One Strange Parenting Tip from the Italian Mama (It Works!)

My daughter granted permission to relate the following story:

I’m having dinner with the Italian Mama, and I explain how my daughter currently seems to enjoy disobeying me with emotional tantrums about everything.  

“You need to compliment her for what’s really happening in that tantrum.  Find something good about what she’s doing in that moment of frustration, and then redirect it.”

What?  You want me to reward the tantrum by praising my daughter while she’s exploding at me? Won’t this enable her?  Doesn’t this go against every parenting book?  Doesn’t this contradict all the parenting techniques about punishment and my authority?

But it’s the Italian Mama speaking.  I trust this woman. 

The next morning, my daughter just screams at me.  Instead of punishing her or sending her to her room, I say, “You know, you are really good at alerting me with a very loud voice when you want something.  That could come in handy if the house is on fire or if you fall out of a tree or if someone were in danger.  You actually have a fabulous screaming voice.”

She tilts her head, wide-eyed, and stares at me.

She hasn’t screamed or talked-back to me in 3 days.  In fact, at breakfast, she leans over and whispers to her sister, “Mom told me I have the best alert scream, and I could save the family one day.”

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Have you ever found something good within a tantrum?

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10 thoughts on “One Strange Parenting Tip from the Italian Mama (It Works!)

  1. It's great to see that I am not the only one struggling not to sound ironic when I actually say something positive. Heather, your advice sounds very sensitive, trying to recognize a something that I really appreciate. It might take more effort but it will make the compliment sound more genuine. Thanks a lot!

  2. It's great to see that I am not the only one struggling not to sound ironic when I actually say something positive. Heather, your advice sounds very sensitive, trying to recognize a something that I really appreciate. It might take more effort but it will make the compliment sound more genuine. Thanks a lot!

  3. You know, Chris, it DID sound a little ironic, and I didn't like that.  I tried to “compliment” her sassy eye-rolling, and it just came off too sarcastic.  Today I'm trying to legitimately find something good to recognize.  Something truly good.  She was angry about something this morning, and I said, “You really do a great job expressing negative emotion.  Some kids don't know how to do that and they keep it all bottled up.  I'm thankful that you know how to talk about your anger.”  What do you think? 

  4. But how do you manage to say that without sounding ironic? Even my slightest effort  to use this method would sound like a sarcastic comment and I don't know how to avoid that.

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