Q: My grandson is going to be two years old next month. Whenever he doesn’t get his way he screams at the top of his lungs and throws a tantrum. My daughter says it’s a stage, but I don’t remember my children doing that. What can I do to help?
A: Your concern for your grandson is admirable. Although you might not agree with your daughter’s assessment that his tantrums are “just a stage,” our counsellors suggest that it’s best to be careful in broaching the subject with her. Your grandson’s parents should have the final say in the way their children are reared. Unless they suspect negligence or neglect, our counsellors recommend that grandparents offer advice only if asked and work at building a relationship in which they can compare notes and share the benefits of their parenting experience.
That said, if your daughter is open, there are some general principles you might share with her. Very young children sometimes need help controlling their emotional reactions. A parent’s job is to set definite boundaries for the expression of childish anger and frustration and to enforce those boundaries with consistent consequences. Time outs are especially effective with toddlers. Taking a screaming toddler to a neutral location—perhaps his bedroom—and leaving him alone for a predetermined period usually does the trick. Our counsellors suggest one minute of time out for each year of a child’s age—in other words, two minutes for a two-year-old.
Your daughter might also find useful advice in Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, “Have a New Kid by Friday.” He suggests that the most effective strategy for extinguishing tantrums is to ignore them. Children often throw tantrums as a way of manipulating their parents. If the parents refuse to be manipulated, the behaviour often ceases.
For help with dealing your child’s behaviour, explore our Resources.
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