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. The child who has missed a nap or a meal, who went to sleep late or woke up too early, who has been dragged on too many errands, who has attended one birthday party too many, who had a bad day at school, a fight with a friend, will reflect those lousy local conditions in his 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 coffee-table china tea set. Your seven year old is not likely to treat his sibling with kindness when his best friend excluded him at recess. The child’s environment sabotages his ability to behave in the way you expect.
When your child has an uncharacteristic tantrum or meltdown, when he is unusually uncooperative or just plain icky, it can easily be the result of lousy local conditions. Often taking a guess, laced heavily with empathy, goes a long way with an older child. With the younger child, you may just need to get through it and plan better next time.
Anticipating your child’s thresholds and breaking points regardless of his age, will certainly help in avoiding meltdowns, tantrums, and icky behavior. Different children have different levels of tolerance for hunger and fatigue, for crowds and new situations, for stimulation of all kinds. Different children are affected different lousy local conditions.
Craft your reasonable expectations for your child around his age, development, and particular temperament. This, coupled with acknowledging the lousy local conditions, will make your days together a little brighter.