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Temper Tantrums

My two-year-old son has really started to have temper tantrums. What do you do to get your toddler through this?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: As adults, my husband and I do not have tantrums. You’ll hear no yelling and screaming from the adults in our family. We ask that there be no yelling and screaming from the children either.

When my toddlers would have tantrums in public or at home, I would always convey the same message: Your tantrum will not change my behavior, and it’s undignified. So stop it.

Children always seek positive attention, but second best is negative attention. I try not to make “no” a reflex answer to the kids.  Most children will push back against a “no” but there are clever ways around every situation that you want to “no.”

Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH, a mom of 13- and 8-year-old daughters and 12- and 10-year-old sons, a radiation oncologist with 21 C. Radiation Oncology, and the inventor of the Mommy Bag, filled with supplies for moms-to-be having C-sections, in Scarsdale, NY

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: One of the hardest things when my daughter was a toddler were the terrible twos. She was very high strung, determined, strong-willed, and opinionated. When we were out in public, sometimes my daughter would throw a tantrum. I’d want to crawl under a rock. Once my daughter threw a tantrum at a dinner party, and a friend who’s a clinical psychiatrist said my daughter was the most strong-willed child she’d ever seen!

I just weathered my daughter’s emotional storms as best I could. I think that kids are the way they are, and we can’t do much to change their personalities. Even when my daughter was a toddler and it was challenging, I tried to look at her personality traits in a positive light. Teachers would tell me what a natural leader she was.

Now that my daughter is grown up, her determination isn’t a bad thing. Really, it’s a good trait. She excelled in school, and she was accepted into her first choice college. Sometimes the qualities in a toddler that drive you nuts become tremendous assets as kids grow up.

Debra Jaliman, MD, a mother of one 20-year-old daughter, a dermatologist in private practice, and an assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply:  My son, Benjamin, is almost two. He’s starting to form his own opinions, and he’s increasingly aware of what he likes—and what he doesn’t like.

Recently, we’ve been dealing with temper tantrums, such as when he wants something and we’re reluctant to give it to him. What’s interesting is how quickly he can turn a tantrum on, and how he can turn it off so quickly when we give him what he wants!

Benjamin’s temper tantrums are really quite impressive. It’s as if he’s about to blow his top. He throws himself on the floor and tries to knock his head on something. But the second Benjamin gets what he wants, he’s all smiles. He turns those tears off in a heartbeat!

My husband and I try to ignore our son’s temper tantrums. We try not to show any alarm so as not to feed into them. The funny thing is, at first Benjamin used to throw himself down really hard, but now he settles himself to the floor and barely knocks his head. I think he has learned that it hurts.

Nancy Thomas, MD, a mom of a 22-month-old son who practices general obstetrics and gynecology in a thriving practice in Covington, Louisiana, with Ochsner Health System

The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.