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Terrible Tantrums in Public


My children throw horrible tantrums at bedtime and when I take them out for a meal. One of my children is four years-old and the other is two. My two year-old cries so hard at bedtime that she sometimes makes herself throw up. She will scream for hours until I put her into my bed. I am tired of not sleeping and not being able to take my children out. Please help.


Thanks for writing in with the parenting challenges that you are currently facing. Parenting young children can be exhilarating and exhausting. It sounds like you are spending a lot of time feeling exhausted.

First, you have to decide specific behaviors that you want to see them exhibit in each of these settings. Let's take the going out to dinner setting. It should have specific behavioral steps that can be observed and practiced such as:

 1. Stay touching Mommy's leg at all times.
 2. Use an inside or quiet voice while in the restaurant.
 3. Stay seated at all times.
 4. Use your fork and spoon to eat unless the food is "finger food."

This skill should be taught and practiced frequently. At home, you can pretend that you are in a restaurant. Show and tell them the behaviors you want to see. Then have them practice making sure to keep the practice fun and brief. Praise your children when they display the desired behavior with high-fives, clapping or whatever encourages them. It will take some time but if you are consistent, your children will learn better behaviors.

The bedtime issue is a bit more complex. Start by establishing a routine that includes a regular bedtime. About an hour before bedtime stop everything else and began following a nightly ritual that involves activities such as a snack, a bath, pajamas and reading a story while rocking the children on your lap. Place them in their beds, sing softly to them or whisper a few prayers. A kiss good night should be the last thing before walking out the door.

If they begin to cry, you can go back in and repeat the last couple of steps. Lay them back down, rub or pat their back and sing or pray, then walk out. Do this consistently to establish a new bedtime routine. Be patient and understand that if you get upset, the little one will only become more upset, and it will not result in a positive outcome.

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