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Keeping the peace during a temper tantrum

Nothing is harder on a parent’s patience—or eardrums—than a shrieking, kicking, demanding child who isn’t getting his or her way. That said, tantrums are a perfectly normal part of childhood development and actually help your child learn right and wrong behavior. Even better, they almost always fade away with age. While you await that glorious day, you can quell tantrums with these hints:

  • Avoid places and things that might launch your child into orbit. Taking a youngster into a toy store to buy a cousin’s birthday present while your child gets nothing can only end in disaster.
  • Is your child having “designer” tantrums meant only to get attention? When you run to your child at every whimper, the child soon learns how to make you appear on command. Always let your child try problem solving first.
  • Let your child make decisions as often as possible. Little choices—apple or orange juice? Sing songs or read books?—can help reassure a frustrated child that he or she gets to select from life’s menu, too.
  • Keep your cool. Spanking and its “might-makes-right” anger lesson is a no-no. Instead, speak reassuringly as the child vents or, if necessary, just ignore the dramatics altogether. This way, your child learns that his or her stages full of sound and fury signify nothing to you.
    Children under age 5 should be placed in “supervised” time-out—where they can see you at all times—for periods of one minute for each year of age. Older kids should be sent to a quiet spot until they cool off—however long it takes.
  • Set the right example. Your child learns his or her behavior by watching you. A parent who stomps around and displays no patience signals to the child that it’s acceptable to behave that way.
  • After the storm. Always be loving and reassuring once your child’s emotional tempest subsides.

If you feel your child’s tantrums are increasing in number or intensity, an underlying issue may be to blame. Contact your doctor for a thorough evaluation.