In an effort to help parents “take the guesswork out of when to worry” about their children and rush them in for screening and treatment, researchers are ready to tell you that your tantrum-throwing kid is mentally ill.
To “characterize the emergence of mental health problems” and “chart the progression from normal to abnormal” behavior, a National Institute of Mental Health sponsored study offers the following pathetically weak statistics.
These stats are intended to suggest that your child may be developing a mental disorder. I couldn’t help but insert my own commentary in italics after each one.
If your child throws tantrums:
…with an adult who was not their parent, such as a babysitter or teacher (36 percent of tantrum-throwing children)
Really? More than one third of tantrum-throwing kids do this and you are calling it abnormal? Sounds pretty desperate.
…during which they broke or destroyed things (28 percent)
I remember becoming so angry once when I was five that I punched a window and it shattered. After my mother checked to see if I was OK, she informed me that I would be paying for the window by doing chores around the house. Took me a month to pay it off. I never punched a window again.
I guess these old school solutions won’t do anymore. Better to take your kid off to a psychiatrist for meds. He might have a window punching disorder.
…”out of the blue,” or for which parents could not discern a reason (26 percent)
Yeah, parents failing to understand why a child is upset means the child has a mental disorder. This is just sick.
…that lasted an unusually long time (26 percent)
Vague. Come on, guys. 15 seconds is a long time to deal with a screeching child.
…during which they hit, bit, or kicked someone else (24 percent).
Seriously? Children hitting, kicking and biting can be considered a mental disorder? I remember our twins, now 12, used to bite each other like a couple of puppies. Now, they are happy, well-adjusted, straight A students. We dealt with the biting by intervening as best we could. They grew out of it.
By the way, kids naturally grow out of things, even without psychiatric intervention. Imagine that!
“Our goal was to provide a standard method that would take the guesswork out of ‘when to worry’ about young children’s behavior and to provide a more developmentally sensitive way of characterizing the emergence of mental health problems, moving away from traditional approaches emphasizing extreme clinical distinctions to a dimensional approach that charts a progression from normal to abnormal,” said Lauren Wakschlag, one of the principals in the study.
Yes, they want to ensure you watch your child progress from normal to abnormal. The problem is, they have clearly labeled normal behavior as abnormal.
If your child throws tantrums, consider the following:
Maybe it’s you, the parent
In 20 years as a coach and counselor, I’d say only 5% of parents come in and present the following:
My child is misbehaving and I am concerned that I may not be adequately meeting his needs, so I’d like to discuss how I might become a better parent.
95% of parents present something like:
Here’s my kid – please fix him. When should I come back?
Sorry, this is not an automobile repair shop. You can’t drop your kids off for a tune up while you head over to Starbucks. I always required my parents to be the center of their children’s counseling process.
Maybe its just life
Think for a moment about something that the vast majority of mental health professionals do not understand.
From the womb onward, life is a series of challenges. In the womb, we experience warmth and security and oneness. The universe is us and we are the universe. Fetuses are true (and innocent) megalomaniacs.
From there on, separation and loss is the name of the game. We separate from the womb. We lose our inherent sense of oneness by learning that others and the world exist apart from us. We lose instant gratification when we don’t get fed right when we are hungry, or get what we want when we want it. We lose control – other people tell us when to eat, sleep and even when and where to poop. Lines are drawn. Punishments are given for crossing them.
Ultimately, we separate from our families, fantasies, some of our dreams, and eventually, our own lives. Life is tough.
This is all normal, though. It is just life.
So are childhood tantrums. In fact, they make perfect sense, all things considered. As parents, let’s help children through the tough spots, no matter how tough they are. It is part of life. Psychiatric drugs do not need to be.