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Toddler Drama Queens

"You never give me anything to eat," 3-year-old Esther Cathie yells at her mom. "I'm going to starve!" The truth, of course, is that there just isn't food Esther wants, says her mom, Julie, of Hopewell Junction, NY.

At this age, kids' snits are often accompanied by exaggerations and Oscar-worthy performances, since they have a growing grasp of language and are realizing how powerful it is, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of Kid Cooperation.

To deal with  -- and defuse  -- the drama, acknowledge your child's emotions and then teach her how to handle them better. Say, "I know it's frustrating to have to go home, but using a loud voice won't make me change my mind. If you ask nicely, we can swing for five more minutes."

If that doesn't work: Respond calmly, and then withdraw: "Oh, you hate bedtime? Okay, I think I'll go up to bed instead." Toddlers hate being left out.

One last trick: Get dramatic yourself. Match her: "I know! I hate putting socks on, too! It's the most boring thing I have to do all day!" Keep it up until she giggles, then move on.

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