July 02, 2015

Q: The neighborhood park consists of donated toys for everyone to share, as well as small kids who come with their own from home i.e. scooters, tricycles, balls etc. We also will allow our 22 month old son to bring a ball or another small toy. We don't own a tricycle or scooter. "Joey" loves to go to the park and likes to play next to other kids sometimes he shares his toys also.How can I help my son stop having huge fits at park when he cannot use another child's toy? The tantrums are getting longer and harder to calm him. Redirection does not work, neither does reasoning.

A: You're right -- reasoning doesn't work for a toddler. And don't expect it to work until he's much older -- maybe even 6 or 7. Try these tips: Before you go to the park, make sure your child is well-rested and feeling good. (A cranky toddler doesn't play or share well.) Then, talk to him ahead of time about how other kids have their toys, and he will have his toys. He cannot take toys from the other children, and you will stay right by him to help him remember. Praise him for what a nice friend he is being when he plays well with other children. When he has a fit, walk him away from the playground until he's done. Be unemotional and matter-of-fact. Tell him that when he stops screaming, you can go back to play. He may need this lesson to be repeated over and over again, but the long-term lesson will be worth it.

Answered by Dr. Heather Wittenberg