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Preventing Tantrums

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Kathryn Gamble Lozier

One way to prevent tantrums before they occur is to give your toddler the illusion of control. Instead of phrasing questions to elicit a yes or no answer, when appropriate, try to give the child a choice. If he likes to pick out his own clothes, set out two or three outfits and ask him which one he'd prefer to wear. Or you might ask, "Would you like to have peas or carrots with your chicken?" or "Would you prefer potatoes or corn with your roast beef?" Giving the 2-year-old a sense that he wields some influence will make him more accepting of the outcome.

At other times, tantrums can be avoided simply by giving your toddler some advance notice about what lies ahead. For example, several hours before a night out, you might tell your child, "Mommy and Daddy are going out to dinner tonight, and Marian, that nice babysitter, will stay here with you. She'll put you to bed, and we'll be here when you wake up tomorrow morning." This works well as your child approaches the age of 3 and her sense of time gradually begins to improve.

Or ease the transition from play to an undesired activity, such as going to bed, by telling her, "In 10 minutes, it will be time to go to bed." Here, a kitchen timer might come in handy.

It also helps to avoid commands whenever possible; opt instead for questions. Saying, "Put those toys away!" may provoke a negative reaction. Asking, "Where do these books go?" or "Where should we put that paint set?" is more likely to promote cooperation than issuing directives is.

And finally, know your child's limits. If your day has been particularly busy -- a new activity, outdoor play, a visit from Grandma and Grandpa -- cancel your plans to take her to a restaurant for dinner. Remember that fatigue and changes in routine take the greatest toll on your child's behavior.

In the continuing battle of wills, it's important to keep your perspective. If you respond properly and nurturingly to your child when he gets upset and throws a tantrum, he will likely emerge from the crisis calmer, more in control of his emotions, and with a greater measure of confidence.

Dealing With Tantrums
Dealing With Tantrums

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.