Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kids and Tantrums

How often before you had children of your own did you flash a dirty look to the parents in church, at the grocery store, or in the library when their child threw a tantrum in public view? It was easy to think, Those parents have no control over their child! or That’s one spoiled kid! But for those of us who have raised—or are currently raising—children between the ages of 1 and 5, we now know that it’s frequently not the parents’ fault. Kids are going to misbehave—and most of us will, at one time or another, be on the receiving end of those disapproving stares!

I read an article in a recent issue of People magazine in which a family was forced to disembark from an airplane when their three-year-old daughter threw a tantrum right before take-off. The airline contends that the child wasn’t staying in her seat belt, constituting a safety risk. The parents retort that she was buckled in, although they admit she was certainly protesting loudly. I can’t begin to address who’s telling the correct version of this story, but what was surprising to me was that when the story went public, the airline received more than 8,000 letters about the incident—most of them supporting the decision to remove the family from the plane. Perhaps the response wasn’t a representative sample of people’s opinions, but I must admit I was surprised that more parents didn’t write to sympathize with the family after experiencing a similarly embarrassing episode of their own involving a child’s tantrum.

I agree that tantrums are never pleasant to witness. I’ve certainly heaved my own sighs of impatience when another child has made church services unpleasant (especially when day care is available). And I don’t think a small child should be expected to sit through a two-hour movie geared toward adults. But at the same time, in most instances, I try to give parents the benefit of the doubt. Sure, there are spoiled kids who know that having a tantrum will ensure that they get their way, but most children who are “acting up” are acting age-appropriately. Fortunately, they usually grow out of tantrums by the time they’re ready for school . . . to everyone’s relief!


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