While I cannot take credit for inventing the expression, “lousy local conditions,” I use it all the time. It’s just so right-on-the-button.
Lousy Local Conditions refers to those times when a child’s less than perfect behaviors are magnified or even created by the conditions of his environment. Children who went to sleep late or work up too early, who have missed a nap or a meal, who have been dragged on too many errands, who have attended one birthday party too many, will reflect those lousy local conditions in their behavior, or shall we say, misbehavior. Your two year old, for example, isn’t so good at “Don’t touch!” when you visit your grandmother and her precious china tea set that sits on the coffee table. The environment sabotages his ability to behave. Your three-year-old will not be too willing to clean up the play room after a wild, napless afternoon with three playmates too many. Your five-year-old isn’t likley to “ask nicely” or speak respectfully after staying up until midnight watching the ball game.
Sometimes a child has tantrums, lots of them, because that’s the stage he’s in. He’s learning to assert himself and is intoxicated by his own power. When he is frustrated in his quest, look out for a tantrum. But when your child has an uncharacteristic tantrum or melt down, when he is unusually uncooperative, or he’s just plain icky, it is often the result of lousy local conditions.
Anticipating your child’s thresholds and breaking points will go a long way in avoiding tantrums and mishbehaviors. Different children have different levels of tolerance for hunger and fatigue, for crowds and new situations, for stimulation of all kinds. Different children react to different lousy local conditions. (By the way, some grown ups do too!)
Craft your reasonable expectations for your child around his age, development, and particular temperament. Then keep in mind the environment that could morph into lousy local conditions, and you will head down the pathway towards taming the tantrums, melt downs, and icky behaviors.