Recently, in many of my parent groups and private sessions, tantrums seem to be the topic of choice.  Tantruming is not new to childhood but it seems that every day an expert has a new way to end your child’s tantrums. I say stick with the tried and true…

Before your child tantrums, think about what sets them off.  Why does he or she tantrum?  Think about where your child is developmentally.  Is your 3 year old having a tantrum because you won’t give him something he wants?  Is your 19 month old tantruming because she’s lost control of herself?

When a toddler has a tantrum it is often because they are melting down, tired, or hungry.  Whatever the cause, a toddler does not have the tools to calm their bodies and regain control on their own.  They need you.  At this age I recommend that you sit on the floor next your child, tell them you see they are having a hard time and that you are going to help them calm down.  Some like to be held, others do not want to be touched.  You can ask your child what they prefer, or just try what you think might work and see what happens.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean to give in if the child is demanding something, it just means that you are giving your child what they need.  Something, at that moment, that a toddler can not do for themselves.

As your child gets older, think about their temperament and try these techniques:

Reflect your child’s emotions.   Bend down so that you are level with their eyes.  Try saying, “You are so mad (fill in the emotions) right now.  I know you really wanted that 5th scoop of ice cream but you may not have it.  I understand that makes you feel angry and sad.”  Then move on.  Give your child a choice, should we play with blocks next or take out the crayons.

Give positive alternatives.  Explain to your child that banging that block on his infant brother’s head is not a choice, but he can bang the block on another block, or play the drums if he feels like banging.  Remind your child that banging on another person’s body is not safe.  Ask, “where do you think is a safe place to bang?”

Keep it light.  Use a little humor to diffuse the situation.  When your child is begging you not to go out to dinner, remind them that you have to come home to sleep in your bed.  Ask them “Can grown-ups sleep in a restaurant?  A car?  On the table?  No! How silly!  Grown-ups have to come home to sleep in their beds.”  We even use this idea during the separation process at school.  When your child is having one of those delightful moaning tantrums, reflect their feelings and be silly.   “You are so mad, I wonder if you can stamp your feet as loud as I can.”

Ignore it.  There are times when a child begins to have a tantrum, that the best thing you can do is simply ignore it.  Check in to be sure your child is safe, but keep yourself out of the tantrum.  If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to see it…

Remove them from the situation.  This idea can be interpreted in two ways.  For some children, having a conversation with their grown-up while being distracted by the item they want, the child who has it, or something else that is happening in the environment, is just too much.  For these children, removing them from the situation can mean going into the next room to work through the tantrum in a quieter place.  That being said, sometimes there is no other option than to remove your child from the situation entirely.  If your child has gone past the point of no return, leaving will often give them the opportunity calm their bodies in a less stimulating environment and help them understand that their behavior is unacceptable.

Deciding how to deal with tantrums has a lot to do with your child’s temperament.  I say this often: Parents know their children best.  Think about your child and the way they handle different situations.  Children give us a lot of information every day, from whether they need to be prepared for something new a week before or an hour before, to how to handle their tantrums.  When a tantrum begins, assess the situation, decide on a technique, and set the limit.  Do not tolerate unacceptable behavior.  The consistency in your reactions to tantrums, as with any other behavior, will help your children develop their ability to regulate their own emotions and behaviors.  You can do this!

More questions?  Ask!


Many parents go through a period where they struggle to understand what their children are telling them.   In more challenging situations, parents can have a hard time connecting with their babies.  I often suggest they try considering these times in a new framework.  Consider parenting to be a dance.

Starting from the first moment you hold your infant in your arms, you have to learn about your partner.  Parents must consider the way their children move, the way they speak, sound, and smell.  What type of rhythm do they like?  And just to make it slightly more complicated, each partner or child is different, and as children grow and develop, the dance changes a bit.  Then slowly but surely, you learn how to move fluidly together.

Little by little, you begin to understand who your babies and children are, what works for them, and how to enhance their development and interactions.   You learn the signals that the music is about to change, when to take a step closer and when to take a step back.  Over the years you begin to easily recognize when you partner needs to perform solo, and when only a parent partner will make the dance seamless.  Parenting is a living entity.  Allow for the time to reflect on your partner and the dance.  You’ll be “dancing with the stars” before you know it.  You can do this.

Young children begin taking formal “lessons” in activities for a number of reasons:  Mom or Dad thinks it’s a great idea, the child has expressed interest, friends are participating, they liked the leotard or karate outfit, etc.  Most of the time these activties are wonderful and children thoroughly enjoy them.  But what happens if your young child is unhappy?  What if they resist going to class?

Some children will resist because an activity is new.  This may be the first time they are going to a class where a parent or caregiver leaves the room.  Perhaps this is the first time they have tried this particular activity or its “just one of those days.”  In these cases, I would recommend trying to stick with the activity.  Many times persistence through the initial hesitation will result in a child loving the activity!

It is helpful to remember that a “commitment” for a young child may be shorter than a full 6 or 12 week session.  (Whether or not you can afford to do that financially is another question.)  If your child is resistant, worries, or appears fearful, go and watch a class.  Tell your child that you are going to “try one more time.”  You might encourage them by saying that you are going to stay and watch, or even that you’ll come in with them,  While observing, note whether the class is developmentally appropriate.  Are the instructions clear?  Are they asking very young children to wait while many other children have a turn?  Are the children being engaged by the teacher?  How does the teacher react when a child is hesitant or not following instructions?  Sometimes children just aren’t sure what they’ve gotten themselves into.  If you can understand why your child isn’t happy, it may be time to stop the activity.

Ideally, when signing your child up for an activity, take a trial class first.  This way both of you will have the experience to make an informed choice.  Participating in group activities can teach children innumerable values.  But don’t forget to take into account that children need down time.  Unstructured time at the park or at home is just as important as being sure your child is taking classes.  A parent is the expert on their child.  Use your knowledge and try to make wise choices.  Adjustments can always be made.  You can do this!


Many parents today are concerned about disciplining their children.  Some don’t want to be “mean,” others don’t want to “damage” their children.  Some want to be “friends” with their kids, and others just aren’t sure how to do it.  The key in positive discipline and limit setting is to teach cooperation!  You can start teaching this to your child when he or she is a baby!  Praise positive behavior!  Give them specific and authentic compliments.  Set up opportunities for them to do something “right” and then recognize it.

Different children need different levels of discipline.  Consistency in setting limits is essential, as is giving your children ideas about what they “can do” instead of only what they “can’t do.” Our goal with discipline is to help children internalize pro-social behavior.  I often liken it to swaddling.  Before a baby is able to soothe him or herself, we swaddle them.  Once they are a bit older, we leave their arms out of the swaddle, so that they can work on controlling their hands and arms and start to learn to self soothe.  Eventually, we remove the swaddling all together as babies become better able to control their movements and more deliberately calm themselves.  Consistent limit setting helps young children feel safe.  In time, the concepts we have actively taught our children, will become a part of them instrinsically.

Bottom line…know what expectations are developmentally appropriate for your child, fight the battles worth winning, and be consistent in your reactions.  Acknowledge your childs emotions, but do not tolerate unacceptable behavior.  Teach them to manage their emotions.   Teach them what is and is not okay in your family.  Support them as they learn self-control.  Reinforce their positive behavior.  Children cannot do this on their own.  They need grownups.  Positive discipline and limit setting gives children a lifelong gift!  Start giving to your child today!

Having a successful relationship with your partner helps you both be more effective parents.  Here are some tips for building that relationship.

  1. Be a team: We often hear “there’s no /i/ in team.”  This is never more true than in building a spousal relationship.  If one of you has an issue, it is a problem for both of you.  Be sure to validate your spouses concerns, and work on a solution together.  Invalidating feeings can lead to anger, disappointment and resentment.
  2. Listen: Everyone wants to be listened to.  Listening to your spouse and feeling that your spouse has really heard you, will make a positive impact on your relationship.  Effective listeners face the speaker, ignore or get rid of other distractions, make eye contact, keep an open mind, repeat back what they have heard, and respond appropropriately.  Give it a try!
  3. Take care of each other: In the same way we teach children to make their needs known, adults need to learn to express themselves.  Last I heard, mind-reading was a myth.  Tell your spouse what feels good for you and what doesn’t.  True understanding of each other’s needs will bring an added level of intimacy to your relationship.
  4. Remember that we all fight: A wise woman once told me “it’s not about whether you fight, cause we all fight, it’s about how you resolve conflict.”  Reflect on the way you and your spouse resolve conflict.  Is it working?  What do you do with your anger?   How do you let it go or move beyond it?  How does your spouse?  Do the two styles mesh?  When discussing discipline and difficult situations with children, I remind parents that reconnecting is essential.   Reconnecting with a spouse after conflict is just as important.  You always love them even if you don’t like their behavior.
  5. If you need help, ask for it:  This idea starts with asking for help from each other.  If you are feeling challenged by a particular situation with the children or in your daily life, ask your spouse for help.  When you have reached a point where you are having repeated difficulty resolving issues with your spouse and managing your relationship, go to a professional for help.  That’s what we’re here for!


Overall, try to have realistic expectations.  The transition from being a single person, to a partnership, to a family, is a huge one!  Relationships are something you are always working at.  Reflection is an important piece of the equation.  As your relationship grows and evolves, re-evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  Then make changes.   You can do this!  You, your spouse, your family, and your children, will reap the benefits.

Dana’s Kids

empowered parents, happy families.

Let me start by saying, I’ve had this post ready to publish for months.  I’ve held on to it waiting for the “right” time to make it public.  The bottom line, is that this is a sad, difficult, personal topic, and there is no “right”time.

The way one explains death to a child is a very personal decision. Some people talk about G-d. They might say that G-d needed grandpa and so he went to be with G-d. Others might tell a child the straight truth.  In most situations, it is my belief that you should tell children the truth in language that feels comfortable for you.  “Grandma died.” Or, “Grandma passed away.” 

When a child asks why people die (not all children will ask), turn the question back on him or her.  Ask,”What do you think?”  Or “Do you have an idea why people die?”  The response will give you a good idea of what your child is thinking and how much they are ready to hear.  At a young age, unless the child has an idea that is scary for her or is something you really don’t want her to believe, you can simply support her thoughts.  If the child says she doesn’t know, try saying “let’s think about it” and be silent for a while until she comes up with something to say. 

When it comes to talking about death and other difficult subjects, getting information from a child first is a good way to guage how much they can handle. Young children generally don’t need too much information about “why” people die but rather that they loved us, are all around us, and in our hearts. You can tell your child that sometimes you miss grandma and it makes you feel sad, and sometimes you are happy thinking about all of the wonderful times you had together. You can help your child  write down some things he or she remembers about grandma or some things she’d like to tell her.

There are many books available to help with this difficult topic, but I suggest starting by talking to your child directly. Generally, children already have an idea about death that is age appropriate.  If your child is content to come up with their own ideas, and be comforted by you telling them how much the person who died loved them, you might not need to employ another technique.  For some children and parents, books can help to more easily begin a difficult conversation. 

When grieving, it is okay to show children that you are upset.  Children need to see that grown-up can have a wide range of emotions.  Try your best to seem (even if you are faking it) comfortable talking with them about death.   As your child gets older they may want to revisit and revise their ideas.   This is not an easy subject, but with love and support, both you and your child will get through it.

Dana’s Kids.  Empowered Parents, Happy Families.

Caught Being Good

November 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Dana in challenges | children | parenting anecdotes | tips - (0 Comments)

I was recently on line at the supermarket behind a woman and her daughter.  The child was probably about 6 years old and she and her mother were discussing what they were going to eat for dessert.  They suddenly realized they had forgotten the ice cream cones.  The mother calmly said to her daughter “You go get the cones.  I’ll wait here.”  The child looked at her mother somewhat cautiously and began to walk towards the cones (which could be seen from our line).  The woman told her daughter that she’d watch her, asked if she knew what they looked like and knew where to find the box. 

I told the woman she could come back to her spot in the line if she wanted to go and help her daughter.  The mother thanked me and explained that for a long time her daughter wouldn’t walk 5 feet from her and that they had been working on this for some time.  The child came back with the box, her face beaming with pride.  Her mother gave her a hug and thanked her for her help.

I couldn’t stop myself from telling the mother how impressed I was.  She was giving her daughter the incredible gift of self-confidence.  Great job Mom!  You were caught being a great parent!

I recently wrote a guest blog post for a wonderful website:

Motherhood Later… Than Sooner, founded by Robin Gorman Newman, is an international organization devoted to those parenting later in life. If you became a mom for the first time, or again, at age 35+, we welcome your participation. Our mission is to inform, empower and connect “later” mothers through our site, blog, newsletter, learning opportunities, online communities and in-person events worldwide for moms and families.”

While the post is available for viewing on the Motherhood Later…Than Sooner website, it is applicable to every parent!  Who hasn’t been bombarded with advice and wondered, “should I be doing that?”  The blog post offers some food for thought about what to listen to, and what to let go.

Take a look:

Concerned about your child’s development? Check out the new article I contributed to for New York Family Magazine.

“Understanding the Special Needs Landscape in NYC: Parents Of Children With Special Needs Face A Maze Of Evaluations, Programs And Services. Here’s Some Expert Advice”

Many parents set up an appointment with me when they are feeling frustrated, exhausted, helpless, or a multitude of other emotions.  Most come in to our sessions with an open mind and an open heart, and are willing to try almost anything to make their situations better.  One of the first things I tell parents is that “change takes time.”  After a child has lived for 18 months or 2 years or 5 years finding success with tantruming or talking back or hitting, its going to take time to learn an alternative.  Children need modelling and instruction of positive alternatives.  They need opportunities to be successful, and consistent and continual reinforcement when they make a “good” choice.  Even when all of these things are in place, children tend to show an initial backlash to the change in a parents reaction.   Research shows that true change in any behavior (for a child or an adult) takes 14 days.  During this time I am in frequent contact with parents.  They need support and encouragement during this process.  

Parents: Stick with it!  You can do it!  Your family will be happier and healthier for the effort!