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Health & Parenting

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Kids Gone Wild!

WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Denise Schipani

Redbook Magazine Logo

Is your child biting, throwing tantrums, teasing his sister, or giving you attitude? Hang in there — there are solutions. Here, experts share what to do about 8 real-kid behavior problems.


1. Teasing Siblings
"My 8-year-old son teases his 3-year-old sister. He'll bug her and touch her until she goes nuts, or he takes away her favorite toys." -- Jill Bigelow, 38, Brooklyn

Most teasing is simply part of the way brothers and sisters engage with each other, says Alec L. Miller, Psy.D., chief of child and adolescent psychology at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. Siblings tease because they're comfortable enough with each other to say and do things they'd never try out on a friend. That said, a constant refrain of "Mom! She's breathing on me!" is never pleasant. Focus first on the tease-ee, says Miller. Empathize with her, then tell her that the two of you will just ignore the teaser. As for the teaser, try some behavior-modification techniques: He gets a treat if, say, he goes two days without poking his sister. And if you catch him actually being nice to her? "Lavish him with praise," says Miller.

2. Throwing
"My 22-month-old son always throws food or toys off his high chair at me." -- Stacey Boal, 32, West Chester, PA

Every kid tosses food sometimes, because it's fun or because he's full. But he also could be angling for more time with you. "He could be tired, or jealous that you're paying attention to something or someone else," says Susan Fletcher, Ph.D., a psychologist in Plano, TX. When he throws, say firmly, "We don't throw," and take away the tossed toy, or remove him from his high chair, since he's clearly finished.

3. Tantrums
"My 5-year-old daughter throws tantrums like a toddler. She has never received anything she's wanted in response to her hysterics, but the drama continues." -- Sharon Miller, 40, Winchester, VA

It could be that your little girl is addicted to the role of drama queen. "Even if you don't indulge her hysterics with concrete rewards -- like a candy bar in the supermarket checkout -- your negative attention might be encouraging the antics," says Fletcher. Refuse to accept whining, wailing, or flailing as a form of communication. At home, tell her you'll listen once she calms down, then walk away. If you're in public, remove her from her "audience" and take her outside. Use as few words as possible -- "Your behavior is inappropriate and we're leaving the store" -- and don't back down. It may take a few tries, but if you're consistent, the next time you threaten to leave, she'll step back, promises Fletcher.

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