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Ask Grandma Maggie

Parenting & Childcare Advice
Peggy Moss (1933-2014), also known as Grandma Maggie, penned a parenting column on this site for many years. Back by popular demand, we are republishing the column, sharing with you the best of Grandma Maggie’s parenting and childcare advice.
Unfortunately Grandma Maggie is no longer able to take questions.

How do I get my son to stop having tantrums?
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Dear Grandma Maggie,

I am a single, part time working mum (28) of 3 children aged 7,5 & 3 (2 boys & 1 girl). The kids go to school & nursery whilst I am at work and it has been this way for as long as we can all remember. My problem is that my 5 year old son Ethan has suddenly turned into the child from “hell.” He used to be such a good natured boy who was loving, playful, happy, and energetic but now he has become very destructive, shouting, throwing and exhibiting abusive behaviour which is not normally in his nature. He will be starting school this year which means leaving behind his nursery friends/teachers and I am wondering could this be having an effect on him?

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated as I did not have this problem when my older one started school 2 years ago. I will be off work for the first few weeks when he is starting school to help him settle in but do you think I should give up work altogether? I don’t know if this would help and not sure if I could afford it re: bills, rent etc. I just don’t know what to do. Many

Thanks, Nikkie

Dear Nikkie,

When kids start acting out in a way contrary to what is usual for them, there is a good reason. One might be that with the three children and returning home with so much for you to do, it’s possible you have not set limits on what is allowable behavior and what isn’t. And I don’t mean yelling across the room, because that just perpetuates the situation. Go to Ethan, get down to his level and tell him he is absolutely not allowed to disrespect you or the household. Say it quietly and put him in a time-out chair for five minutes, one minute for each year of his life. Then at the end of that time go to him, get down to his level and review why he is there. Then ask for an apology and (the hard part) be consistent and do this when needed with each child.

You must let the kids know what is going to happen for misbehavior ahead of time, and though this sounds like a lot of work, it will save you work and time in the long run. Another thing I believe in is kids knowing what to expect, and that includes meals and chores along with the discipline. Even the three year old can help set a table with the napkins and silverware. Make a helping chart with a list of chores and have them help with what is needed so they feel part of the family unit. Buy those gummed gold stars and have the children feel the pride of earning them. Maybe when they collect ten after their name on a chart, they get a small reward. It’s very hard raising three children but the time put in now will be well worth it. If it is not stopped when they are young, it will escalate and you will have more trouble down the line. Invest your time now.
Kindest regards,

Grandma Maggie