A parent’s worst nightmare does often begin when the second born comes forth. A home that was orderly and tranquil becomes a theatre for the display of indomitable tantrums. The first–born, a cuddlesome fairly, transforms itself into an impossible imp who wants to kill its sibling. Commonly, when first born’s are faced with competition from the newborns, they react in a melodramatic fashion. Some hold their breath to attract frenzied attention. Others scream and shout, throwing themselves to the ground, writhing and generally reaching out to anything within their reach and throwing it against the walls. Others kick and hit at the parent. All too often, a child that was properly toilet trained begins wetting his bed.  

Emotional Regression

Child psychologists say these older children suffer physical and emotional regression. Their world is too abruptly filled with mixed and confused emotions and worries. They face complex questions of their continued relevance to the parents and the family, their future roles, the significance of the newborn and fear they will eventually be abandoned. They refuse to accept that the changes are permanent and continually ask that the newborn be “sent back.”

There is a saying that goes “show me the boy and I will show you the man.” We never really grow up. Our fears and paranoia remain the same ever as we advance in age. Our reactions sometimes only appear mature because we wear a suit and a tie and talk in bass voices. But behind the façade, we remain the same three year old boys trying to come to terms with an ever-changing world.

If you observe the behaviour of our politicians over the past year or so, you will not miss to see the boys behind the suits. As strangers together into the political field, our politicians have entered a world with mixed and confused emotions, and they are facing complex questions of their relevance to this society. Those who have been the first born’s are wondering whether they shall eventually be abandoned in favour of the newer politicians who just came in. Many have regressed and begun the equivalent of political bed-wetting.

Screaming and Shouting

We have over the years seen politicians screaming and shouting at the slightest provocation. Those who have been in power feel that the new ones have come to replace them. They feel neglected and abandoned. Because they wear suits and ties and talk in bass voices, we assume that their reactions are mature. But these reactions are sometimes as infantile as those of any child facing insecurity in the family

The challenge to the President is the same as that of any parent facing sibling rivalry. But in the light of the noise and instability in government, many advisors will run to the President with copies of such hideous literature as “The Prince” and “The 48 Rules of Power”. All the President needs is a good psychologist and this is the advice he would get.

1. Stay calm

When a child is screaming and shouting or kicking and hitting at you, you want to have your own tantrum. Stay calm. Your anxiety would only disorient the child further and make him feel more insecure. Remember that the child only seeks reassurance on where it stands in relation to you and its surrounding environment. Your calmness will also calm the child.

2. Don’t give in

 The child is displaying its tempers to attempt to force your hand to its advantage. It is also trying to test your limits on how far you can be manipulated. If you reward a tantrum, you will create a custom that you will find difficult to break from without genuinely offending the child.

3. Be consistent

 When you say no, don’t change your mind. The child will not give up its tantrum until it is certain that you cannot be swayed. Saying yes after several refusals only goes to show that the child’s persistence will bear fruit.

4. Be open-minded 

Even though you refuse to be manipulated, do not let the child feel abandoned and fear to come to you in case of a genuine need. This would only confirm the child’s worst fears. Children do sometimes cry because they are lonely and hungry.

5. Don’t get drawn into arguments

Nothing would satisfy the child more than to have a chance to vent its frustrations on you. An argument may also encourage the child to think that there is a chance for it to have its way. State your position and don’t negotiate.

6. Reason with the child

It is important for the child to understand your position. It shouldn’t think of you as a heartless parent. As it gets more secure, the child will see the sense of your position.

7. Let the child calm down

Allow the child to get pent-up fury out of its system. Don’t interfere and attempt to stop the child from displaying its tantrum. Don’t talk back or scold the child. Let it be. The fire will burn itself out. Pent-up emotions can later express themselves in destructive ways.

8. Create space and time for each child

Don’t allow the children to compete for the same attention or for the same toys. Give each independence in its own life. Let each enjoy your comfort without interruption by the other. The less the circumstances of rivalry, the more secure each child will get.

9. Don’t result to desperate measures

 Tantrums by children can be frightening especially if you are experiencing them for the first time. Remember you are the parent and they are the children. You rarely need result to excessive measures.

10. Establish equality

They are all your children. Let them know that you love them equally and none is superior to the other. Each child is trying to exclude its sibling. Let them know you cannot do without each of them.

Often when I watch the television news, I am reminded of my own experience as a parent and the tribulations of dealing with child rivalry. And I enjoy analysing the politician on the screen and ask myself: Is this a genuine representative of the people or a politician going through the throes of a political tantrum?