Acting Classes for Parents: Acting Up, Acting Out, and Learning to Read Cues

Acting classes for parents: acting up, acting out and learning to read cues

A summary of a behavior and discipline Q and A conversation with Drs Scott Goldstein and Rebecca Unger in the Family Matters Parenting Discussion Series

By Rebecca Unger MD

May, 2019


Q:  What do I do if my toddler often “goes crazy”?

A:  It is common for toddlers to lose their mind. It is good for them to be curious. It is typical for a toddler to have mood swings, test limits, have minimal impulse control and believe that the world centers around him. Show your toddler a more helpful alternative. Ignore the undesired behavior and let him know that that you will pay attention to him once she calms down.


Other tips for toddlers:


Q:  How do I handle temper tantrums in general, and what do I do if my toddler has a temper tantrum when I am out and about?

A:  Temper tantrums are excellent learning devices. Tantrums help your child learn that she can calm herself down (rather than kick and scream) to get your attention. It is helpful to tell your child that while she is having a temper tantrum (because you love her so much and you want to help her learn to calm herself down) you will ignore her, but after she calms down, you will give her a big hug.  Positive physical contact after the temper tantrum can be very helpful. It is helpful to have this communication during a calm moment, rather than in the middle of a tantrum moment.


If the temper tantrum is in a public place and your child is not calming herself down:

  1. Gently explain to your child that you will leave the location.
  2. Calmly leave with your child and ignore her screaming and undesirable behavior as much as possible. This is not easy, but do your best!
  3. Remember the other families at the playground, museum or grocery store have been there and done that too!


Other temper tantrum tips:


Q:  When my child is hungry or tired and I can see that she is on the path towards being naughty, what should I do?


A:  Ignore and distract!! Encourage your family to engage in regular and healthy routines around mealtime and sleep time.  Limit screen time, especially during mealtime and bedtime. Try to minimize rushing during transitions as much as possible (pick out school clothes/pack a lunch the night before, get breakfast partly ready ahead of time, wake up a bit earlier).


Q:  What do I do about afterschool meltdowns?

A:  After a long at school, it makes sense that your child might be uncommunicative and somewhat cranky.  Consider providing an afterschool snack on the way home from school. Try to avoid asking “How was your day?” or “How was school today?”. Instead of the dreaded, “How was your day” question, try something like, “Tell me about the best (or worst) part of your day. Did any of your classmates do something funny today? What did you read/learn about today? Did you ask any interesting questions?

Q: What do I do if my child will not sit at the dinner table?
A:  Family meals are one of the most important priorities to help your child survive and thrive. Family meals even reduce teenage risk-taking behaviors. There is a lot to learn around a screen free dinner table (unless it is the World Series!).  Believe it or not, this could start as early as when your 6-month-old baby is eating more and more table food. 

If your child if not being helpful at the family meal table (throwing food, getting up and down) try these steps:
1. Ask him to stop the undesired behavior. Maybe give him a second chance after your warning. 
2. If things persist, gently ask him to leave the table.   Explain that his behavior is unacceptable in your home.  
3.  Help remove him from your family meal. Ignore him while the remaining family members continue enjoying the meal.  Exaggerate that enjoyment by throwing confetti, lighting candles, telling jokes, etc. It is likely your ostracized child will not make that same decision twice, or certainly not three times.   Do not worry about the nutritional status of your child!  He will not go to bed hungry if you give him a hearty bedtime snack.  He does not have to know the hearty snack was given because he did not eat dinner.  This is another tool in his ‘coping tool box’ to help him all along the way.  

Q: What about sticker and star charts?
A:  Let’s call this behavior modification rather than bribery.   For some children this could be very motivating.   Help your child create her own chart.  You could help her draw a simple board game (like Candyland!) with 5-10 squares, or whatever you think is best. Once she reaches the finish line, a simple family reward goes a long way. 


Other important tips

Rebecca Unger MD

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