response. If you lose control, they’ll persist in throwing tantrums because they’ll know they’ll eventually win. Laugh and be calm and persistent. Have determination and strength.
- Persevere: Over time, you will train them. The earlier you start; the better. Of course, when they’re infants you’ll cater to their demands more. But as they learn to speak and you can reason and explain more, you’ll shift to teaching them, “That’s not the way you can get me to do what you want.” Find appropriate and immediate consequences when they throw tantrums in public.
- Your child’s unhappiness is not the most important thing in the world. Your greatest fear should not be to see disappointment on your child’s face. You should be much more afraid of sending a spoiled brat out into the world – armored or not.
- If you give in to temper tantrums when the children are young, you’re training them to become bullies. You’ll soon have teenagers who use tantrums to manipulate, abuse and control you. You can still use the approach I’ve presented here to stop the tantrums, when your kids are teenagers. But you’ll be in for a fierce fight because you will already have taught them that they bullying will wear you down – eventually you’ll give in. That kind of conditioning is difficult, but not impossible, to break.
Remember, your children will show you what it takes to stop them from using their disappointment, hurt feelings and temper tantrums as weapons to get what they want.
Some children will give up temper tantrums easily when they’re young. They’ll try other methods to get what they want, like reasoning with you or bribing you by giving you what you want in return for your giving them what they want. Other children will fight as if their lives depend on getting everything they want immediately. Don’t give in while you’re convincing them to try a different strategy – and that not getting everything immediately isn’t the end of the world.
Socializing your children will not only make your life much easier, it’ll help them be successful. It’s difficult enough to be successful when we act civilized with other people. It’s much harder to be successful when you’re throwing temper tantrums against teachers, bosses or the police.