What Can I Do About Tantrums?


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Q: My 6-year-old son is constantly whining and demanding things. I've tried time-outs, but they are ineffective. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Consistency is the key to effective results. A child can whine, demand and throw tantrums until the child gets what he or she wants. You must be equally tenacious until you get what is best for the child. The important thing to remember is that, as parents, we influence this challenging behavior. There are two points of influence where you can change your child's behavior.

One point of influence is how we react and what we say when this behavior happens. We cannot allow whining to be OK in one instance and not OK when we don't feel like hearing it. When we are inconsistent, our children learn that "whining gets me what I want when I use it at the right time." It may seem that a whining child's goal is to get on your nerves. But, it's not. The child's goal is to meet a perceived need. It seems easier to surrender just to make the screeching sound end. This would be a mistake because your surrender tells the child that whining works. The child will use it again, again and again, and it quickly becomes habit.

A second point of influence is the use of discipline. Discipline is necessary for a child's growth and development, and it is crucial for him or her to become a happy and productive part of society. Teaching your child how to respect and receive discipline provided with love is a vital part of his or her development. As parents, we want our children to develop coping skills that will enable them to navigate relationships and life challenges with self-discipline and respect for self and others. Parents are the guide for children. Discipline cannot be used in anger or as a way to lash out. It is not about control. Discipline is about teaching and showing how to discipline one's self. This requires a huge amount of time and energy, but our children are worth every second we pour into them.

So hang in there and keep trying. As parents we cannot allow our children free rein. Instead we must be that consistent, loving guide that leads them to better behaviors - and a quieter house!

Debra C. Mack, RN, MSN, is the director of child and adolescent inpatient at Behavioral Health Hospital/Cone Health Network. Send questions for Is My Kid OK? To sherri.mcmillen@conehealth.com.

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