Taming toddlers at Christmas

Reporter: Rodney Lohse

Temper tantrums and shopping at Christmas seem to go together like turkey and cranberry sauce. In fact, shopping often seems to bring out the worst in children. While most parents know why their kids throw tantrums, a child expert who has founded a Positive Parenting Program said they don't have to be tolerated. "It is simply not true that all children throw tantrums," child psychologist Professor Matt Sanders said.

"As children are moving into toddlerhood, they are starting to become a little more independent and they want to express their will. They want to resist what parents are asking them to do." Professor Sanders' "Triple P Program" has just completed research into what triggers shopping tantrums and has devised a plan to beat them. Professor Sanders said parents have to avoid the traps - things that will inevitably lead to tantrums. "Bad timing - if you take them when they are tired and they haven't had something to eat uou are more likely to have whingey, demanding kids, " Professor Sanders said. Also, parents can't let shopping become boring for children.

"There are lots of things kids can be involved in - pushing the trolley, searching for things. It's a good place for learning about colours and shapes and functions of objects," Professor Sanders said. And don't ignore good behaviour. If children do the right thing, praise them, and if they do the wrong thing, don't react when they escalate the situation, he said. "What children are learning is that when you don't get your own way, all you have to do is turn up the volume, become louder, become more insistent, and parents will go rubbery at the knees, cave in and give the children what they want," he said.

And children need to practice shopping, so don't leave kids home, he said. "Set a few simple ground rules before you leave home that you remind the child just before you go in the store, and if one of your ground rules is not asking for things, then you remind the child of that rule. "Better still, you ask the child this question â?? 'So what do we have to remember when we go shopping today?'," he said. Professor Sanders said it is a good idea to try and control your children's tantrums because they won't necessarily grow out of them.

"We all know adults that have enormous anger control problems and sometimes these adults that throw a wobbly when they don't get their own way. They have learned over a lifetime of violence and aggression that losing it wins," he said.

And he has one tip for everyone else. When you see a mum or dad trying to deal with a tantrum, don't get involved. You are just making their lives harder than they already are.

For further information on Triple P Program, visit the website at http://www.triplep.com.au/ or phone (07) 3236 1212.