Avoiding unwanted tantrums and meltdowns

Dec. 24, 2012 at 11:44 PM
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BOSTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Christmas can be over-stimulating for young children, with pressure-packed traveling, shopping, churchgoing and family events, a child psychologist says.

Dr. Jonathan Comer said to avoid unwanted tantrums and meltdowns by your kids -- or by someone else's -- schedule travel time and events during non-nap hours, when children are at their best.

Identify a few specific behaviors that are often challenging for your child and discuss them. Clarify the behavior you would like to see. Think of a "positive opposite" of the behavior you do not like, Comer suggested. For example, "Please hold my hand while we walk through the airport," rather than, "Don't run away from me."

Provide extra attention for positive behaviors, such as sharing, listening and following directions. For example, you might say, "Thanks for holding my hand while in the airport," before your child has a chance to let go and run away. Or perhaps, "Great job following directions like I said!" or, "Thank you for sitting quietly on the seat -- that makes traveling a lot easier and a lot more fun for all of us," Comer advised.

Prior to the event, identify a reasonable reward the child can earn for following the rules and immediately follow through with giving the agreed-upon reward after the child engages in the behaviors desired, Comer said.

Find several different, engaging and fun distractions for your child to play with while traveling or at an event.

Use a calm, neutral tone of voice when speaking with your child and giving directions, Comer advised. Avoid giving a lot of positive or negative attention to a child's acting-out behavior, and give a clear directive of what behavior you would like to see instead, Comer said.

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