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Crisis management

If your family outings are frequently interrupted by your preschooler’s energetic and public meltdown, worry not. As mortifying as the experience can be, the tantrums are an integral part of almost every child’s toddler years.

If it isn’t enough to simply know that you’re not alone (after all, that provides little help when your child is entertaining those around you with a hearty shriek), today’s New York Times offers some expert insight.

According to Dr. Paul Donahue, a child psychologist, child-age tantrums are an important part of one’s emotional development and teach children to cope with the occasional feelings of disappointment.

''It's important that parents feel they don't have to jump in too soon to soothe kids. They have to let them sit with those very uncomfortable feelings, even if it's painful to do so,'' Donahue told the Times. ''A lot of parents come to me, afraid their child will be scarred for life. It's highly unlikely a tantrum will do any lasting damage.''

So how should parents escape mortification if the public protest happens in a library, a church, or another quiet place?

''The library, where it's supposed to be a place of quiet, it's OK. Parents have got to remember that it's not going to be the first time that it ever happened there, or in preschool, or in a restaurant,'' Donahue says.

Other professionals suggest coming up with strategies to prevent tantrums or finding organized ways to schedule “time-outs,” the Times reports.

“Jay Hoecker, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., suggests trying to head off temper tantrums before they start. If you're going to the grocery store at a time when your child might get hungry, take along a snack. If you're heading to the toy store to buy a present for someone else, make a deal ahead of time on what small toy your child can have.

And if the tantrum comes anyway, have a plan. Hoecker suggests on the mayoclinic.com Web site trying a ''marked'' time-out. Because it's hard to give a time-out in a store, instead put a mark on the back of your child's hand and say you'll talk about it when you get home. When you get home, discuss the mark, why you gave it, and have the child sit in a time-out then.”

Even the most organized parents can hardly eliminate fits of childhood rage altogether, but there isn’t any harm in trying out collaborative ways to prevent them. We welcome your comments on any other useful tips.

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