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Negotiating World Peace

You play the mind numbing song “Baby Shark” for the billionth time and you decline the request from
your two year old to play it again. What follows would have dictators and oligarchs envious of the
power wielded by your two year old. The toddler tantrum is a very difficult entity for parents to negotiate.

The psychologist, Eric Erickson, laid out eight stages of man’s psychosocial development. Each stage has
a task to accomplish. Toddlers from 18 months to three years old have the task of achieving autonomy over shame. He stated that the basic virtue to achieve this is sheer will. The challenge for parents then is to allow their children to gain autonomy without harming their sense of self, but also to ensure that the
tantrum behaviour is not condoned.

The first step to managing tantrums is to understand that they are not always simply bad behaviour.
They often represent underlying distress about a thing such as a toy or a response to a change of
routine. Although frequent and aggressive tantrums may warrant medical attention to look at developmental issues or a psychological diagnosis, most tantrums are a normal rite of passage for

The common wisdom teaches that negative attention is still attention, so that ignoring a tantrum is the
correct response. In addition, common wisdom suggests that parents should encourage children to
verbalize rather than emote; “use your words” is the mantra.

Dr. Helen Egger, a psychiatrist specializing in early childhood development suggests that parents be a
“container” to keep children safe and weather the storm. The tantrum can be deconstructed and
discussed afterwards. “Things are unglued,” Dr. Egger said. “What do children need to become reglued? They need that feeling that there’s a competent grown-up who is there to contain them.”

So unleash your inner Kissinger. Negotiate world peace and manage your toddler’s tantrums.

Dr. Bhooma Bhayana is a family physician in London and the mother of two young men and grandmother of one lovely princess! She continues to find wonder and enjoyment in family practice despite more than 30 years on the job!


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