The Mother of all Secret Weapons for Dealing with Toddler Tantrums

And so it begins… Gareth has hit the “Obstinate Ones“. He flings himself onto the floor wailing in a heart-breaking “woe-is-me” sort of way whenever he is denied anything. Perhaps the benefit of being a second-time-around parent is that you’ve seen this all before and have a lot more experience up your sleeve. In the early days with Gavin, I would be madly scouring the parenting books and the Internet, trying to figure out what to do. Now I have a secret weapon that has proven to be virtually foolproof.

What’s the secret?

I took a leaf out of the book of Mongolian mothers. And not surprisingly, it’s been referred to as the “Lazy Mum’s Secret Weapon”. Here it is being decribed by a Canadian mother who lived in Mongolia during her son’s early years:

During the Mongolian winters, I spent many afternoons in my friend Tsetsgee’s yurt, escaping the bitter cold outside. It was enlightening to compare our different parenting techniques. Whenever a tussle over toys broke out between our two-year-olds, my first reaction would be to try to restore peace by distracting Calum with another toy while explaining the principle of sharing. But this took a while, and had a success rate of only about 50 percent. The other times, when Calum was unwilling to back down and his frustration escalated to near boiling point, I would pick him up and cradle him in my arms for a feed.

Tsetsgee had a different approach. At the first murmur of discord, she would lift her shirt and start waving her boobs around enthusiastically, calling out, “Come here, baby, look what mama’s got for you!” Her son would look up from the toys to the bull’s-eyes of his mother’s breasts and invariably toddle over.

Success rate? 100 percent.

Yes, this trick only works if you’re comfortable with the idea of nursing a toddler. In Mongolia, they have been known to nurse children up to 9 years old. And if you’re wondering about any ramifications of that practice, here is what they think in Mongolia:

“breastfeeding isn’t equated with dependence, and weaning isn’t a finish line. They know their kids will grow up – in fact, the average Mongolian five-year-old is far more independent than her western counterpart, breastfed or not. There’s no rush to wean.”

It’s also worthwhile remembering that the fearsome Ghengis Khan was from Mongolia and that Mongolians are renown for wrestling.

So whenever Gareth flies into a tantrum over the things he can’t do, I get down to his level and wait for him to crawl over to me for some milk. It seriously works! And his tantrums are over in the blink of an eye.

I have been told, “Don’t give in to him. He needs to learn that he can’t always have what he wants, otherwise he’ll get spoilt.”

You’ve got no argument from me there. Offering him a bit of breastmilk to help him cope with the disappointment of not being able to get what he wants isn’t “giving into him”. It’s about teaching him how to deal with disappointment. Just because you deny your child certain things he wants for his own good doesn’t mean you have to abandon him when he cries about it. In fact, the general advice has always been to help young children cope with disappointments by being there for them. This helps them learn to deal with disappointments later in life. Walking away from your child while he writhes and screams on the floor teaches him that he will abandoned when he is most in need. Even if you don’t breastfeed your toddler and can’t offer him breastmilk, lying on the floor with him and expressing empathy will help.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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