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Taming toddlers' tantrums.

Taming toddlers' tantrums

Most children resist going to bed once in a while, but one out of four toddlers regularly turns bedtime into a screaming ordeal. Physicians and advice books often tell parents to ignore the crying for longer and longer periods, but many find they can't resist the onslaught long enough for this technique to work.

Psychologists from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock find another method reduces bedtime tantrums just as well and is easier on the parents.

Lisa A. Adams and Vaughn I. Rickert sorted 36 tantrum-torn families into three groups. In the first parents ignored the tantrum for a short time, then comforted the child briefly. Gradually, the parents ignored the crying for longer times. In the second group, parents moved the bedtime later and set up a pleasant, shared bedtime routine such as helping the child into pajamas, reading a story together and rubbing the child's back. Over six weeks, they nudged the bedtime back to its original time. Parents in the third group simply treated the tantrum as they had before.

The first two types of treatment over six weeks resulted in shorter and fewer tantrums; tantrums in the third group showed no change. Parents using the positive-routine method also reported that their marriages improved, possibly because the couples had more peaceful time together, the researchers report in the November PEDIATRICS. These parents liked the positive-routine method so well that they still used it six weeks after the study, Rickert says. Tantrums are "a difficult problem, so when you show [parents] something that works they tend to stick with it," he says.

The study demonstrates that parents have different options in dealing with behavior problems, says Lewis P. Lipsitt, director of the Child Study Center of Brown University in Province, R.I. In addition, it represents a change from earlier pediatric studies, which described difficult behaviors but didn't tests ways for parents to deal with their children.

Rickert suggests pediatricians explain both of the tantrum-reducing methods to parents so they can choose what suits their family. For instance, a single parent might prefer the positive routine as a way to spend more time with the child, while an at-home parent might want to use the ignoring regimen. "We need to be able to take what we know and tailor it to the parents," Rickert says.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 18, 1989
Words:395
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