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Tips for taming tantrums

YOUR friend Deirdre has dropped over for a visit. You each have a cup of coffee and are all ready to catch up on all the gossip. Sitting on the floor nearby is your son Aiden and her son Tyler.

YOUR friend Deirdre has dropped over for a visit.

You each have a cup of coffee and are all ready to catch up on all the gossip. Sitting on the floor nearby is your son Aiden and her son Tyler. They are both toddlers and you are looking forward to a nice visit while they play together.

You settle down to relax and Aiden whacks Tyler with a toy. Tyler starts to howl.

Deirdre takes her son in her arms and you are at your wits end. How embarrassing.

What are you going to do? First, recognize that Aiden's behaviour was typical for a toddler. He wanted the toy, he didn't have the verbal skills to ask for it but when he grabbed it, Tyler pushed back. So, he hauled off and smacked him.

Toddlers often end up using aggression simply because they don't know what else to do. Once Tyler has been soothed and comforted it's time to deal with the problem.

Aiden must learn that aggression is never acceptable. In a very strong voice say, "Don't hit Tyler. Hitting hurts." Your tone of voice and body language should tell him that you are not pleased with his action.

After you have given him that message, hold him until he is calm before you put him back down to play. Tell him he can't play until he is calm.

It's clear that both kids wanted the same toy. Understand that children under the age of three simply don't understand sharing so you need to help them come up with a solution that will meet both their needs. Find a similar toy so that each child has something to play with.

If they were older you could have them take turns, but toddlers are not yet ready for that level of co-operation.

When toddlers are going to be playing with other little ones, it's a good idea to have similar toys so they can each play without sharing. Put away any special toys. If your toddler has a toy rabbit he always sleeps with, it should go to bed while you have guests. Your toddler will definitely not be able to see this special toy being handled by another kid.

There are a few things you can do to discourage aggression in your children. Make sure to tell them clearly that hitting, biting and pushing are not allowed.

Model gentleness. Don't hit or push your kids and never bite them to show how it feels. When we bite them they don't learn that biting hurts, they learn that it's acceptable. After all, if Mommy does it, it must be OK.

Be ready to step in when toddler play conflict begins. Get involved before there is a problem and you can be teaching them better ways to get along.

Kids need to learn non-violent ways to handle conflict. Teach them how to calm themselves and how to walk away. Once they have language you can teach them to count to ten or use their words to work out problems with other kids.

Teach and model problem solving. When they are toddlers it's up to you to solve the problem but explain what you are doing. As they get older they will become skilled at working out conflict with siblings and friends.

Make sure that your kids are getting lots of exercise. Often conflict arises because kids are simply antsy and need to get their bodies moving. If they aren't getting large muscle exercise they might just haul off and hit someone. Growing bodies need to be used and it's far better that the kids be outside running, rolling and jumping rather that hitting each other.

Notice when your kids are being cooperative.

With a little patience (well, sometimes a lot of patience) you can help your kids to be civil, friendly and well-behaved while having fun with their friends.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. If you want to read more, sign up for her informational newsletter at