Stopping Temper Tantrums Before They Start

Scream Savers, p.5

2. Party Pointers

The demands of parenthood make time with adult friends a precious commodity. And it can be tricky to decide which social occasions are truly kid-friendly and which are a recipe for disaster. Before including your child in adult gatherings, get a sense of the setting and tone of the party. Family potluck suppers are fun for all ages, but a formal dinner party usually isn't appropriate for preschool children. "Parents trick themselves into thinking that they're spending quality time with their kids by bringing them to an adult party," says Ray Levy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Dallas, TX, and coauthor of Try and Make Me!, a new book based on his work with strong-willed children. "You may have to decide whether to spend time with your kid at home or hire a babysitter and go to the party."

If children are welcome, plan distractions before you go. "I carry toys in my purse," says fashion designer Nicole Miller, whose son, Palmer, is 5. "And I've found it helps to bring your favorite food -- or even a special treat that might calm him down." When you arrive at your friend's home, do a quick sweep to place fragile or potentially dangerous items out of reach.

If your child really starts to act up, it's tempting to ignore it or give in. But effective discipline requires consistency; saying yes to a tearful demand for a fourth cup of soda, for example, sends a message that it's okay to cry to get your way. Just take him aside and discreetly address the issue. "Children get humiliated easily. Never reprimand in front of others," says Dr. Katz. Be aware of cues that your child is getting overtired, and time your exit accordingly.

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