Tantrum Quantification

18 Apr

A graduate student friend of mine, who is interested in all things quantification, points me to a story about how psychologists have begun to quantify tantrums, so as to more carefully study them. Well, quantifying tantrums isn’t quite right. They give little ones onesies with high-performance microphones sewn into them, so as to record, then isolate, the sounds of a tantrum. There are, it turns out, phases to a tantrum: 1) Yelling and Screaming; 2) Physical Actions; and then 3) Crying and Whining. As the NPR correspondents point out:

The trick in getting a tantrum to end as soon as possible, Potegal said, was to get the child past the peaks of anger. Once the child was past being angry, what was left was sadness, and sad children reach out for comfort. The quickest way past the anger, the scientists said, was to do nothing. Of course, that isn’t easy for parents or caregivers to do.

Ya, not easy to do is right. I find it’s a bit of area of disagreement between me and the missus is that I am more likely to sit and do nothing while baby cries, and she is more likely to immediately go to comfort (our neighbor, incidentally, noted that she is pretty much done with nursing except for comforting the baby when he cries. I think this is not uncommon, and new mothers everywhere have been whipping out boobs in response to crying baby for longer than we’ve had civilization). In my less flattering moments, I’m also likely to say to baby, ‘aw, come on, quit faking’. Which as you might guess makes everyone delighted round my house.

I also like the idea of sewing the high-performance microphone in baby’s onesie. This is just another reason why SCIENCE is so freaking awesome. I would have gone for attaching electrodes directly to the cortex, but that may have required boring a small hole. And while SCIENCE can do what SCIENCE wants, the Mothers-Against-Young-Baby-Experimentation lobby is unrelenting…

(incidentally, I’m tagging this post as Science! but really it should be tagged with ‘awesome’, right?)

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One Response to “Tantrum Quantification”

  1. Davin April 19, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    We’ve actually found this stuff pretty useful – ignore the anger until suddenly it crests and Vander is looking to be comforted.
    I share your enthusiasm for ignoring anger/rage/discomfort – the love of my life is on board some of the time. I’ll let her comment for herself…

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