What Are You Trying to Prove to Your Toddler?


toddler having a tantrum

Why can’t we just give in to our toddler’s tantrum? What what are we trying to prove to them by not giving them what they want? Are our toddlers really going to learn a lesson in the moment of a complete meltdown or tantrum?

One evening, I wanted my son to brush his teeth and have him help me clean up his toys before bed, but he was not having it. He wanted milk, and since he didn’t get what he wanted, he just melted down to the floor crying. It was an all-out tantrum. In the moment, I was staying my ground. He needs to clean up his toys and then he can have some milk and go to bed.  

The harder he protested the more I stood my ground. Then my husband turned to me and said, “Why don’t you give him milk now; what’s the big deal?”  It stopped me dead in my tracks, and I thought to myself, “Because if I give in now, all that screaming was for nothing, and he will just do it for longer next time.” But I decided to really think about what my husband said, and I gave my son his milk. He immediately quieted down since he got what he wanted, and that’s when I wanted to know what mothers in other countries would do in a situation like this.  

I wondered if mothers of toddlers in other countries know what a toddler tantrum is, and how they behave when these seemingly inevitable tantrums happen. I mean, I have read The Peaceful Parent, read endless blogs about positive parenting, and yet, some of these things just don’t work all the time, or maybe it’s just me and my child?

So some Google searching led me to a post that commented on how American mothers respond in the way I described above—staying our ground to prove a point to our children—while parents in Kenya do it differently. The blogger questioned the importance American parents put on proving they have more power than their child and that they can hold their ground longer. From the perspective of Kenyan cultures, they see toddlers as humans that are not always capable of handling their emotions, so why expect them to be like adults all the time?  It’s as if we American parents ask our children to behave like adults at age two or three, when, as adults, even we aren’t capable of managing our own emotions at times.

So in these other cultures, they know a toddler is a toddler, and an adult is an adult.  They often give into toddlers wants and needs because they know they don’t know better. They know that as they get older this will change. The interesting outcome about this way of raising a toddler is that as the child grows and parents give in less to this behavior, children hardly need correction and often don’t have unjustified wants.  

From my perspective, it seems that they got this behavior out of their systems as toddlers, so there is really no need to continue acting this way as older children because they know better. For instance, if a toddler wanted a toy that an older child had and was crying over it, they would ask the older child to give the toy to the toddler because the toddler doesn’t understand. The older child then hands it over without fuss.  It makes sense on so many levels. I mean, when I am in music class with my son, and a kid wants the instrument I am playing with, I don’t keep it thinking he needs to learn to wait. I am not trying to teach him a lesson; I hand it over because he wants it, and I know the only thing going on in their mind is that they want it.

I am not sure if this same parenting philosophy is possible here stateside, but maybe these other cultures are on to something. There is NO doubt that we expect way too much from our toddlers and children. Maybe this way of parenting is in fact actually better for everyone!?  What are your thoughts?



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