Nearly a decade ago, years before I reached Mommy status, I taught in a Montessori school and worked in the after-care program at the same school. It was always fascinating to see how different children reacted when their parents arrived to pick them up. In a Montessori environment, children are given the opportunity to develop self-control, independence, and responsibility, and they really do amazingly well building those skills. At least while they are at school.
I’ll never forget one day when the mother of a six-year-old girl arrived to pick her up in the afternoon. This sweet girl was a joy to work with. She was always on top of things, very self-directed, and great at helping other children and modeling appropriate behavior to the younger ones. When her mom came to pick her up, though, she literally threw herself down on the ground and threw a horrible, whining, kicking temper tantrum. I was stunned at this girl who had suddenly become a completely different child the moment she realized her mom was in the room. The mom looked at me, rolled her eyes, explained away her daughter’s behavior.
Ever since, I’ve used that story as an example of how children know the expectations of the differing people in their lives; they know what they can get away with in each situation. My impression was that the mom didn’t set clear and firm boundaries with this young girl, as we did at school.
Well, it looks as though I might have unknowingly become that mom. When our cruise was over, The Brain and I headed to my parents’ house to pick up Drama Queen and Mr. BANG. They were napping when we arrived, so we got their things packed up and waited in the living room with my mom. When Drama Queen walked in and saw The Brain and I, instead of running over into our arms with her huge “I’m the happiest person on Earth!” smile filling her face, she immediately started whining and throwing a fit about wanting to watch t.v. Again, I was quite surprised by this reaction. Mom tried to reassure me that she had only acted that way one day while we were gone, but to me, this seemed very much like that little six-year-old girl in the Montessori school.
Granted, we didn’t allow the fit to continue, as that mom had. And I know that children naturally push limits with their moms more than anyone else. I know that she was still sleepy from her nap. And I know she had gotten spoiled by the grandparents letting her watch t.v. each day after nap. BUT, The Brain and I still took advantage of the situation to reflect back on how we’ve been doing lately on consistently and immediately responding to inappropriate behavior – particularly not following directions right away and this whole whining/temper tantrum thing. We absolutely didn’t allow it when she was younger, but as she’s gotten older and more responsible, we’ve gotten lax in our responses. (sigh) Why does this whole “being consistent” thing have to be SO important and yet SO hard?!
So, who has tips for me? What do you do about whining and throwing temper tantrums?