‘Tantrums’ are a response to coercion

Mark Slagle

From the archives: The original post was posted on 19th April, 1995

A poster wrote:

“My daughter is 20 months old and she seems to be entering a new stage of her development. She’s become very demanding. Within the last two weeks, she won’t wear her coat, nor will she let me brush her teeth or her hair. Whenever I try any of the aforementioned, she falls to the floor and proceeds to have a tantrum. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this?”

In the words of the immortal Marx Brothers, “Doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this!”

The “tantrum” is a response to the treatment of the child. Ignoring the child in this circumstance simply reinforces the child’s notion that the parent is not listening to her legitimate objections to being treated as a mere object of parental attention, as opposed to a sentient subject with wishes and feeling of her own. The appropriate parental response to the feedback of the child is, as Groucho famously phrased it, “Well then, don’t do that.”

See also:

Mark Slagle, 1995, ‘“Tantrums” are a response to coercion’, https://takingchildrenseriously.com/tantrums-are-a-response-to-coercion/