Saturday, May 10, 2014


by Mary Kennedy

      I saw something so disturbing in the post office today that I feel compelled to write about it. A toddler threw a major tantrum, lying on the floor kicking and screaming while people stepped over him to reach the counter.
      Meanwhile his stressed-out mother stood by helplessly. After a few half-hearted attempts to encourage him to stand up, she left him lying on the floor and went to buy stamps from the machine. A couple of people offered to help, but she shook her head, tight-lipped. I had the feeling this had happened many times before. How does she stand it, I wondered.

We've all seen toddlers having meltdowns--throwing themselves face down on the floor, crying, wailing, screaming and behaving in a way that's embarrassing to their parents and irritating to by-standers. Is this a natural and normal part of child development or is it something else?

New research suggests that a lack of emotional regulation (or self-control) in childhood can predict psychological problems in adolescence and adulthood. The study included 1,000 children from birth to age 32, and revealed that kids who were prone to tantrums and emotional upsets in childhood were more likely to have serious psychiatric issues in later life.

One of the main issues in emotional regulation is something known as "delayed gratification." We all know that when a toddle wants something, she wants it right this moment. While this might be overlooked in "the terrible twos," it can lead to problems down the road if not properly addressed.

Children who don't learn emotional control are three times more likely to suffer from health problems and addictions as adults, will probably earn less than $20,000 a year, will be poorly educated, will tend to become single parents and will be more likely to commit a crime.

Discouraging statistics, but here's the good news. Emotional control--both for children and adults--is a skill that can be learned. If you think your child is out of control, for your child's sake (and your own sanity), please do something about it. You can seek professional help, take a parenting class, talk to a friend or do some reading. Help is out there, all you have to do is ask!

by Mary Kennedy