1. Browsing peacefully through the department store, your thoughts are suddenly interrupted by the loud temper tantrum of a five-year-old.  Mortified and helpless, the mother tries to appease her little screamer with a new toy, whispering quietly in desperate efforts to quiet the cries of displeasure.

    Like many other shoppers, you cluck your tongue silently in disapproval and move quickly past the scene. 

    Most parents are guilty of giving into demands in order to quiet a screaming toddler in public.  For the moment, the crisis is over and the activity can resume normally.  Unfortunately, a pattern has been set and a behavior reinforced.  The child has learned that kicking, screaming temper tantrums are an effective way to get exactly what he wants.

    It’s about Safety

    Being the bad guy gets old, and no parent likes to feel like a drill sergeant. Saying no to your child is not fun.   However, there are times when a child’s safety and well-being depend upon following the stern warnings of a parent or guardian.  A small child lacks the judgment and experience to know which “no” may mean life or death.  Setting firm limits is a task parents must perform.

    A Few Pointers

    Young children possess the uncanny ability to tune out loud voices.  Yelling “no” is far less effective than a stern, calm voice directing the child.  Maintaining an attitude of calm authority reassures a young child that they are safe.  Children sit up and take notice when a parent gets down on their level to deliver a firm, eye-level direction.

    Pick Your Battles

    Be sure beforehand which things are worth a “no” command.  Too many “no’s” become background noise to a child who is peppered by the word all day.  Where possible, give little ones an alternative rather than just a negative response.  Offer a package of dried fruit in place of a sugary treat after lunch; this will set limits and teach a useful lesson about nutrition.  All of this is accomplished without the child feeling deprived.  Some rules must be non-negotiable.  Rules about car safety seats, for example, are black and white.  The car does not move until everyone is safely buckled. 

    Set early and reinforced without question, these rules will make arguments futile and lay a foundation for firm boundaries later. A child who has been taught to respect “no” from the beginning is more likely to know how to respect curfew and other boundaries as a teenager. 

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