Although Craig and I tend to crack under the pressure of materialism, we try to steer our children opposite of it, knowing how it hampers our living and wishing our children to have better self discipline in their adulthood. Obviously, being a living example is the best way to teach our children. We’ve matured immensely over the last few years, but there is still much more room for improvement.
When Lexington became old enough to be frustrated over a toy, I would remove the toy from sight and direct his attention elsewhere, sufficiently diffusing the tantrum. When he became old enough to understand, I told him that:
- Throwing fits do nothing to help him get what he wants and, in fact, result in the opposite of his wishes.
- Most of all, we never throw fits over toys.
This has served as a dual purpose. In addition to helping him understand that no material object should hold power over his sense of peace, it has also helped him to be able to verbally express his emotions, as opposed to a show of “violent” temper tantrums.
Has it worked? For the most part, yes. Do we still experience tantrums? Yes. It is a habitual, repetitive teaching that I remind him of daily. Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? Without a doubt.
More often than not, Lexington comes to me with a toy that isn’t doing what he wants and says (on the brink of tears) “This is difficult, Mom.” or “these pieces won’t fit together.”
Emmett, the middle child, on the other hand, has to be handled differently. He doesn’t know how to communicate his frustrations verbally, so he expresses them the only way he can: fall-upon-the-floor-writhing-and-wailing.
So when we go out in public, Craig and I anticipate some amount of bellowing from Emmett.
But Lexington, no.
He will be 4 in June and has never had an in-store public fit over anything.
My younger sister told me about a teacher’s supply store in which she’d found some good educational materials. With Emmett’s interest in the alphabet, I’ve been looking for some fun activities- something other than what Walmart and Target offer. We stay away from the mall (it is our downfall, of course.) and refuse the cesspit of Toys R Us. So Saturday, my husband and I made a field trip out of it.
Upon entering the overwhelming store, Lexington immediately latched onto the two large train tables.
An hour later, giving Lexington a time limit (which he knows I do not extend) before we would be leaving, I watched his little hands scramble anxiously to play quickly, fumbling and knocking over pieces he was trying to make right.
My soul welled up and I wanted to sit down on the floor and play with him. Just 5 more minutes. But it was raining, and the store was closing. Actually, I wanted to buy the whole train table and its accoutrements. But I walked over, blinking back tears, helped him set the trains on the tracks just so, held his hand, and led him out. No, no crying from him. He immediately began talking of visiting the store again very soon. It broke my heart. But constant, instant gratification cannot help a toddler who needs to learn that we are not entitled to things just because we like them a lot, and that sometimes waiting makes the gift more valuable. I suggested he ask for it as a birthday present in June, and we walked away, the train table lauding no power over Lexington, nor I, the parent who wants the world for my babies.
Lexington’s “fit” occurred when my husband and I demanded that he walk with us to the back of the store, abandoning the train tables for a few minutes. He came running down an aisle, in tears, crying to me (the fast walker who’d marched ahead) that he wanted to keep playing.
I reminded him what he knows very well: that crying isn’t going to make Daddy let him play. So he gulped back some sobs, and with the most self mastery an almost 4 year old can muster, he stammered, “D-dad, can we ple-e-ase stay at the trains while -while- Mom looks back h-here? Please?” And he almost lost it again, trying to control great, heaving sobs.
My loving, compassionate husband scooped Lexington up and said, “Mister. You know you’re not behaving very well. You know we don’t throw fits over toys. Thank you for asking me the right way.”
We all walked back to the front to let him play for the last few minutes I described above. I looked down at Lexington and noticed him walking in a funny, jerky way which indicated that he wanted to run so very badly but was exercising self control. My heart welled up and I said, “let’s RUN!!”
And we did, Collin jostling against me inside his sling.