Jump directly to the Content

Ask Dr. Mary

Toddler Tantrums

My daughter is just 19 months old, but for the last month or so, when she gets mad or upset, she has a total meltdown. She has such wild, uncontrollable temper tantrums I don't know how to prevent or deal with them.

Children misbehave most often when they're hungry or tired. So during this time of developmental growth when your daughter is beginning to develop a will of her own, do your best to be especially alert to her physical needs.
If her physical needs are being met, her tantrums might just be her way of expressing the frustration that comes along with being a toddler. The body of a 19-month-old isn't able to keep up with the busy brain of a 19-month-old. The result is often the kind of meltdown your daughter is experiencing.
Your best chance at reducing the frequency of her tantrums is to try redirecting her. When you see your daughter building up to another meltdown, try to distract her by taking her away from the situation that's causing the problem. If she wants a cookie she can't have, take her out of the kitchen and help her find a toy she likes.
If you can't catch a tantrum before it starts, say a firm "no" so your daughter clearly understands her behavior is unacceptable and then remove her from the situation. These actions can help her shift the focus from both the anger and the wild behavior and let her regain some control of herself.
During these next months, make a deliberate effort to help your child learn three things:
What kind of behavior is and isn't acceptable. Through your words and your example, she'll discover that tantrums don't get her want she wants. And she'll learn how to balance her emerging personal determination with your expectations. Make sure you not only discourage unacceptable behavior, but that you praise her when she handles her anger in a positive way.
How to handle angry feelings. Your daughter needs to learn it's not acceptable to hit or kick another child, for instance, but it is okay to bop the clown punching bag.
How to verbalize her feelings. Two-year-olds are just learning how to use language, and you can encourage your daughter to use words to express her feelings. This will become easier as she moves toward the age of 3, but you can start to model this behavior now.

What if It's ADD?

My son has always been active, and now his third-grade teacher thinks he might have attention deficit disorder or some other problem. I don't know what to do.

First, don't panic. Attention deficit and hyperactivity have become catch-all labels for a variety of special needs. A lot of information must be gathered and your child must be evaluated by a number of professionals before he can officially be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or any similar disorder. Often, a certified school psychologist, clinical psychologist or neurologist will co-ordinate the efforts. Because there isn't one single test for these disorders, obtaining a diagnosis is a complicated process.
At this point, I encourage you to give permission for diagnostic tests, then actively participate in the evaluation process as you pursue a comprehensive treatment program to deal with the issue. Finding out everything possible about your son's learning strengths and weaknesses now will benefit your son and his academic progress in the years to come.
If tests determine that your son does suffer from ADD, don't worry. We know a lot more about this disorder and its treatments today than we did a few years ago. Research has proven that students with ADD can be just as successful as their peers in the classroom and later in the workplace.

The Sex Talk

I want my children to have a Christian understanding of sex and sexual morality. But if I talk to my 11-year-old about it, will it put ideas in his head and tempt him to become sexually active?

No. I don't know of any research that indicates talking about sex actually increases sexual activity. In fact, by ignoring the subject altogether, you leave your son open to all kinds of misinformation and wrong ideas. Talk does not give permission to have sex; talk encourages our children to share their feelings, questions and concerns. When we initiate a discussion about sex or any other sensitive issue, we clearly communicate that "this is a subject you can talk about with me."
Talk to your son now. As an 11-year-old, he's already heard the facts (in health class, from the school nurse) and fiction (from movies, from friends). But he needs to know more than the facts. He needs to learn the facts within your Christian value system. And that's what he'll get when you open up and talk to him.

Outside Influences

My son is only 5, but I'm already having a hard time protecting him from bad influences. I strictly control what he watches on TV at home, but after he plays with friends, even families from church, he uses rough words and talks about television programs that obviously weren't monitored. How can I control what he's exposed to when he's not at home?

There are many negative outside influences we can't control. Even Christian families will disagree about what's acceptable. That's why we must help our children develop a strong core of inner values and beliefs. When they're faced with situations outside the home, they'll make judgments based on what they know is right and wrong.
At 5, your son is starting to develop the ability to make those judgments. When he mentions programs or activities he has observed, reinforce what's right and wrong. This will help him establish a personal internal guidance system based on your family's values.
If you notice an increasing amount of negative influences, look carefully at your child's schedule. Identify potential sources of the problem and modify activities accordingly. Whenever possible encourage your son's friends to come to your house.

Mary Manz Simon is an author, speaker and practical parenting specialist. She has written The Prince of Egypt Timeless Values series.

Have a question for Dr. Mary?
Send it to: "Ask Dr. Mary," Christian Parenting Today,
465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
fax: (630) 260-0114, e-mail:cpt@christianparenting.net

We'd really like to know what you think about this article!
Is this the kind of article you'd like to see more of?
Is there a topic you'd like us to cover?
Please send your suggestions tocpt@christianparenting.net

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters