Rachael Rachael, a mom of two daughters, is a freelance editor and writer who enjoys gardening and dreams of keeping chickens in her suburban St. Louis backyard. In her spare time, she helps to edit her husband’s science fiction books. Read more of Rachael's work at www.rachaelsjohnston.com or contact her by emailing rachael@mumblingmommy.com.

The fit came suddenly. I was picking up my youngest daughter from the church nursery after my mid-week Bible study. I paused in the hallway to unpin her name tag from the back of her shirt, and as I handed it back to the childcare worker, Abigail’s emotions kicked into high gear. She was not willing to return her name tag, and she made it known with screams and stomping of tiny feet. She started off running down the hall but only got a few steps before I scooped her flailing body up in my arms. I offered a hurried thank you and goodbye to the nursery worker over Abigail’s shrieks and made my exit. My passionate child was having a moment.

I’m still figuring out how to handle Abigail’s tantrums. My husband and I rarely dealt with this type of behavior with her older sister, 5-year-old Megan. The girls are opposites in so many ways, down to Abigail’s dark complexion and curls versus Megan’s fair skin and straight hair. Megan has always been relatively placid and agreeable. She might have the occasional rough day at home when she has trouble listening. She acts crazy and wired when she’s tired. But she almost always behaves well around others in public. Megan makes my husband and me look good, like we have parenting all figured out.

It’s not that nearly 2-year-old Abigail is bad. She’s a fun, precocious kid who has a beautiful sense of compassion. When Megan is upset, Abigail will comfort her with pats and hugs. She does the same when she encounters crying babies in the church nursery. She loves toddler story time at the library because she gets to see “the babies.” She also loves taking care of dolls. Turn her loose in the baby doll aisle in Target and she is in heaven. She is a nurturer. My husband and I wonder if she will grow up to be a nurse like her paternal grandmother from whom she inherited her curly locks.

Raising a Passionate Child

But Abigail is also a passionate child. Sometimes extremely so. She will fling her Popsicle on the ground in a fury if she doesn’t get the color she wanted. Sometimes I don’t even know what triggers the screaming and flailing. We employ the phrase, “Use your words,” a lot in our house, but it can be hard to decode the long strings of words my 22-month-old uses.

Trips to the grocery store are one of my biggest challenges. When we shop at Aldi, Abigail gets upset because she can’t immediately eat the food in our cart. When I explain that we have to pay first and I promise to give her some animal crackers to nibble while I’m bagging our groceries, it doesn’t click with her. She gets angrier. She wails as we wind up and down the aisles. If the fit drags on, she gets no animal crackers to reward her bad behavior.

Abigail’s sister was not like this. Megan’s grocery store antics were sneakier. She sat in the cart and quietly poked holes in my produce or bit through the plastic wrap on the pears when I wasn’t looking. She also is more rational and would have calmly listened and accepted my explanation about needing to pay for the food first.

To deal with big behaviors in little people, we use a lot of Love and Logic in our family. It’s an excellent philosophy that seeks to teach children to make good choices while they are young, so that when they grow older they will have the good sense to act wisely. There are several books in the Love and Logic series, and these good folks have one book that deals specifically with early childhood issues. I checked it out from our library a few years ago when dealing with some of Megan’s less dramatic behavior issues. Abigail is at an age when we can start practicing these techniques on her, so this year the book is on my Christmas wish list. I really hope someone gets it for me as a reference resource. (I’m talking to you, hubby.) I think I’ll wear the pages out.

 In the meantime, I have more sympathy for other parents of a passionate child. I used to think mildly critical thoughts about families with kids who are prone to emotional outbursts. Now I realize our luck with Megan had less to do with our parenting and more to do with her God-given temperament. Abigail’s temperament is God-given, too, I remind myself. Someday she’ll channel that passion and do something great. Isn’t that what everyone always says about strong-willed children? Until then, we’ll continue to make a hasty exit after Bible study.
Category: Kids

Tags: bad behavior