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Two Year Old Tantrum

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Dear Dr. Susan”

My two year old, whines and throws tantrums like any other, however, she is more apt to and at a higher degree when she is with both me and my mother-in-law. She is fine and happy when she is alone with my mother-in-law, but once I show up she starts to whine which then turns into a tantrum. What do you suggest?


Dear Caroline:

I am delighted you understand this is normal 2-year-old “stuff”. Children are “here and now” concrete, literal thinkers, so when your mother-in-law is leaving and you are coming (or vice versa) your daughter’s got you both, and can use your “physical presence” as a way to show she wants your attention, and to show her relief that “out of sight is not out of mind”. You are interesting to her when you are with her, because you are a very good companion and she has your attention, and she can get just as much attention by whining and tantruming as when she does not.

So it’s easy. Give her attention for being good, ignore the whining and tantrums (by not calling her by name or looking right at her) and “catch” her doing the right thing. Do not ignore her when she is playing happily or eating well, or being helpful or cooperative. If you pay attention to the bad “stuff’” you will just get more of it. Catch her and give her compliments, walk away from tantrums, but keep her safe.

Thanks for writing,

Susan H. Turben, Ph.D. 

Ask Dr. Susan