A proven tantrum tamer, believe it or not

News flash!  I’m not the perfect mother.

Oh, hang on.  I put it there in the blog’s title.  You don’t look surprised anyway.

As I was snuggling up on the couch with Luke (who’s still getting through this stomach bug) I watched Episode 2 of the web series, Fatherhood.  I posted it about the series here.

The second episode focuses on what to do when faced with a tantruming child.  Excuse me, Hank, but you could’ve just called me.  I’m well-versed on the subject and I think my schedule is a lot more open than most of the famous friends you invite to be on the show.

Parenting both my kids can be horribly challenging to the point of blurred vision or blissfully simple to the point of confusion that perhaps I’ve done something wrong.  Or right?  Wrong, probably.

And to be brutally honest, my daughter is the “easy” one and my son is the “difficult” one.

Yeah, yeah, I love both of them equally.  No, I don’t play favorites.  They are both complete joys when they’re not scheming to tie me up, put an apple on top of my head and shoot arrows at me.

That hasn’t actually happened (yet).

Let me get to the point.  I’ve read a life-changing book called Transforming the Difficult Child:  The Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser and Jennifer Easley.

For a very long time my husband and I have struggled with behavioral challenges with our son, Luke.  If someone were to observe Luke at school or while at the playground or basically doing something he enjoys, the report would be nothing but raves about what a smart,  articulate, well-behaved boy he is.  We’ve been blessed with an awesome, creative, funny, passionate kid who loves trains, drawing, computers, and whose reading ability is advanced for his age.  (Sorry to brag.  It’s part of my job.)

Great!  Thanks!  But now we have to take him home.

Something changes inside that gorgeous head of his when he steps in the doorway and drops his backpack.  He often morphs into a disagreeable, defiant little monster person for what appears to be no reason at all.  Maybe it’s a Monday.  Maybe he turned on the TV and his favorite show has just ended.  Or perhaps his little sister is within a mile or so of his breathing space.

This post could go on and on about the specifics of our strife.  Take my word for it – this has gone on for a long time and we felt that we’d explored every tactic to guide our son’s attitude toward the better.  There have been countless days when Michael and I look at each other, wondering which one of us is the incompetent and which one of us is the simpleton.  Because clearly, together we are screwing up this parenting gig.

Fast-forward to reading the book, (which I haven’t even finished yet because the first half of it has helped us so much) the basic principle is probably something you’ve already heard:  Shift your attention to what your child is doing right and react minimally to what they do wrong.  Eventually the child will re-learn how to get your positive attention.  Starting small, pointing out the details of all your child does well, is key to beginning the change.

For example, instead of saying, What a great picture you made!  Try saying something detailed like, I notice you’re using blue to draw the ocean and red to color in the beach ball.  You’re concentrating very hard on this.

Here’s where you throw your arms up and say,   “Lindsay, you want me to point out everything my kid is doing?  Who has the time?”

It felt silly initially, but when we both saw how Luke began to disarm when we voiced our positive observations of him, it gave us proof that this method would help us with our son.

Now instead of feeling like he’s always in trouble or constantly being sent to his room, he feels like we are genuinely interested in whatever he’s doing – be it the British accent he’s working on or how he held back from whacking his sister for touching one of his trains.  He understands now that we see him as a good boy who does nice things for others.  We were always interested in whatever he was doing, by the way.  He just didn’t realize it.

And it takes much less time than having a shouting match with a mini version of yourself over why he should do his homework.

The authors also equate the parents’ negative reactions (i.e. screaming at your child, threatening, dramatic consequences etc.) to giving your child junk food.


To appreciate the psychology behind the principles I highly recommend that you pick up a copy and read it thoroughly so that you’ll be able to understand what is probably going on inside the mind of your challenging child.  There is also more to the method than I’ve explained that allows for incentives and earning rewards, which we have yet to implement with our son.

I’m not saying it’s easy and not every day is perfect, that’s for sure.  But we’ve actually had the chance to almost rediscover our own kid, seeing him in a new light.  All the good things instead of only “dealing” with his defiance at every turn.  He smiles more, he’s in a better mood.  He’s begun to change in wonderful ways.  And…

We’re calmer parents!!!

Actually, what I meant to say was…Hey man, we’re sooooo much calmer.

While I can’t tell you that a child who’s hard-wired to be a challenger is going to permanently transform into a pile of bread dough with this method, I can tell you that I’m not just happy to have found this book – I’m elated.

I just had to share that with you and I hope that at least one of you can use this to improve things within your own family.

PS – Hope everyone enjoyed Valentine’s Day.  I didn’t post because after Luke came down with a stomach virus everybody in our house caught it, too!  It was an experience I never want to repeat.  I’ll spare you the details.  Let’s just say I’ve gone through almost 2 bottles of detergent with all the extra laundering I’ve been doing this week.  Stay healthy, All!

(I was not paid to review this book.)

This entry was published on February 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm. It’s filed under books, Kids, Life lessons, parenting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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