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I saw this question on Quora recently, and I thought I’d elaborate a bit on the answer I gave:

What should I do if my 2 year old kid hurt himself to get me to do what he wants?

My eldest son was (and still is) very strong-willed.  As a toddler he would drop to his knees and bash his forehead on the floor if he couldn’t get his own way.  He tended to do this in shops if he saw a toy he wanted which usually I couldn’t afford.  After a short while the act of bashing his head would obviously cause him discomfort and he would stop.  Instead he would begin to scream as loudly as he could.  All this would happen while other shoppers looked on in disgust.

I would stand there patiently and explain that no, he couldn’t have the toy and that no amount of bashing his head or screaming would get him what he wanted.  As hard as it was to do, I ignored other shoppers’ disdainful looks and stood there until he was all screamed out.  Then I’d pick him up and take him out of the shop.  I’d get him home, give him a cuddle, and reiterate the futility of throwing tantrums.

The head bashing stopped around the age of four, but the screaming carried on until he was about seven years old.  Neither Sam nor I ever gave in to his tantrums or demands.  His younger brother didn’t even bother screaming much at all, as he knew it wouldn’t get him what he wanted.  Our grandchildren tried the screaming tactic with us too, but gave up when we told them it would be a waste of time.  They talk to us quite reasonably about what they want, and we either give it to them as we now have a bit more disposable income, or explain to them why they cannot have it.

The first few years of a child’s life are an endurance test for the parents.  As the child grows he/she will push the boundaries of a parent’s patience to see just how much they can get away with.  They need firm guidance and need to know who is in charge so that they feel safe.  So many children I see nowadays are running rings around their parents, who do not want to endure and give the kids what they want for a quiet life.  That little rosy cheeked bundle of joy soon grows to be an out-of-control monster if they do not have parents willing to endure unpleasant tantrums, head-bashing, or even breath-holding until the child passes out (yes, one little girl I knew tried this tactic on her mother, which worked every time).

Enduring those childhood tantrums without giving in saves you having to be frightened of your 6ft 2in son 15 years or so down the line.