Name-calling, throwing things, even threatening to run away from home — many conservative responses to the healthcare bill sound a lot like a toddler's temper tantrum. Perhaps we can use some parenting tactics to deal with them.
Since rational discourse clearly isn't working, we scoured parenting books looking for ways to calm the childish antics of John Boehner, Glenn Beck, and mobs of angry Tea Partiers. Below, some helpful anti-tantrum techniques, and how we might apply them to the current cry-fest.
1. Technique: Let Them Cry It Out
Aristotle [...] stated that when children screamed they should not be repressed, because screaming played an important role in their development. If a child wished to protest vocally against the order of things in his environment, Aristotle would let him cry out his tantrum. He thought evil humors might be drained out of the system by free expression. -Parents and Their Problems, 1914
Application: Conservatives have compared the passage of healthcare reform to a civil war, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11. Once they get to the actual apocalypse, there will be nothing left to compare it to, and perhaps their "evil humors" will be drained.
2. Technique: Demonstrate Negative Consequences
Show [the child] how ridiculous and futile his loss of control was, and tell him how much he will lose of companionship and accomplishment when he is a man if he does not learn self-control. -Parents and Their Problems
Application: The GOP may be figuring this one out for itself. Of the healthcare debate (punctuated as it was by the shout of "baby-killer"), one Republican said: "It was like a mob at times. It wasn't good for us. ... Remember, it took years [for Democrats] to recover from the bad publicity the anti-Vietnam protests generated." The Republicans have already lost "companionship and accomplisment" — will they learn self-control?
3. Technique: Adjust Uncomfortable Clothing
A child who has frequent temper tantrums often has inborn traits of temperament that lead to frustration. For example, she may be very sensitive to changes in temperature or noise level, or to the feel of different clothes on the skin. She has a tantrum every time her parents put her socks on, unless the seams at the toes are in exactly the right place. -Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
Application: Maybe Republicans just need their socks in a different place — such as the mouth.
4. Technique: Teach New Terms
Tantrums are common during the second year of life, a time when children are acquiring language. Toddlers generally understand more than they can express. Imagine not being able to communicate your needs to someone - a frustrating experience that may precipitate a tantrum. As language skills improve, tantrums tend to decrease. -Temper Tantrums, Kidshealth.com
Application: Perhaps conservatives just need to learn a few words. They could start with "Democrats" instead of "Social Democrats" or socialists, and move on to "President Barack Obama," instead of "illegal immigrant," "Hitler," or "Antichrist."
5. Technique: Withhold Treats
While [the child] is absent in his tantrum, let some nice little thing occur, so he may experience a loss, and say how sorry you are that he had not controlled himself sooner that he might have been there. Perhaps it might be the eating of an orange or some other dainty that he likes; the showing of some pretty picture; the telling of some nice story of which he is fond; or the playing of some game that he enjoys. Never let his outbreak get him what he wanted. -Parents and Their Problems
Application: If Rush Limbaugh actually runs off to sulk in Costa Rica like he threatened to do if healthcare reform passed, we should do something really fun while he's gone. We could all eat a tasty orange, or, you know, get some necessary medical care.
6. Technique: Speak Their Language
It helps to think of your toddler as sort of a caveman. With all their grunting and grabbing, toddlers often seem quite primitive. To communicate with them, you have to speak in a primitive and almost prehistoric type of language - Toddler-ese - with lots of gestures. It needs to be as energetic and dramatic as the child is being. To speak Toddler-ese, use:
# Short phrases.
# Tons of repetition.
# A passionate tone of voice.
# Lots of exaggerated facial expressions and body gestures (like big smiles, frowns and vigorous pointing). -"How To Calm A Toddler In Seconds," by Dr. Harvey Karp
Application: Glenn Beck already seems to speak Toddler-ese, so this should be easy. Luckily, Jon Stewart knows how mirror Beck's "passionate tone" and "vigorous pointing." But, says Karp, "Don't be surprised if it takes four or five repetitions before you even begin to get your little buddy's attention!" So Stewart may have to do his Beck impression three or four more times.
7. Technique: Remove Them From "Public Situations"
Some youngsters, of course, use tantrums as a form of control; they've learned that kicking and screaming bring them what they want. If that's the case in your house, there's only one way to remedy the situation: stick to your guns, buy yourself earplugs if necessary, and keep him out of public situations where he may try his most vigorous shindigs in an effort to bend you to his will. -Your Child's Self-Esteem
Application: Simple: vote them out of office.
Scary New GOP Poll [Daily Beast]
An Absence Of Class [NYT]
It's A Civil War: What We Do Now [National Review]
Vandalism Reported At Offices Of Three Democrats [CNN]
Republicans Weigh Costs Of Losing Ugly [Politico]
Beck Compares Health Care Reform To Flight 93 On 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Chamberlain Meeting Hitler, And Hindenburg [Media Matters]
The Tea Party & The Circus [BuzzFeed]