Two Sundays ago I did something I have never done before. I went to the local M&S to try on some swimming costumes. But I did not buy. I went home to order them online as they did not have my size.
On my way out, I stopped by the sunglasses to see if there was something that might be suitable.
I waited for a parent to manoeuvre his pushchair out of my way. A toddler was taking glasses off the rack, just because she could.
I stood in front of the rack, and the toddler wandered off to the opposite side of the stand whereupon she picked up the cases for the sunglasses and threw them on the floor.
Her dad was about. He is of Asian origin but all I could understand from what he said was 'nein, nein'. I assumed that 'nein' is German, but perhaps it could be another Asian language. In any case, I figured that 'nein' means 'no'.
[I also know for a fact that many Sri Lankan refugees in Britain come via Germany and other EU countries. Having acquired EU citizenship, a large number of these than move on to the UK. Many of these speak German, Italian and French much better than English.]
Then something strange happened. I found myself saying, "You should put her in the pushchair."
Dad: "She does not want to stay here."
Me: "You are bigger than her. You can make her do it. You are the one in control."
The little girl had started throwing more stuff on the floor.
Dad: "At the moment, she is in control, it seems."
Me: "If you don't keep control, you are storing up trouble for yourself."
Dad: "It's OK. I will pick these up when she finishes."
Me: "I've never had that kind of trouble with my child." [NB It does not apply to teenagers.]
At which point I think Dad got tired of being polite to me: "Well, you know, every parent is different."
Neither of us wanted to continue with this. He said, "I appreciate what you are doing," but I don't think he actually did.
I was thinking of an Asian mother who used to attend the toddler group I helped to run. She refused to keep her daughter in control despite many other mothers trying to support her. (The child had been hitting and biting other children in the group.)
She then had a second child.
The last time I saw this family, mother was dragging the toddler and pushing the younger one in a pushchair.
The toddler was screaming blue murder as the mother tried to get her to walk with her to the nursery. Now that she was bigger, much bigger, her mother was finding it immensely difficult to control her.
I came alongside them and made sure they crossed the road safely. I then hurried away.
At the rate mother was dragging her, it would be another 20 minutes before they make that 80 metres or so to the nursery.
It is often said that 'it takes a village to bring up a child'. These days we are so scared of helping mothers and fathers who might do with some help but are too embarrassed or too proud to ask for help.
I have often wondered why on earth toddlers have tantrums ("terrible two's"). Is this a phenomenon only in industrialized, nuclear families?
Why did God in his wisdom allow young children to behave in this way? Is it to try the patience of the parents or is it an opportunity for them to mark their boundaries?
I remember feeling very vulnerable when my son threw his first tantrum. I thought he was sick and wanted to call an ambulance. Then I noticed that he would cast his eyes backwards before throwing himself down.
Terrible Two's? He was barely 18 months then!!
With my husband we decided to show him who was boss. The tantrums persisted, but they became better managed. We had a united front. Our actions were consistent.
Quite often we just held him, told him what to do, that we loved him, but he had to do as we said. We put him in a safe place to cry off. Set the egg-timer. When it went, punishment was over.
My hypothesis is children need to test their boundaries and be ensured of their security and consistency from their adult carers. Between two and three they are physically sturdy enough to be held very tightly (not as fragile as babies), but small enough for parents to just pick them up, particularly when there is a safety issue.
Perhaps God in his wisdom has designed the Terrible Two's to give parent and child that opportunity to bond in a special way.
If so, it begs the question: what if the child does not have his/her parent/s to bond with?
I often wonder what our hired helpers do when toddlers throw these tantrums in the absence of mum and dad.
This article refers.