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* Clarify rules to yourself. Before you enter a tantrum-triggering zone, make sure that your rules are reasonable and consistent. There are no compromises at this stage. If your child refuses to eat dinner but insists on dessert, choose one phrase. "Dinner, then dessert." This way, when begging starts or questions are fired at you, you can respond with a simple, sanity-saving comment, almost like a mantra.
* Clarify rules to your child. Before entering a situation that is likely to provoke a tantrum, quietly, but firmly explain what is expected of your child. "You may watch this program. When it is over, TV is turned off. Do you agree?" If a tantrum occurs when TV is turned off after program, your phrase can be, "We agreed, no more TV today."
* Stay Calm. Easier said than done. Try to tune out. Try to ignore unwanted behavior by not responding or responding only with your practiced phrase. A child will realize that she's getting nowhere and be confused. She'll turn up heat. The cries may become screeches and dinner may be thrown across room (although it might be a good idea to remove dinner after a few refusals, just in case). That's OK. She's getting message. If you do not react, she will eventually realize. The tantrum isn't working.
* Don't give up. This is imperative at this stage. If you usually give in after five minutes and this time, you held out for ten, next time you're in for a longer stint. In your child's mind, tantrum still worked, she just had to work a little harder. So will you.
* Reward immediately. If you stick with it, eventually your child will see that tantrums no longer have any effect. As soon as you see tiniest improvement, offer a reward. I don't mean to change your rules. If your child screams for only two minutes instead of three and then agrees to turn off TV, don't reward her with more TV. She will be confused. You will be sending her a mixed message. Reward her with a story or a walk or a cuddle. "You cried much less today than you did last time. Good for you."
Taming tantrums is challenging and rewarding. Be gentle with yourself. There will be setbacks and days when things seem worse. It can be difficult but it's temporary. When your child's eyes begin to shine through haze of anger and frustration, you will agree. The long-term benefits are worth it.
Ann Harth is a freelance ghostwriter, manuscript assessor, copyeditor, and published author. Ann writes a regular column on running a home business for the Writing4SuccessClub website. Her columns can be viewed at http://www.writing4successclub.com Additional information on Ann Harth's published work and freelance services can be found on her website at http://www.annharth.com