Dr Diana Monteiro
Every time I go out with my 4-year-old son it’s a challenge. If we go to a store he wants everything. If I refuse he will throw a tantrum. It gets embarrassing as others think I am denying him. The truth is he is just too used to getting his way. How do I instil discipline and enforce the fact that he cannot behave this way?
A young child of four is usually testing limits and thus they will keep doing things they are not supposed to do. Kids at this age are able to do things more independently and are temperamental. They have not learned self-control yet, so parents have to teach them by setting appropriate boundaries and limits. A sign of testing limits is seen when a child is constantly asking for or doing something they should not be. As a parent, it’s come down to one thing — consistency. If you are not consistent in setting boundaries, then the child will keep pushing the limits. So all significant adults involved in the child’s life need to provide the same and consistent limit setting with the child.
When your child throws a tantrum, you have to still stay consistent and not give them what they want. The tantrum is to get what they want; thus by giving it to them, all you have done is taught the child that throwing a tantrum will ensure they get what they want. If you consistently apply the right limits, the tantrums will cease, but remember that your tolerance has to be high as you might have to put up with 10-15 tantrums before there is a change. Explain to the child why he cannot have what he wants. Promote positive behaviour with rewards, show love and affection, stay detached from the situation when you get upset at them and use the opportunity to teach them the right way to behave. Parenting is an exhausting yet enriching experience. Your child depends on you to learn behaviour.
(The writer is a counselling psychologist at the Hyderabad Academy of Psychology. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org)