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On Call: Handling Toddler Freakouts

Q. My toddler has a temper! He can actually scream so hard he makes himself vomit. Is this dangerous?

No -- in fact, it's more common than you might think. (A tip: Learn to recognize the pre-vomit noise so you can throw a towel under him or get him off the furniture in time.)

That said, tantrums are obviously no fun for either of you. Some ways to curb them before things get to the puking point:

Anticipate. If he gets irritated around bedtime, try starting up a calming routine an hour earlier (like a book and a bath), and stay a few minutes past tucking him in if he needs you to. If certain places (toy stores, for instance) set him off, try not to take him there unless absolutely necessary.

Distract. When you see signs of impending rage  -- eyes widening, whatever  -- act quickly. Pull out a favorite toy. Put on music and dance. Take him outside to run around. It won't always work, but you'd be surprised how often it does.

Don't feed into it. If all else fails, try to disengage. Put him somewhere safe and let him scream it out. Don't scold him  -- being left alone will feel like punishment enough; other discipline will just inflame him more. When he's done, hug him and tell him how happy you are that he stopped.