Temper Tantrums: What Your Toddler is Trying to Tell You (and How You Can Help)

December 18, 2011 by Kailani  
Filed under family topics, kids, toddler

When your toddler is melting down, it’s easy to chalk the tantrum up to anger or frustration (and to get angry and frustrated yourself). But a new study that analyzed the sounds that tots make when they are pitching a fit shows that there may be more to a tantrum than just a lot of screaming — and may offer parents a way to cope.

In the study, which was published in the journal “Emotion,” scientists recorded the sounds toddlers make during tantrums and discovered that not only does each type of sound (screaming, yelling, crying, whining, and fussing) have its own “distinct acoustic features,” there’s a definite pattern to the vocalizations as well.

“Screaming and yelling and kicking often go together,” study co-author Michael Potegal, an associate professor of pediatric clinical neuroscience at the University of Minnesota, told NPR. “Throwing things and pulling and pushing things tend to go together. Combinations of crying, whining, falling to the floor and seeking comfort — and these also hang together.”

So, what’s really going on when a toddler is having a meltdown? “Frustration certainly is a trigger,” James A. Green, head of the department of psychology at the University of Connecticut and a co-author of the study, told Yahoo! Shine. “Blocked goals can results in frustration, which leads to anger. Same is true of adults, actually.”

But the scientists also discovered that, contrary to popular belief, toddlers aren’t just melting down out of anger, they’re also feeling sadness at the same time.

“The impression that tantrums have two stages is incorrect,” Potegal said. “In fact, the anger and the sadness are more or less simultaneous.”

Certain conditions can make it more likely that a toddler will melt down, Green points out. “Fatigue or illness can lower the tolerance for frustration,” he points out. “Toddlers, or so the conventional wisdom goes, simply do not have as many cognitive ‘tricks’ up their sleeves to deal with these situations.” (Older kids, however, should be better able to deal with such situations, which is why their angry outbursts are called rages, not tantrums.)

1. Wait it out. If your toddler is having a tantrum, there’s little you can do other than wait it out, experts say. “My colleague and collaborator, Mike Potegal, talks about ‘standing back’ during the periods of most intense anger, and I think he means both physically and emotionally,” Green says. “Trying to give more information to a child who has already lost control may not be very helpful.”

“Best to scoop up your tyke and take her to a place where she can calm down without being disruptive to others,” suggests Michelle Nicholasen, a mother of five and the author of “I Break for Meltdowns: How to Handle the Most Exasperating Behavior of Your 2- to 5-Year-Old.” “Is it a drag for the parent? Oh, yes, and tiring, too. But wait out the storm and it will pass.”

2. Don’t threaten, cajole, or bribe. You might not be able to control the tantrum itself, but you can control how you react to it, Nicholasen points out. “Parents can make tantrums much worse by yelling at their child to stop, or by threatening them,” she says.

Instead of asking questions or trying to reason with a 2- or 3-year-old, simply acknowledge that they’re upset. “Toddlers who are in the middle of a meltdown are incapable of hearing our message (reasons, reassurance or warnings) until they’re sure we understand and respect their message,” says Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Toddler on the Block.”

3. Offer comfort. Once children have gotten past what Potegal calls “the peaks of anger,” they’re more willing to be comforted.

4. Find the humor in the situation. Many parents end up just as frustrated and angry as the child during a tantrum, but as Green points out, tantrums are completely normal — up to a point. “This too shall pass,” he says. “Tantrums are normative events in development and usually decline after age 4.”

While you’re waiting for your tot to get over his or her anger, having a sense of humor can help. “Imagine a grown-up acting like your child, and you will soon have to stifle a smile,” Nicholasen says.

5. Don’t take it as a personal failure. “As parents, we are much more self-conscious about being judged when our child is misbehaving in public. The things that go through our minds are: Am I raising my child to be a wild animal? Have I not taught him enough manners? My child is acting like a little brat; what am I doing wrong? But even when you do your best, sometimes a collapse will still happen.”

Information courtesy of Yahoo! Shine


Confidence Starts at the Cradle: Tips for Raising a Confident Toddler

August 29, 2010 by Kailani  
Filed under baby, family topics, toddler

All parents want to raise a child who believes that they can become whatever they want to be.  In order for children to strive toward reaching their maximum potential, it is important for parents to encourage confidence from the early years on.  As Norman Vincent Peale once said, “Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”  Here are four tips from the experts at Baby Potential, a new San Antonio-based company that produces infant and toddler apparel embroidered with career patches, to raising a confident toddler that could someday smile all the way to the White House or the Forbes 400.

  1. Show – Children, even the very young, are incredibly perceptive.  In order for little ones to feel comfortable in their own skills and social abilities, it is important to set a good example as a parent.  In social settings, be sure to reach out to others, speak positively about yourself and watch your child follow suit to be generous, polite and feel self-assured around others.
  2. Listen – Feeling respected is essential for every person whether young or old to feel confident in themselves.  In order to encourage who they are and what they think matters, listen up!  When babies start to babble, show that you are listening by not interrupting and communicating back to watch their self-worth blossom.
  3. Encourage – Rather than comparing your child to others, encourage the skills that make your child special.  While a father may want his son to pick up the basketball over the cooking set, encourage your child’s inherent interests.  This will not only boost your child’s confidence but make him or her feel unique.  You can even provide a custom onesie or t-shirt that says “Chef” from Baby Potential.  This is one of a choice of 12 silk-screened career patches such as Lawyer, Rocket Scientist, Artist, among other career options.  The onesies and t-shirts are practical, gender-neutral and coordinate with pants, skorts, bibs and burp cloths.  Most importantly they provide positive messaging, underscoring the importance of education, and give back to the community – ten percent of sales are donated to community outreach and educational programs.   Encouragement and using such positive messages will make your child even more secure in their own skin.
  4. Provide – Offer several opportunities for your child to test their capabilities and gain a sense of success.  Everything from signing up for skill-building classes to simply allowing the little one to figure out how to open the cap of a bottle rather than pulling it off shows them what they are capable of.

Follow these practical tips and watch your toddler grow into a confident child, ready to navigate the challenges of academia and later, the world.

Information courtesy of Baby Potential


Fun Family Night with Handy Manny’s Big Race

March 18, 2010 by Kailani  
Filed under entertainment, family topics, toddler


manny1Playhouse Disney is turning primetime into family time with the premiere of its new primetime special “Handy Manny Big Race,” Saturday night, March 20 (7:00-7:25 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel. In this primetime event for preschoolers and parents, Manny and the tools hit the motor speedway as a pit crew for the highly anticipated Wood Valley 500. NASCAR Champion Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and N’SYNC’s Lass Bass guest star.

To get your Family Night up to speed stop by Handy Manny and download fun games, recipes, and tips on enjoying this cool event. In addition, fans can design their very own race car and submit it online for a chance to see it on TV, download Family Night Tips AND cut-outs of racing cars and winners’ flags.

So gather the family and prepare for some great quality time with Handy Manny’s Big Race!

To help you get into the party mood, why not make some cool themed dishes like Manny’s Mini Racing Wheels Burgers!


  • handy1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 small dinner rolls or mini bagels, cut in half
  • 2 slices fat-free cheddar cheese, cut into 2-inch circles
  • 1 small pickle, sliced
  • Ketchup and mustard for garnish


  1. Form ground turkey into eight 1/4-inch thick patties. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook patties about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
  3. Arrange buns, cut side up, on a platter. Place a burger on top of each bun. Lay a slice of cheese and pickle in the center of each burger.
  4. Add dots of mustard and/or ketchup around edge of burgers.

Don’t forget to ask parents if children have any food allergies!

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Playhouse Disney. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”


Reward With Food, Punish With Food: A Recipe For Obesity

March 8, 2010 by Kailani  
Filed under family topics, health, toddler

Working with overweight and obese adults, I have come to understand that many people have lost touch with what their body truly needs. Because food has become a replacement for love and affection, often a source of comfort, and even a place to channel anxiety and stress, overweight people come to me to help them find their way out of the patterns they have developed.

Eating patterns are learned behaviors developed, in large part, during childhood. As the father of three children, I am personally concerned with how patterns of behavior around food are formed and reinforced in my own children’s lives.

Behaviors center on needs. Many people have learned to try and meet their needs in ways that are not healthy–namely with food–and those behaviors start to form in childhood. If you are a parent interested in interrupting patterns of behavior in your children that might lead to obesity, here are some effective tools that encourage healthy eating patterns.

  • Kids need hugs, not candy – Food should not mean “I love you” or “You did a good job.” Rather, food should represent fuel and nourishment for your child’s body. An encouraging or celebratory hug can mean a lot more to a child in the long run than a treat.
  • Differentiate between praise and rewards – Praise is important for both parents and adults. Studies have shown that positive feedback (praise) ranks higher than pay or bonuses (rewards) when it comes to retaining employees, for example. Apply the same principle with your kids. Give them positive feedback rather than rewarding them with ice cream.
  • Don’t punish by withholding food – Many people grew up with the threat of going to bed without supper. Besides reinforcing the notion that food is something other than a vital part of human health, the practice of punishing a child by withholding food is both physically and psychologically harmful. Physically, withholding food puts your child into “starvation mode” and this can cause a metabolic imbalance that contributes to weight gain. Psychologically, a child may overeat when she thinks she may be in “trouble,” as a preemptive measure. Later in life, people who developed this pattern in childhood often unconsciously gorge themselves when they feel as if they have done something wrong.
  • Quit the “clean plate club.” – “Clean your plate” teaches children to ignore their bodies. One of the reasons nutritionists often give for the astonishing rate of obesity in America, compared with obesity rates in other countries, relates to portion size. Studies suggest that portion sizes in America are directly related to obesity levels.
  • Don’t encourage emotional eating – The other day I was picking my son up from kindergarten and I overheard a parent say to her little girl, “Did you have a hard day? Let’s go for an ice cream, would that cheer you up?” I did everything in my power to contain myself as I flashed back on the many overweight and obese clients I have coached who report being comforted with food as a child. Using food to “cheer up” a child can create a dangerous dynamic. Later in life, this pattern of eating as a means of dealing with emotional upset can lead to significant weight issues.
  • Help kids eat consciously – During Super Bowl 2007 I totally lost track of my behavior and consumed an entire bowl of Doritos by myself. Watching a tense football game and unconsciously snacking on crunchy and salty foods is a wonderful illustration of an unhealthy pattern of behavior. Two things are going on–one is the distraction of watching the game, and the second is the anxiety I am feeling–that contribute to this behavior. Letting children eat in front of the television can create similar unhealthy patterns.
  • Use food to enhance, not dominate, celebrations – Celebrations should revolve around special time spent with family and friends. Activities that are fun and uplifting should be the showcase of any child-centered get-together or party. When children learn that expressing joy and excitement involves overeating or eating unhealthy foods it can lead to life-long weight issues.
  • Make snacking a healthy activity – Rewarding kids with unhealthy foods at the end of a long day may create a habit that lasts a lifetime. Even juice and crackers can undermine a primary meal–kids who have sweet snacks don’t eat dinner. Rethink snacks as nutritious mini-meals. Try celery, carrots, and apples.
  • Don’t lead your child into junk-food addiction – Every parent I know is terrified of their child becoming an addict. Typically we don’t think of food as addictive, but research is starting to link certain types of food coupled with certain behaviors around food with addictive patterns. Dopamine, a chemical released in the brain that’s associated with drug and alcohol addiction, is also released in association with certain types of food. Research has shown that rewarding with “junk food” (foods high in sugar and fat with little nutritional value) may be directly related to the circuits in the brain associated with addiction.
  • Use strategic dining – Dinner in my household used to be a bit of a disaster. My wife and I served our children a plate full of food, including a protein, starch, and vegetable. My hungry children would go straight for the starch, leaving the protein and vegetable untouched. Now we serve the vegetable first, followed by a protein. Once those have been consumed we bring out a moderate portion of starch.
  • Encourage outdoor playtime – The number one reward in our house is additional outdoor play time. Interestingly, scientists say that exercise also stimulates dopamine release and raises the number of dopamine receptors in the brain.

michaelFinding ways to meet our children’s needs in healthy and positive ways will have lifelong implications. We must help our children to listen to and respect their body signals, so that food is only associated with physical hunger. This is the best way I know of to curb the obesity crisis in America.

* * * * *
Freeman Michaels, who played Drake Belson on The Young and the Restless in the mid-1990s, is now a nationally known weight-release coach and seminar leader, and author of a new book about his successful approach, called Weight Release: A Liberating Journey (Morgan James Publishing, $16.95). You can find out more about him at www.servicetoself.com.


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