Can tantrums be prevented?

There might be no foolproof way to prevent tantrums, but there's plenty you can do to encourage good behavior in even the youngest children.

For example:

Be consistent. Establish a daily routine so that your child knows what to expect. Stick to the routine as much as possible, including nap time and bedtime. It's also important to set reasonable limits and follow them consistently.

Plan ahead. If you need to run errands, go when your child isn't likely to be hungry or tired. If you're expecting to wait in line, pack a small toy or snack to occupy your child.

Encourage your child to use words. Young children understand many more words than they're able to express. If your child isn't yet speaking or speaking clearly you might teach him or her sign language for words such as "I want," "more," "drink," "hurt" and "tired." The more easily your child can communicate with you, the less likely you are to struggle with tantrums. As your child gets older, help him or her put feelings into words.

Let your child make choices. To give your toddler a sense of control, let him or her make appropriate choices. "Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?" "Would you like to eat strawberries or bananas?" "Would you like to read a book or build a tower with your blocks?" Then compliment your child on his or her choices.

Praise good behavior. Offer extra attention when your child behaves well. Give your child a hug or tell your child how proud you are when he or she shares toys, follows directions, and so on.

Use distraction to change your child's focus. If you sense frustration brewing, try to distract your child. Suggest a new activity or change location.

Avoid situations likely to trigger tantrums. If your child begs for toys or treats when you shop, steer clear of "temptation islands" full of eye-level goodies. If your toddler acts up in restaurants, make reservations so that you won't have to wait or choose restaurants that offer quick service.

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