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Soothing a Tantrum

When your 2-year-old begins to bawl at her birthday party, your first thought may be "How could she, after all the trouble I've gone to?" But toddlers cry because they need a release no words can provide.

When your child is throwing a tantrum  -- whether in public or at home  -- remind yourself that kids reserve this behavior for the people they love most.

Respond to a brewing tantrum by describing to your child what you see happening ("It looks like you're upset and feel like crying") and, if necessary, organize your exit. When she finally explodes, your role isn't to defend yourself, fix the problem, or talk her out of her fury. You should stay close and listen.

It's common to want to stem a child's tears, but telling her she's okay when she's not doesn't help. If your child is crying because Daddy is away, instead of saying "But he'll be back tomorrow," try "You really miss him, don't you?" Acknowledging her feelings may seem like you're rubbing it in, but she needs to hear that you support the way she feels.

Crying helps eliminate tension by reducing pulse rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Also, tears relieve stress hormones in much the same way a sigh releases excess carbon dioxide. For a child, there's nothing like crying to restore her good humor and her ability to think clearly.

When your birthday girl is sobbing because there's no candy rose on her slice of cake, your first impulse may be to scour the party for a kid who does have one and negotiate a swap. Instead, with kind words and loving arms, let your daughter know she can cry if she wants to. That's the best birthday present you can give.