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Simple Strategies to Permanently Change Bad Behavior
for the Better
by Michele Borba, Ed.D.

Author of Don't Give Me That Attitude!: 24 Things Kids Do and How to Stop Them


Tantrums and Meltdowns

Tantrums are sure to be in the top of parents’ list of "obnoxious kid behaviors" and when your kid uses this routine in public it’s just plain humiliating. Here are a few secrets to stopping those meltdowns.

Anticipate—don’t wait. Your best bet is to always anticipate the meltdown before the explosion. And each child has unique signs that a tantrum is on its way so watch for your child’s: a tight fist, antsiness, a certain whimper – then immediately redirect his behavior. "Want to get out of the stroller and push it with Mommy." Or distract him: "Look at that little boy over there."

Do NOT react. Kids use tantrums to get what they want because they’ve learned it works. So never to give in to the outburst. If you must use earplugs do so, turn your back or even walk away: No eye contact, no words, no reaction. In fact, the more involved you are, the longer the tantrum lasts. So don’t react.

Set a consequence. If the behavior persists then set a consequence such as time out. There’s a trick though: time out only works if you use it every time the tantrums occurs and the minute it starts. So wherever you are -- calmly move your kid to a secluded spot—no toys, TV or other kids—so he learns to doesn’t deserve to play or receive attention from anyone when he uses inappropriate behavior. Time starts the minute he is CALM – not before. The rule is usually one minute for age.

Teach self-control. Teach your child how to express strong feelings using words instead of tantrums. Encourage him to tell how he feels: "I’m mad" or "I feel cranky." Do praise him when he tells you his frustrations: "You asked for help when you were upset. Good for you!" Tantrums are never pleasant, but you can use them to teach your child important lessons on communicating needs and handling frustrations appropriately.

Remember: behavior is learned. Make sure you’re teaching your children the right way to behave, then don’t stop until they do.



Michele Borba, Ed.D., is an internationally renowned educational consultant and recipient of the National Educator Award and has presented workshops to over 750,000 participants worldwide. She is the award-winning author of 19 books including Don’t Give Me That Attitude! (ISBN: 0-78789-7333-5; Jossey-Bass, April 2004), No More Misbehavin’ and Building Moral Intelligence (Jossey-Bass) chosen by Publishers’ Weekly’s list of “most noteworthy for 2001.” She is a frequent guest expert on TV and NPR talk shows including Fox & Friends, The View, the Today Show, Canada AM, Focus on Family, KGO, and serves on honorary board to Parents magazine. Check out www.moralintelligence.com for more information on Dr. Borba. Her work can also be reviewed at www.parentingbookmark.com.


© 2006 by Michele Borba. Please contact for permission to reprint.




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