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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

How ‘Cry’ or ‘Fun’ saved my life

This is my youngest – baby of the family, littlest sister to all, “mummies” little girl.


I know I’m a bit biased and all, but sometimes I think, “Who could deny this gorgeous face?”

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But then I remember, she can also be all kinds of sassy – as in ‘sassy. fras.’ Oh yes, my friends, don’t let this one fool you. She can be an enchantingly treacherous minx. Oh yes. (Thanks Hank Green, for the verbiage.) 

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I really wanted to include a picture of this little sweetheart crying, but couldn’t find any. I know… fail. I’ll get right on that for the next blog post about how much this kid can cry. But for now, you’ll have to imagine this sweet little face streaked with tears and frothing at the mouth.

‘Cause that’s what she does when she throws a temper tantrum, friends. And let me tell you, it is not. pretty.

I have two older daughters and thought I was, ya know, somewhat experienced at this parenting thing, and all. Oh contraire, mon frere. I gotta a lot to learn before I can write a book on parenting. 

Having said that, I did recently stumble (read: face planted) into quite a trick that has made things exponentially better in the Zimmerman household. Oh yes. Yes, it has.

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with a dear friend of mine – let’s just call her “Goddess” because, that’s pretty much what she is in my book, right now – and I was complaining (whining, ranting, insert additional verb of your choice) about how much worse my youngest’s tantrums seem to be compared to my other children. The counting thing sometimes works, but when it doesn’t, all hell breaks loose in our humble little abode. It’s not just kicking and screaming, people. This child becomes a demon in a precious little three year old body, complete with foamy mouth syndrome and red eyes. (I swear they turn red.) This charade lasts a full 45ish minutes before she will even come to a point where she can understand the words that come out of my mouth and she no longer resembles an alien baby.

I had pretty much hit my limit, ready to throw in the towel, list her on eBay (a threat which I make to all my children once per week) and be done with the whole ‘I-love-having-three-children’ thing. (For the record, that was sarcasm. I would never list my children on eBay. My oldest recently asked me if I really would and I had to come clean on the matter. So, there’s that.) So, this good friend of mine (Goddess) asks, “Have you ever tried ‘Room or Fun’?

After debating whether it was some sort of Asian cuisine I’d missed early in life, I admitted defeat, telling her I was clueless. She explained that she’d read it in some book or blog a few years back, when her daughter was just two, and she was having similar temper tantrum issues with her, as well.

The idea is simple: Before a tantrum strikes, you explain the idea to them, so they will know what to expect. (They won’t remember it, but at least you will have tried.) When the tantrum starts, you place them in their room and ask them (Quietly. This is key. if they’d like to remain in their ‘room’ and cry or if they’d like to join in the ‘fun’ that you’re about to have. (Warning: Have something super fun up your sleeve to entice them.) At first they won’t hear you. You may have to ask multiple times. In fact, you may have to try the entire act a few times before they even bite for the first time. But at some point, they will hesitate – just minutely – and they will think about it. Do they want to sit in their room and cry, or could they possibly really be missing something fun? 

If their answer isn’t ‘fun’ at first, just say “OK” and start to leave the room. Most likely they’ll jump up to follow you because this is not what they were expecting, and for the love of God, they don’t want to miss out on something fun! You can ask again if they want ‘room’ or ‘fun’. Eventually, they will get to the point where they will actually stop crying and will make the decision that, yes, they really do want to have fun with you. At which time you can ask them to wipe their face and stop the tears. There can’t be crying if you’re having fun!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is way too easy. Yes. I was skeptical at first, too. In fact, when I was on the phone with ‘Goddess‘, I was actually thinking, “There is no way. She totally doesn’t know my kid.” But I humored her, listened and even went so far as to tell my husband about it when he got home from work.

And guess what??

That very night we got our first chance to try it. My husband went up to her room, and forgetting the exact words, offered her to ‘cry’ or have ‘fun’. (Which is now why we call it ‘cry or fun’ but you can use ‘room’ if you want.) And that frothy mouthed, devil child who’d lost all semblance of a human being? She actually chose ‘fun’. Can you believe it? The very. first. time. No lie. I was floored.

Since that time we’ve had a few (ahem) more occasions in which to enact it. And it has still worked. every. single. time. Cray, I say! But awesome. Totally awesome and fantastical!

So all you moms of toddlers and preschoolers who are at your wits end and are ready to sell your kids on eBay – before you do something drastic, please give “Cry or Fun” a chance! It just might save your sanity! (And will keep your family in tact.)

What sort of techniques do you use to deal with tantrums? I’d love to hear more tried and true methods of dealing with our beloved little monsters. 


Until next time, happy reading, friends!

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