Editor’s Note: NYC Dads Group member Jason Duncan reviews a popular children’s book and questions whether it causes a new problem while solving an old one.
I suppose any book that tries to tackle the topic children’s tantrums, while simultaneously trying to help the children reading that book cope with their tantrums ought to be lauded, so laud shall I do,
“Laud! Laud!” I say. “Laud to you, No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora.”
Nilson is a gorilla. He is blue, he wears six watches, and without ever having seen him near a tape measure, I would have to guess that he’s about seven feet tall. He is also Amelia’s best friend. Amelia is short, dark-haired, probably no older than three, and human. Nilson periodically has fits (as any silverback might), and his fits are so big that he and Amelia both get a time out for them.
Naturally, you might begin to guess the book’s premise: Is Nilson really the one having the fits, or might Amelia have some small hand in them? (Oh, and have I mentioned that this is a children’s picture book? That tiny tidbit of information is probably worth noting.) I won’t ruin the ending for any interested parties, but should anyone be interested, at thirty-two pages in length, it’s something of a quick read.
I have no real issues with this tome, save one: Nilson is nearly always quieted with the promise of food. Now, with an actual gorilla, this might not be such a bad idea, particularly if it works. But as we have conjectured, Nilson might not be the actual perpetrator of the fits in question, which means, of course, that Amelia is the one who is quieted with the promise of food.
When it comes to halting, or at least subsiding, children’s tantrums, by all means, do whatever works, but everything I have read or heard when it comes to fit wrangling is not to use food in the bargain.
Why not? Apparently it can bring on a negative association with food.
What kind of negative association? Well, hell if I know, but as the parent of a finicky eater, any association with food short of I want to eat that! is to be considered a negative one, and therefore avoided.
Nilson is promised banana pancakes. He calms down. Nilson is promised banana ice cream. He reins it in. The defacto Nilson (see: Amelia) is offered banana ice cream when the last scoop of banana ice cream has been doled out. She shuts up. Now, if Amelia was indeed a seven-foot gorilla in the midst of a temper tantrum, by all means, shove some banana ice cream in her mouth. But Amelia (at least as far as I can tell) is a human.
It seems to me, as the parent of a toddling tantrum-prone toddler, this is a rather sensitive issue for all involved, and incorporating a tactic that is widely viewed as causing a negative association might have some manner of drawback inherent within.
That being said, I actually still like this book, as well as Mr. OHora’s previous work, Stop Snoring, Bernard! Also, apparently, Mr. OHora’s likes his titles to end in exclamation points.
Perhaps, while here, I should elaborate on my hatred of the overuse of exclamation points in American writing, sometimes in books, but much more prevalently in text messages and emails. But perhaps not. Try to fix something in the world of American email and see what happens. People just stop emailing you.
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Jason Duncan is a full-time stay-at-home-dad, writer, blogger, fly fisher and terrier owner. He writes the humor blog My Effing Offspring, where a slightly longer version of this post first appeared.
Jason last wrote for us about taking a sleepy baby to a baseball game in June.