Over the past couple of weeks, the airwaves have been abuzz about the Indonesian toddler who smokes up to 2 packs a day. CBS went to Indonesia to see the truth of the story and to see how Aldi is today. What they found was a happy toddler, who’s parents are doing the best they can in a culture that promotes smoking and tobacco use. They also found that Aldi is participating in a rehabilitation program to help him stop smoking, as well as receiving play therapy to help him express his feelings and manage the difficult emotions that he is going to experience as a part of the withdrawal.
We, as Americans, pass a great deal of judgment on the Indonesian culture as a result of this situation. This segment and blog entry does not address the abuse question, rather it focuses on the problem parents have with setting limits, sticking to them, and tolerating tantrums that arise in children.
What is it?Aldi is currently in a rehabilitation program to help him stop smoking as well as in play therapy. Rehabilitation programs are aimed at helping people stop negative or bad habits and teaches them new ones. They are great for helping people learn new ways of managing their feelings, without using drug or alcohol. Nicotine falls into the drug category. As Aldi is so young, he can understand more than he can say. Play therapy will help address that problem. It is a standard form of therapy used with kids 2-10 or 11 to help them express their feelings and demonstrate their experiences in a safe, natural way. Play therapy will be an excellent way for Aldi to express the frustration he will feel at having to stop doing something he enjoys, smoking.
We know that Aldi is going to have some physical difficulties as a result of his incredible smoking habit: his lungs are not going to form properly, he could develop asthma, and many other health issues. As he starts to decrease his use, he is going to have withdrawal symptoms which may include: increased cravings, irritability, poor sleep, headaches and tension. Just like with adults, the more he manages to decrease, and hopefully stop, his use, these symptoms will decrease.
SO WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
Aldi’s mom is afraid of causing her son pain, and so, often gives in to him rather than taking the cigarettes away. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what she needs to do. At 2, tantrums are developmentally appropriate. Tantrums often occur at this age, as children are beginning to acquire language and don’t have the ability to express themselves effectively. Tantrums are an expression of their frustration at not being able to do the things they want. Frustration fuels anger, which can lead to a tantrum Tantrums can be prevented, although it takes planning.
- Be consistent: Stick to routines as much as possible. Set limits and follow them. Kids like attention, be it negative or positive, so it’s important to set the rules and make sure they are followed appropriately.
- Plan ahead: Try to do what you need to do at times that will minimze negative situations. For Aldi, being at the marketplace is certainly difficult because he has limited supervision and the ability to access cigarettes easily. It may mean that his parents cannot bring him with them.
- Encourage use of words: Children are just developing language, so it is hard for them to express themselves. The more words they have, the less tantruming they will do.
- Praise good behavior: Catch the child doing something good. For every time Aldi doesn’t smoke, he should be praised and encouraged. That will motivate him to do it more.
- Offer choices: Choices increases a sense of control. Maybe Aldi can be offered alternatives to smoking as he learns to stop: lollipops or something?
- Distract distract distract! Find ways to distract a child from triggering things. This can change a mood easily.
Tantrums can’t necessarily be avoided though, so if they occur, parents have to think about their responses. If possible, ignore the child as they tantrum. If he isn’t getting your attention, he may stop on his own. If you pay too much attention to the tantrum, or give in to the demands, you are reinforcing the behavior you are trying to change. Not going to work! If in public, it is embarrassing and difficult, and it’s still important to ignore if possible. Make sure your child is safe (which may mean removing her from the situation) and don’t offer lots of attentions. When tantrum ends, can discuss options to not have it happen again.
Here’s the clip from this morning’s segment: