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    Taming the Twos

    July 9, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    On Saturday evening, my husband and I had a rare opportunity to spend extended time alone. We were about to order our food at a local pizza parlor when the couple in front of us began a stand-off with their two-year-old. I realize now that the kids who land those “acting” jobs where they throw a gigantic tantrum for a movie or a commercial or something are real children. Someone out there is dealing with a child that is capable of the biggest fit imaginable.

    This child was one of those children.

    Her face was visibly strained with anger. She yelled, “NO!” at her daddy. She stamped her foot. She screamed the stereotypical high-pitched scream. She demanded what she wanted.

    And my response now is so much different from what it would have been before I had children. I used to think that the mere fact that the child threw a fit reflected negatively on the parents. Now I know that children throw fits. They all do. Some throw more than others, for a variety of reasons.

    The fit, I repeat, says nothing about the parents. The way the parents respond to the fit, however, says everything about the parents.

    This family in the pizza parlor had some interesting responses to the tantrum, and when we were snuggled into our corner booth, Si and I discussed their responses. We have long had the habit of discussing the people we encounter, not for the purpose of passing judgment, but simply to learn from what we observe.

    We noticed that this family used empty threats and bribes to try and persuade a child to behave. We also noticed that Mom was most definitely on the side of the child rather than standing firm with Dad.

    Yesterday came a test of my mothering strength when my own two-year-old decided, right in the church foyer, that a tantrum was in order. Her daddy told her to hold her brother’s hand as we walked to the car, and she refused. She gave excuses, and when that didn’t work, she was outright defiant. There were people there, people we know, staring at us. I felt like they were waiting to see how we handled her little power play.

    But all of that didn’t matter when I remembered what I had learned this weekend: stay on Dad’s side and expect–don’t bribe–good behavior. I wanted so badly to repeated the mistake of the Pizza Parlor Parents and coddle my daughter into submission. But I had to take my stand, especially since Daddy was trying to finish a conversation. “Hold E.’s hand,” I instructed her.

    “No!” She was beside herself.

    And so I took her to the ladies room and calmed her down. I offered her a drink of water. And then I told her we were going to go back out there and she was going to obey her daddy.

    “Okay,” she said.

    And she did. They walked hand-in-hand all the way to the car. She actually cried when he dropped her hand to get into our vehicle.

    Terrible twos, the father in the pizza parlor had said to us, as his wife demeaningly explained how all he needed to do was give their little girl what she wanted and then everything would be fine.

    Two-year-olds don’t have to be terrible. I wish I had known that when my oldest was two. Instead, I was listening to the secular parenting magazines that told me tantrums were a stage.

    In one sense, they are a stage in that every child will throw a tantrum or two {or, with the case of the child in the pizza parlor, at least four before dinner is over}. In another sense, they are an area that requires training. Sinful and inappropriate behaviors do not go away without discipline and instruction. Tantrums tend to result from confusion or defiance or a combination of both, and this is something that we have learned to confront rather than ignore.

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  • Reply Brandy July 10, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Hi, Lydia, and welcome to Afterthoughts!

    Thank you so much for your kind words concerning my little corner of the Web.

    I am looking forward to reading your review of Getting Serious About Getting Married. I would be very interested to know what you, as a single woman, thought of the idea of using an agent/enlisting agency.

    I think I will head on over and look at your blog a bit. 🙂

  • Reply Lydia July 10, 2007 at 12:53 am

    Hi, there!

    I wanted to take the time to say “HI.”
    I found your blog from Googling “Getting Serious About Getting Married” for book reviews (so you can be found on Google after all). 🙂

    I greatly appreciated the thoughts in your review of this book.
    I, too, have been writing up some thoughts after reading the book. I was re-working my last post in the series this evening when I happened upon your blog.

    You can check out my blog, if you wish.
    Here is a brief profile:

    I am 24 years-old, unmarried, live at home with my parents and four younger siblings. I also work full-time as a registered nurse. I have been blogging for the last 2 1/2 years.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts from Debbie Maken’s book. I have greatly enjoyed what little I have read from your blog. You have some great things to say and I enjoy your writing style. I may be linking to it on my own blog. I noticed your link to Buried Treasure Books. I met Carmen Friedrich recently out in VA. She is a neat lady.

    Well, I hope you have a blessed summer. God’s blessings to you and your family.


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