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Field Guide to Temper Tantrums

The Ouch Monster

Habitat: The doctor's office

Triggers: Fearful anticipation, dread, scary-looking medical instruments -- or the mere sight of a waiting room

Age range: 18 months to 6 years

Look for: Kicking, scratching, and clawing; panicky shrieks and howls

Field report: When Sharon Fisher of Kuna, Idaho, had to take Maggie, 3, to the doctor, her own mother joined them in the examination room. A nurse told them that Maggie's grandmother would have to leave, which sent the little girl into a fit. When the doctor arrived, he told Fisher that he couldn't perform the procedure because Maggie was "too fearful." Fisher explained to him what had happened. "So Grandma was brought back in," she says, "and Maggie sat on my lap, completely cooperatively."


Prevention and handling:

* Keep your child on a "need to know" basis. Telling him on the way to the doctor that a shot is in his future only serves to heighten anxiety.

* Take a teddy bear or doll. Ask the doctor to do all the exam procedures to the toy first, from checking its ears to administering shots.

* Pile on the compliments. Acknowledge your child's fear, then tell him how brave he is -- even if he's thrashing around on the ground.

* Forget all the bad stuff you've read about bribery. This is the time to promise a small toy, a lollipop, or an ice cream cone after the appointment.

* Do whatever it takes to remain neutral. If you're freaking out and tearing up, it's only going to reinforce his fears and anxieties. I admit that seeing my son in pain turns me into a blubbering mess. When Oliver needs immunizations, I leave him in the room with my husband and return when the dirty work is over.

* Check your pediatrician's bedside manner. The best ones carry a dependable bag of tricks to help calm their little patients.