by Elise Mori

You know you’re no longer in Japan when everywhere you go you hear the sound of a child whose tantrum has already gone off the seismic scale. What is worse is when it’s your child.

Katy is from Australia and is bringing up two boys on her own: “You have to ask yourself if they actually have anything physically wrong with them. Sometimes it’s something as simple as hunger, or that they need the toilet, or they could be just plain tired. My top tip for avoiding meltdown in a supermarket is to agree before you go on what snack they can have—we usually end up settling with a packet of croissants— and that’s fair for everyone.”

Jules talks about her daughter Lily: “When her sister was born Lily’s temper was horrific. She was also going through the Terrible Twos and that didn’t help, obviously. In the end, we sorted out a system where she would get a sticker every time she co-operated without going crazy. Then when we had ten of them we would go out and buy some small treat together. It really worked. And her counting really improved, I can tell you!” couple of days, to say the least, but it was amazing how quickly he got the message and started to behave. I also started feeding him at 4:30 instead of 6:30 or 7. At first it felt weird but we soon got into the routine. Now that he’s older he eats at a later time again. And definitely no more tantrums.”

Hayley has four children, two of whom are now teenagers. She says: “If you really get the impression that they are just trying it on to see how far they can go, point out what the effects of their behavior are and how much it upsets you and everyone else. There is no need for you to be a victim. However, little children do get incredibly frustrated and understandably so—there’s so much they just aren’t allowed to do. So sometimes just acknowledging how upset they are and even letting them be upset over a situation where they, yet again, have no control, helps them to feel that you are on their side. Actually, I’ve seen Japanese women cope brilliantly with tantrums by acting as if nothing is wrong, totally unconcerned and deadpan as their child thrashes around in the pram screaming his lungs out. Usually it’s all over in a matter of seconds. I really admire that!”

Joanne’s son Dylan used to have a tantrum at every single mealtime and they both used to end up in tears: “Finally, my friend suggested her own excellent tactic: When you give him his food next time, tell him that’s all he’s getting until the next mealtime. If he doesn’t eat it, throw it in the bin. Let him watch you do it. Don’t negotiate, just do it. Don’t worry, when he’s hungry, he’ll eat.” Now I just say: If you don’t want it, don’t eat it,’ like a mantra. Things were definitely rocky for the first

However, it is possible that your child might have a nutritional or chemical imbalance that is stopping him or her from behaving in a socially acceptable way. You might also want to check if they are eating a lot of sugar or additives. Remember that fructose, concentrated fruit juices, maple syrup, molasses, and honey are all also forms of sugar. The artificial additives in fizzy drinks and candy have been conclusively linked to behavioral difficulties such as ADHD [Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder].

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