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Dr. Oz on How to Deal With Temper Tantrums

It doesn't take an expert in Pavlovian psychology to know that children can use tantrums to get what they want: kid wants candy in supermarket, mom says no, kid whines, mom says no, kid screams and hurls himself into neighboring carts, mom says, "Oh, OK, just this time." Next time kid wants something, he immediately goes into cart-hurling mode.

No question that tantrums (especially the public ones) can be some of the most frustrating times we have as parents. Choose your battles. If your kid is known to throw a whopping tantrum if he doesn't get extra milk in his cereal, what does it hurt to give him some extra milk? Obviously, you don't want to give in too much or all the time, but it's important to let kids "win" sometimes. The easiest thing is to give in, to do anything to stop the insanity. Intellectually, we know that's not good, because it reinforces bad behavior. Practically speaking, it's much harder to stand your ground. Harder, but not impossible. These strategies should help:

  1. Much of our kids' behavior comes from modeling. Youngsters who see their parents lash out (at each other, at kids, at the Bears) are much more likely to lash out when they're angry. Stay calm and cool, even when disciplining your children. His mirror neurons will kick in, and over the long run, you'll likely have far fewer public displays of destruction.
  2. We believe that the best way to handle temper tantrums is through prevention. Learn to predict the times when your child may be more likely to toss his milk at the people at the next table. The truth is that tantrums are surprisingly predictable: they often happen when kids are overtired, overstimulated, or hungry. (Same holds true for adults, right?)
  3. You shouldn't let a child's habit of throwing tantrums deter you from saying no. Kids need boundaries for many reasons, and they need to know "no." However, you may find that it's more effective to avoid using the N word directly. Maybe you start with a positive: "I love chocolate chips, too, but we're having dinner in an hour."
  4. Make sure all caregivers in your child's life know your ground rules regarding behavior and discipline. Consistency helps kids establish good habits. Inconsistency creates confusion and a side order of tantrums. It might be worth a family conference to make sure you're all on the same page; that's much healthier than having a fight with grandma and grandpa after they let your little princess watch back-to-back Disney videos when you have a no‑TV policy.
  5. If you're in a place where you can ignore a tantrum comfortably (say, your own home, as opposed to church), then go ahead and ignore it. No response from you eventually means he won't lash out to get one. For a child, drama without an audience is like a glass without wine — there's nothing to it. But beware: if you're going to ignore it, you have to stick to that. If he learns that your ignoring it for 30 minutes eventually leads to a great display from you, he will work even harder to overcome the ignoring phase to get that delayed reward.

A New York Times No. 1 bestselling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, MD, is also a professor and the vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Oz, check out You: Raising Your Child and You: Having a Baby, both coauthored with Michael F. Roizen, MD.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
erikaquinones erikaquinones 5 years
Redirect:-) it might help!
GultenNarli GultenNarli 5 years
I have a non-verbal autistic son, who is having tantrums a lot when said no. Ignoring the tantrum and keeping your ground is the key words. My son had a big tantrum at Staples to get a candy at the register and thrown himself and his service dog on the ground, pulling and pushing the poor dog. Screamed and attacked me. I said no firmly and turned my back to them. He tried to turn my face to him, try to make eye contact but I didn't give the attention that he seeked. It was the most difficult and emberissing thing to do. Everybody in the store was staring at us and I didn't have the courage to look at anybody. But at the end he understood that having the tantrum isn't working he got up and came with me nicely. After that he is having minor tantrums or if I am going to get what he asks I definetly make sure that he asks nicely.
VickyStokes VickyStokes 5 years
I posted my comment then read it and saw i never related it to tantrums, but it works for that too. I was warned my 3 year old grand daughter would scream in the store. So I told her we could only stay shopping if she was peaceful. Right at the checkout she screamed happily (yes she was having a great time) It was really hard to leave all my shopping but I did. Next time when she began screaming I went to leave and she stopped. After that no more screaming on shopping trips. Children learn mostly instantly. If this isn't happening look to yourself. What ingredient did you miss ?
VickyStokes VickyStokes 5 years
After reading a book called "Happy Children" I did all the things the author suggested with excellent results - and her ideas agreed with your article. One major point is to stay calm (or act so) and don't seem the least perturbed by any behaviour. And phrase conditions in a positive way. (" If you do not run away when we go shopping we wont have to go home early") To begin my change of tactics I (as the book suggested) I told my two preschoolers we were going grocery shopping. I actually had no intention of doing the shopping till the next day. Off we went and I explained the conditions as we drove. Asa we arrived they began their usual tactics of running in two directions, so I rounded then up and drove home amid tears and "we'll be good, we'll be good". I calmly sympathized and promised we would try again tomorrow. Next day we did the same thing with the conditions re-explained plus a 'remember' when we landed on the store floor. They were perfect. I never had to do the pre-shopping thing again. And it held for other situations. In the bank I just had to mention going home and they were angelic. If you even once don't carry out the going home thing when they misbehave - no matter how inconvenient - your advantage is lost......If remaining calm defeats you (and it is a crucial component) then every time you lose your cool go over what happened in your mind but insert how you would have liked to behave. It only took me two weeks to change my behaviour forever after doing this reprogramming. Sympathizing yet not changing the consequences is good too as then they know you're on their side. For some situations finding a consequence for certain situations can be hard especially with older children but worth the effort.
ChandaEssink ChandaEssink 6 years
I agree and practice most of these good points when it comes to tantrums and my 3-year-old baby boy. I think the hardest part is to do the best thing at the right time (without letting your emotions interfere). Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. I feel your pain, KM, when it comes to undermining grandparents. It sounds like they have issues like my Mother may have. You sound like a good prospect for Dr. Phil.(= Maybe a group meeting would be a start to make sure everyone knows that everyone needs to be on the same page if they truly love those children...otherwise, maybe there's a nice new house on the other side of town?!
KathrynMiller22068 KathrynMiller22068 6 years
I have become pretty good at ignoring the screaming as I have 3 children, a 3 1/2 yrs, 2 yrs and 3 mos. My 3 1/2 year old is sent to his room for his tantrums, I do not allow them! My 2yr old is put in time out or sent to her room as well. She doesn't talk much, just a few words and is going to begin speech within the next month. I decided even though she doesn't talk, doesn't mean she doesn't understand. If she is asked to do something and is in a willing mood she will do it perfectly. My 3 1/2 yr old never use to throw fits like he does now. He had cancer and my in-laws (my son was their 1st grandchild) would always let him do what he wants(and they still do) and would always bring him presents. I had to tell them 2 weeks into finding out that the doctors said he will be fine and there will be no more gift giving and letting him rule the house. I was 9 mos preg and it took everything out of me for them to even be in my son's sight. Both of my older 2 children have my in-laws figured out, as soon as they walk in my house it's like I'm no longer here and neither are the rules. I have told them many times, as well has my husband, that the kids have certain rules that must be followed and they continue to not care. They even seem to play favs, as my son will always get some type of gift when they come, but my other 2 seem to be forgotten about. I did get that stopped as I told them that if they continued with that the gift would NOT be allowed and I would throw it away while they were here. I have even had it where my in-laws were not allowed at our house or to even see our children, to see if that would help them understand that I meant it. Needless to say they still don't get it. I became the terrible daughter-in-law who was keeping their only grandchildren from them for no reason. I have it figured out how to control my children when the fit throwing arises, but my husband and I are in need of some help on how to control his parents. Is there anyone that has some suggestions?? Oh and to add to it, they live 1 mile from us, so we run into these problems often! Thanks in advance to any suggestions!
JenniferMcIntosh68604 JenniferMcIntosh68604 6 years
I have found this works with adults as well.
EvelynRobertson60379 EvelynRobertson60379 6 years
My daughter will scream for hours (literally) when she doesn';t get what she wants. She doesn't stop. It makes me insane. I have tried ignoring it. I have tried yelling back, time out, spanking, putting her in her room, and everything else in between. I am now going to try the earplugs and the Hoover. Something to drown out the noise. I swear she could break glass with that high pitched scream...... :-/ Hopefully she will wear herself out at some point...... We will see.
NtahliMojaje NtahliMojaje 6 years
My daughter screams all day long aftr daycare centre, When she wants something she screams and she cant stop untill she gets it. she does that until she goes to bed.
SriwantiSriwanti SriwantiSriwanti 6 years
“I love chocolate chips, too, but we’re having dinner in an hour.” I tried this believe me it didnt work.. haha.. he still bang his head on the wall, table, hit chair with bare hands... so scary..
CarmenSchnider CarmenSchnider 6 years
Never had a temper tantrum with my 2 year old son, but still remember them from my now 9 year old daughter. Maybe being a bit more mature helped me to naturally implement some of the tips from Dr. Oz without knowing. In any case, his post makes sense!
AliceKatasi AliceKatasi 6 years
This is good news. Thanks. Will try out these tips.
JenniferSimpkins JenniferSimpkins 6 years
I'm a Montessori early education teacher and a Mother of two, and I must say that sometimes it is easier for a teacher, nanny, or other provider to quell a temper tantrum than it is for a parent with their own child, due to the emotional relationships involved. A child's emotions are heightened with their own parent, and so a parent has to work extra hard to get the same results as a professional. But, parents we can do it. Consistency is the key. Also, I recommend yoga or mediation for yourself, so that you can keep your mental strength and calm when the going gets tough. Also, if you child is screaming all day, talk to your child's doctor. They may have some good advice for you based on the needs of your child, and they help you to put your mind at ease. There are a lot of good resources out there to help us frazzled parents.
RayleneFraser RayleneFraser 6 years
ear plugs I find are a definite winner here!
ChassidyStrege ChassidyStrege 6 years
I love the line, " For a child, drama without an audience is like a glass without wine—there’s nothing to it."
SaraBautista SaraBautista 6 years
I agree with these, but sometimes I think you have to find the root cause (more than just hunger, tiredness, etc), which can be tough! Parents if you're stressed, check out my blog - you'll get a laugh and see that you're not alone =)
BrigitteMuir BrigitteMuir 6 years
To ashey and young, i tell my children if they are not going to act polite and nice to go away and redirect their bodies away from me, if it continues i place them in time out. Go full steam ahead, then they will know your serious
LaurenPloeg LaurenPloeg 6 years
I like the point Marissa Morris makes about demonstrating a good tantrum. My daughter hates grovery shopping and we have a tantrum everytime we go. At home she is an angel but get her near a shop and she is a nightmare. I can't let her walk because she runs off or takes things off the shelf, so i put her in the trolley which is an event on its own for all to witness. I constantly feel as though people are staring at me and judging my parenting skills. So Thankyou Marrissa for your insight I will try that as nothing else works. Ignoring your child is next to impossible at the shopping center because it is embarassing having your child play up like that and you can't control the behaviour.
kristinward58857 kristinward58857 6 years
What about if you can't get Grandma and Grandpa on the same page. My daughter throws a fit everyday at nap time. My parents don't believe that she still needs a nap so when she is with them she does not get one. The hardest part is that she has to take nap there three times a week at their house. When we are home she typically does not give me a problem. Now my 1 year old has started mimicking her tantrums when it's time to lay down.
RachelNell RachelNell 6 years
I have 4 kids,and they all go through a tantrum stage but I always nipped it real quick with them.. I only had one child do a store tantrum so we left the store. Leaving all our food and treats, told her if she wanted my attention she would get it. I spent the day annoying her. Played in her room, and with her toys. She no longer wanted me around and said sorry. after that we had no more. At home I don't ignore them I just keep being positive, saying things like I love you, and I like it when you are so loud it shows you have healthy lungs, they eventually get my sarcasm and give up. We also have rules and we fallow them daily from my 17 year old, to my 1 year old... They respect me, and others, even though they are just as sarcastic as I am. Sometimes thats is a bit of a pain, but better thab a tantrum and it usually end in a laugh! :)
LisaBruce9535 LisaBruce9535 6 years
My second child gives up so much easier than the first. Finding what works is an art (though distraction is often the best), each person is different.
Sarah49260 Sarah49260 6 years
Kathryn, 2 years old is not too young to start using some form of discipline. I started when my daughter was 18 months because she started the terrible two/threes early. The earlier you start the better because your child will know what your reaction will be and by the time the get 5 or 6 maybe the tantrums will be less or even completely gone.
JulieSullivan3861 JulieSullivan3861 6 years
Common sense, but easier said than done.
JessicaKozel JessicaKozel 6 years
ha! Dr Oz, try your 'tips' on my 4 year old! Ignoring does nothing, cause he does not stop. He'll cry for 30 mins, he doesn't care. That consistency crap is BS too, cause my hubby and I have been consistent in our discipline since he turned 2, and none of it does any good. He always gets time outs for talking back, or yelling at me or his dad,among other things, and he is just as likely to do it again. I can tell him how shit goes til I'm blue in the face, and it just goes in one ear and out the other, NOTHING is retained. So then what???? lol
JenniferWhitson JenniferWhitson 6 years
When my son has a tantrum and I try to ignore it, it is often followed by actions that are destructive such as throwing, slamming things, etc. Since these actions can be harmful to him and people around him, I am usually quick to take action but isn't that also reinforcing? I try to just take away the objects without fully engaging and reacting verbally. Is there a better way? It's one thing to ignore screaming but quite another to ignore a wake of destruction!
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