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Talking Down Tantrums

Dan Saelinger

HE SAYS “I don't want to clean up!”

YOU SAY “Then I'll just throw away your toys.”

YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID “Hey, if you pick up your toys really fast, you'll get a check on the hand!”

Check on the hand, gold star, bonus point: They're all the same idea. It's always better to offer up a positive consequence for good behavior rather than a negative consequence for bad behavior.

Harvey Karp, M.D., creator of the DVD and book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, emphasizes that incentives don't have to be tangible to work. He recommends giving your child a check on the hand whenever he does something good. Count how many checks your child has at bedtime and recount what each check was for. It's a no-fail way to ensure you send your kid to bed with a dose of self-confidence, and he'll wake up with a reminder of those good feelings.

SHE SAYS “I don't want to go home!”

YOU SAY “Bye, I'll see you later.”

YOU SHOULD HAVE SAID “I know. The playground is fun. But it's almost time to go. Would you like to go home now and play with your toys or take three more slides and then go home?”

When you pretend to walk off, prepare to do one of two things: Console or run. Some children will become even more distraught when a parent threatens to leave, but others, like Sasha Higgins's 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, will say “See ya!” “When I tell Olivia that I'm leaving her or say ‘bye-bye,’ she just walks away,” explains the Albany, NY, mom. “I wind up chasing her. It never works.”

Here's a tactic that will: Acknowledge your child's emotions, then present a compromise. “Before you say no or take your child away from the situation, it's important to validate what she's feeling and her desire to stay there,” says Dr. Karp. Next, lay out a few options. This will help give your child some feelings of control and power, and in turn, it will make her more likely to cooperate with you,” explains Dr. Karp.

Griffin also recommends doing some prep work before your next trip to the playground. Explain that you can stay at the park only for a certain period of time. Tell your child you'll tap her on the shoulder and that means one more slide or one more swing. When that time comes, stick to your word and leave.