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I'm Not Going to Take Anymore

When your child is angry and throws a tantrum, do you feel as though you have no control? Thoughts of helplessness can creep into the mind of even the most motivated parent.

A common reaction from parents whose child has just thrown a fit is to quickly return to life as usual. However, if little Johnnie or Suzy isn't taken aside and taught that tantrums won't be tolerated, the behavior is sure to repeat itself.

The next time your child has a meltdown, remember: You need to control your own emotions, and you need to correct your child's behavior.

Here are a few strategies to help you and your child stay in control.

Training days

Take time each day to practice your own personal staying-calm plan. The plan can be as simple as taking several deep breaths or as involved as reciting a positive message in your head.

Have a game plan for dealing with your child's tantrums. You and your spouse should agree on what to say and do when a child acts out. It's important for children to have parents who encourage and enforce the same behavior expectations.

Devise signals or choose "clue words" that will alert you or your spouse when your emotions are starting to run high or when your child's behavior is spiraling out of control.

If you're a single parent, always be consistent. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Never surrender

Avoid arguing or debating with your toddler.

You're the parent. The more rational you are, the quicker your child is likely to respond to your request. Parents who surrender are parents who exhibit the very behaviors they're trying to stop (yelling, arguing, threatening, etc.).

Don't sacrifice your adult role to act out your child's naughty behavior.

Return to the crime

Your first reaction after stopping a tantrum may be to escape from the scene and get back to something more pleasant. However, your child should have the opportunity to undo whatever he or she did.

Children are never too young to start taking responsibility for their actions.

If your child acted out by making a mess, saying naughty words, hitting others or destroying objects, make him or her correct the situation. That means cleaning up the mess, apologizing, doing something nice for others or replacing what was broken.

Children who must deal with their negative actions learn a valuable lesson.

Effective consequences

For example, if your child acts out in a store, don't threaten never to visit that store again - that's unrealistic. More effective consequences include going to the car for a time-out or taking away a snack, a possession, playtime or some other privilege.

If you go to the car for time-out, give your child a few minutes to calm down. Then, clearly describe the appropriate behavior you expect when he or she is in the store. You may even want to practice how to follow instructions and accept "No" for an answer. The latter may require several practices.

After you've explained your expectations and practiced with your child, return to the store. Let your child demonstrate what you taught during time-out. Give simple instructions, and praise your child for following your directions.

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