Chocolate cake 285I just read what I thought was going to be a cute post, however I was stunned midway through when I realized the concept they were eluding too.

As a result the names and set-up used in that post have been changed to protect the innocent. It really was a cute post, and no, I’m not going to share the URL.

Here’s the premise. Dad gets out of the car and says to the kids, “Look what I have, chalk for drawing on the sidewalk, let’s make a family picture!” Everybody whoops and hollers and begins creating sidewalk art.

Then dad says, “Let’s do another drawing!” gets the hose out, and washes off the drawing. The youngest child literally gasps and begins to shriek, “My picture. My picture. Get it back.” Mom, and Dad try to console her, but nothing helps and she falls into tantrum.

What happened next is what inspired this post. The post supposes that the tantrum is simply the youngest child’s way of manipulating mom into giving her a piece of chocolate cake.

STOP: Please finish reading before rushing off to the comment box.

Disclaimer: I’m a parent educator and early childhood development geek. So I always view things from a developmental perspective first, that’s why you love me, right!? 

Further Disclaimer: I’m not saying a child would never use a tantrum to try and get a piece of chocolate cake. It does happen and we don’t have 100% of the details from this story. What I am saying is there might be another reason why this child had a tantrum. Now, back to our story.

W-h-a-t, I hear myself say! Are you kidding me, parents still really think that when a 2-5 year old has a tantrum they’re manipulating the situation? Yes, I do talk to myself, but that’s another story!

The truth is most of the time, using a tantrum to manipulate a situation happens with older kids, and it’s very obvious. Tantrums or as I like to call them, momentary-temporary-breaks-with-reality-focused-on-something-that-a-child-doesn’t-understand, is closer to what’s really happening here.

Consider the facts:

2’s do much better when information is given to them in short sentences. That way they fully understand each thing you say before moving on to more information. If the child in this story is 2, perhaps shorter sentences explaining what’s about to happen, instead of just seeing the drawing being hosed off would have helped. You might say, “Let’s get the hose. Let’s turn it on. We’re going to make a new drawing. First we need the old drawing to go away, so we have room for the new one. Time to hose off the old one. Want to help?”

3’s are extremely literal. If this child is 3, he might be reacting to the fact that an object is permanently going away. Perhaps taking a picture of drawing #1 would help him adjust to letting it go.

A 4’s development revisits how to follow rules. 4’s have big reactions and often agree to a rule, then change their mind. This is developmentally normal, not misbehavior. 4’s haven’t master all the components needed to follow rules, yet. In order to learn, they unconsciously break rules so things will be explained again, in a slightly more complex way, after all they’re 4 now, not 2.

Perhaps a 4 would benefit from being reminded, several times, that you’re going to wash away the drawing, then draw another one. In fact, to offset a reaction, or her agreeing then changing her mind, you might want to ask her if she wants to be the one to wash off the drawing.

5’s are like a light switch. They’re laughing 1 minute, and crying the next. 5’s have difficulty making transitions so they insist you do things exactly the way you said you would. If you add an extra step, they’ll loose it. 5’s also complain a lot.

5’s might be able to handle this better if you allowed the kids to start drawing #2 before washing away drawing #1. And if you met the predictable complaining with a “Yup, I’ll bet that makes you sad,” instead of seeing it as a tantrum that needs to be ignored or punished.

As you can see, responding addresses the root of the problem, which in this case is most likely developmentally based. Versus reacting, which tends to use punishment because that’s all that’s available.

Oh, and I really did think the blog that inspired my post was cute.