Ask Amma

Daughter had a tantrum in the hotel

In What on 17 February 2012 at 5:22 pm

We were at a hotel with my sister and her children. My niece said that she would not have a milkshake because she had a cold. My daughter also had a cold but she insisted on having the milkshake. When I said no she lay under the table and cried. Ultimately I gave in to her demand, only requesting that it be served warm. I feel that I should have remained firm and not given in.
– mother of a 2 year old in Sion.

First of all congratulations on finding an alternative that alleviated your worries about the cold and satisfied her desire. It is not an easy situation. I gather what is bothering you more than the milkshake is that you "gave in" and "rewarded" the tantrum, weakened the belief that milkshakes are not good when one has a cold, or further, shaken the faith in mother knowing what is good for you. And being embarrassed in the hotel, in front of your sister and her well-behaved niece.

One thing I learned from Alfie Kohn is, in the event of tantrums, respond to your child only. Forget all observers. Tension about what they think will only make you less graceful under pressure. People may look, but once they see that you are in charge, they go back to their business.

Though it might appear that the tantrum was occasioned by the desire for a milkshake, bolstered by the desire to "get her way" I would ask you to consider other causes. When my daughter has a tantrum I think back through the day / week. What might have led to this frustration? Did she not get enough time to do things she wanted to do? Was she rushed? Hungry? Was she not heard? (Often when I am talking with someone else she feels a greater need to be heard!)

Regarding the milkshake, I leave it to you to decide what is healthy for your child, but I ask that you be transparent in your decisions. When you introduce your child to a food that you feel ought to be regulated in any way, explain all the regulations and hear her views on the matter as well. If you are not ready to consult your child in this way (or feel that she is not old enough), then defer introducing the food until that time. If a rule seems arbitrary then a child has no reason to respect it, or the person who pronounces it. When you respect her decisions, she will respect yours. Milkshake or no milkshake will not reflect who "got her way."

But if you should happen to find that you have said no, faced a tantrum, and then said yes, please go one step further and say, "Enjoy the milkshake." Say it with a giggle and a hug. If she has the milkshake AMA (against mother’s advice) that stress might lower her immunity more than the milk/sugar, thus rendering invalid any "I told you so" that one might be inclined to say, should aforementioned cold get worse.

This does not mean, mind you, that there will be no tantrums. While we work to prevent them by addressing underlying needs, our role is not to silence them when they occur. There will be times when there is no milkshake or other specific thing that will satisfy the child. Offer a shoulder to cry on, a comforting cuddle, a sympathetic ear.

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