A reader in Buffalo says that when her son began kindergarten, he would work himself into a tantrum every morning.
To her credit, Mom did not allow emotion to drive her response to the problem. She sat her son down and calmly told him that he was free to throw morning tantrums, but for no longer than 15 minutes. When a tantrum started, she was going to set a timer. When it rang, he had to stop, compose himself, and proceed to the bus stop.
If a morning meltdown lasted past the bell, Mom was going to confine him to his room after school and put him to bed after dinner. If he missed his bus because of a tantrum, he would spend a week in his room, during which time he could join the family for meals, family outings and school.
Mom writes: “The next day he threw a tantrum and missed the bus. I drove him to school, came home, and cleaned his room of anything and everything entertaining, including books. He spent the full seven days in there. He never missed his bus again and he never threw another tantrum.”
Notwithstanding that the boy in question experienced no physical pain, mental torture, or discomfort other than prolonged boredom, this sort of discipline horrifies some people. I suppose they identify with the child and share in his seven days of unease. I suggest that the more rational response is to share in the boy's success. He stopped throwing tantrums!
Chronic misbehavior prevents a child from growing up. Parents have an obligation to do all they can to help their children release themselves from the bondage of misbehavior.
In this story, the mother was determined, not angry.
Who was the happier little boy – the tantrum-throwing one or the tantrum-free one? Would any amount of talk and understanding have resolved this problem? I doubt it. That approach might well have conveyed to the boy that he had a valid reason for throwing tantrums.
When this little boy is older, he will no doubt remember his seven days. Will he be grateful or resentful? That's a no-brainer.
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