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Dear Dr. Yael,

I enjoy listening to your lectures on Kol Haloshon about the relationship between mothers and daughters. I agree that we have to build relationships with our daughters when they are young.

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I am a new mother who finds that hard. Although I try to talk and play lovingly with my almost 3-year-old daughter, she tends to have many tantrums. I know her personality changed when I gave birth our now two-month-old son. She used to be well behaved and almost adult like; now, she is sucking her thumb and throwing tantrums. She also hugs the baby too tight.

Dr. Respler, I know that she is jealous; I am just not sure how to handle her.

Thank you,
Young Parents

 

Dear Young Parents,

Mazal tov on the new baby. While a new addition to the family brings much joy, those who were there first, who are used to being the “baby,” can have a difficult time adjusting. They feel displaced and as if they are competing for their parents love and attention. How would you feel if your spouse brought home a younger, “cuter” version of you who does absolutely nothing, yet seems to have everyone’s attention – all the time!

The first thing you have to do is really empathize with your daughter and help her feel special. You can do this by spending time alone with her – without the baby. You can also give her small, age-appropriate jobs – not necessarily having to do with the baby – and then praising her for doing them. This will go along way to building her self-confidence and self esteem.

The best way to overcome tantrums is to prevent them from taking place. Here are a few ways to do that:

Catch your daughter “being good.” Whenever you notice anything, even something small, that you can compliment, make sure to do so and to make a big deal out of it.

Praise your daughter to your spouse, parents, in-laws, etc. and make sure to do it in front of her! Use whatever cute thing or smart thing that you can think of, but make sure to make a big deal out of it.

Give your daughter some uninterrupted time at bedtime. Go over all of the amazing things she did that day and tell her how special she is to you and how much you love her.

One of my favorite techniques in dealing with tantrums is called toddlerese. It is a technique developed by Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and parenting guru. In toddlerese, parents validate a child’s feelings by responding in the same voice the child is using. It involves repetition of short phrases that mirror your child’s feelings, with body language and facial expressions to match.

For example, if your daughter starts a tantrum because she wants a cereal you don’t have in the house, “I want my Fruity Pebbles,” she screams. Then she stomps her feet, and continues screaming, “That is the only cereal that I want to eat. I want it!! I want it now!”

Dr. Karp recommends responding in a very empathetic voice: “I know how much you want that cereal, you really want it. You really really want Fruity Pebbles! I wish I could give you Fruity Pebbles.”

Your voice should match your child’s in intensity and pitch, while you remain calm inside. Instead of reacting angrily to the tantrum or giving in (as giving in will likely lead to more tantrums), you match your daughter’s voice and movements and try to empathize with her. Don’t say, “I’m sorry, honey, but you can’t have Fruity Pebbles right now.” Keep you face sad and use a version of what we mentioned. If she gets down on the floor, do the same – even stomp your feel like she does.

It may sound silly, but showing her that you “get it” and are really empathizing by “having your won tantrum” will distract her and calm her down. Then you can say, No Fruity Pebbles now. Cheerios now. Cheerios now.”

Dr. Karp believes it is never too early to start doing this and that even a year old child will respond well to this technique. His research and my own use of this technique, proves that you can help your children be more cooperative, respectful, and attentive when using toddlerese.

Hatzlacha in this difficult, but wonderful time!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.