Q: When we reprimand our 34-month-old daughter for something, anything, she begins to wail like we’re beating her. Whether we firmly redirect or simply say, “No,” she begins to wail like a banshee. The wail is piercingly loud, like a full-blown tantrum. She has now started screaming if one of us even looks disapprovingly at her. Shouldn’t she have outgrown this by now? Why is she doing this, and what can we do to stop it?

A: I have no idea why your daughter is wailing like a banshee when you correct her other than to say she has not yet learned to control her toddler nature, which is what “growing up” is all about. Some toddlers, by their third birthdays, have developed fairly good emotional control, and some have not. (You may have noticed that even some fifty-year-olds have not progressed beyond toddlerhood when it comes to their emotions.) Furthermore, children do not “outgrow” this sort of behavior; rather, their parents discipline them such that they learn to stifle it.

You can help your little one learn to put a lid on her tantrums by sending (or taking) her to her room or, better yet, some “neutral zone” in the house (e.g., a bathroom) when she has one of these episodes. Simply tell her she can come out when she stops. Initially, she will probably emerge before she has stopped, in which case you can simply put her back with a gentle reminder. Calm persistence on your part should effect the change you are hoping for.

Q: Our 15-month-old eats well but shares his meal with the dog. He throws food over the side of his highchair just to watch the dog snarf it up. This is funny, actually, but he is tossing the dog lots of food, giggling the entire time. It’s like a hilarious circus act. We are also concerned that the dog will become overweight. Even though it’s hilarious (we try not to laugh, however), it needs to stop. How should we do that?

A: The research, most of which has been done at the Little Rascals Institute for Worser Learning, finds that “feeding the dog behavior” facilitates bonding between child and dog. On the other hand, no harm will come from not allowing the dog in the dining area when the child is eating, and that will certainly be helpful in controlling the dog’s weight.

As an option, consider letting your son feed chunks of dog food (or several gluten-free, non-GMO doggie treats) to the dog from the highchair; then, when sufficient fun has been had by both son and dog, remove the dog and feed the son.

Family psychologist John Rosemond: rosemond.com, parentguru.com.

Living With Children: Curbing Undesirable Behavior

by John Rosemond
From the June 2024 Signs