What is the best course of action to follow when your child loses the plot in the supermarket?
Is there a place for heavy tactics or should we be permissive and let the child fully express?
Not to take this into the smacking debate, but simply to be truthful, if ever a person is going to cross that line, a full blown tantrum is definitely an event with the potential to demolish reasonable resolve.
Generally, like all the gritty moments of parenting, it takes experience and trial and error to achieve a genuinely solid foundation that won't easily be rocked by heat and fury.
People who practice conscious parenting develop a fairly constant process of personal inquiry and reflection that helps to expose their own irrational triggers, as well as maintaining a careful watch on the deeper currents of developmental stages and an awareness of the weak spots of the individual temperaments involved.
In short, they arm themselves with information that puts the prostrate child into a perspective beyond the judgmental eyes of the trolley-pushing onlookers.
If you know, for example, that strong will is an essential part of a young child's development you might begin to appreciate why a battle of wills and downright domination as a regular tactic is basically unhealthy. Such things have in fact been connected with learning problems and illnesses that can last into adult life.
Give a child lots of opportunity to freely use that determination in the child's world - digging holes, building dams, breaking eggs and mixing pancakes - and you will find it easier to establish firm, safe boundaries in the adult world they share.
But don't expect never to witness a melt-down. After all, dealing with disappointment and frustration, learning balance and self-control is a life-long process.
A willful child can quickly show you where you are at with that.
So, back to the supermarket. Can we stand back and let the explosion happen without adding to the dynamic? Such full-on emotion is really scary for a small person, without adding the wrath of the person they love most. Maybe we need to firmly move the show out of the aisle of canned tomatoes but maybe we can manage that without giving in to murderous thoughts.
The point is that a tantrum is a small part of a larger and necessary process.
It is not really naughtiness. Unless you insist in making it so.
And while it might seem helpful to reiterate that you will not be buying 10 boxes of Cheerios even as the storm continues to rage, in truth you will be positioning yourself in the center of it all and perpetuating the outrage.
Better to wait until all has subsided, avoid half an hour of righteous rant about unacceptable behavior and instead offer a sign of love and encouragement. Something that comes from the sentiment of compassion and support that tells them: "That was hard, I understand and I love you".
Which maybe is just sitting quietly and unobtrusively next to them until they show signs of moving forward. Being present and patient.
Holistic health care for children is all about strengthening the natural ability to cope, not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. When they feel loved and supported we equip them with the constant that will serve as an anchor through the intense departures from balance.
One of the reasons that 100% pure essential oils are increasingly popular as an integral part of healthy parenting is that there are certain oils that have therapeutic aromas that are reassuring and relaxing. We can use them to deepen the experience of a return to harmony and to encourage a soothing sense of closure. An organic essential oil such as Lavender True oil is perfect to follow a bedtime tantrum with a few drops in the bath, or diffused in the bedroom.
Or, following the supermarket scenario, simply a few drops on the car seat for the ride home. Scent is a powerful tool for developing ritual and memorable experience and so we can use it here to help to foster an innate appreciation of full cycle - a return to lightness after darkness - something that will serve a child for life.
And, of course, an important part of the process is weeding out our own erroneous beliefs from childhood conditioning. Those knee-jerk reactions that feel justified but that are yet exposed with deeper awareness as ultimately controlling and unhealthy. "I'm sorry but you were being naughty" is riddled with injustice for a small child (and may well show the true roots of regular adult indignation). "I'm sorry I was mean. When those angry bees get to buzzing round sometimes they sting me too…" offers something much more acceptable for real relationship and meaningful reconciliation.
Gentleness and non-judgment are the essential tools for the challenges of this generation of parents. Our children will continue to provide all the opportunity we need for healthful growth and evolution.