Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Toddler Tantrum and spanking

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Question
Hi James,

I have a 24 month old daughter who has an extremely strong independence and will. She has thrown tantrums in the past but not nearly as bad as they have been lately. For a couple of days she has thrown hour long plus tantrums because she refuses to do the basic task of getting dressed. On the third day, I got very upset and spanked her and yelled at her while she was in time out. I feel so guilty about spanking her and she now will not come to me or even look my way. The spanking didn't even stop the tantrum just made it worse and I totally regret ever doing it. Every time I get near her she says starts saying no and screaming. It has been a few days since and she is still acting this way. I am so worried that I have emotionally scarred her and that I have ruined our relationship. Does she remember what happened and will she always hold a grudge against me. I am so scared that I have ruined her.

Answer
Hello Kelly,
Fortunately, children are resilient -- and forgiving.
As parents, we have all done or said things we regret. Once done, though, they cannot be taken back. But we can apologize and ask our child for forgiveness.
I think one of the problems with spanking is that it is a physical assault. What if another adult was angry at you and spanked you (or physically assaulted you in another way)? How long would you require to get over it? How would you feel toward that person?
You will not have ruined your relationship with your child, although she may be angry and/or frightened of you for a while. Give her a chance to get over it.
But, the more important on-going issue is simply this: How are you going to handle her resistance, her opposition, and her tantrums?
Any parent can sympathize with your frustration and even with your anger with your child for being strong-willed and oppositional. Any of us who have been there know how maddening it can be when you have a child who opposes what you want. However, I think the first -- and best step -- you can take is to accept the temperament and personality of your daughter.
You are not going to change her, so just accept that she will be her own strong-willed self. Once you accept this, it makes it easier to develop a strategy for dealing with her. By the way, I wrote a book many years ago, dedicated to my son (for obvious reasons!) about oppositional and defiant children. It's called "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" and you can probably get a used copy very inexpensively from Amazon.com. But it offers various strategies for dealing with difficult kids.
I found as a parent and as a therapist that it is is extremely important to develop patience, reduce your expectations, give them plenty of time to comply with what needs to be done, and maintain a sense of humor.
Life is far too short #and the job of being a parent is far too important# to be angry all the time. Remember the book and the title "Don't sweat the small stuff" and the subtitle: "It's all small stuff." When you think of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, it helps to put things in perspective. Having a kid who takes an hour to get dressed or even find his shoes #as was the case with my son# pales in comparison to losing a child. In other words, everything else is small stuff.

Hang in there and feel free to email at any time you have a question.
Best wishes,
James Windell  

Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers

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James Windell

Expertise

I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.

Experience

I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

Organizations
American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

Publications
I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at Jimwindell.com includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

Education/Credentials
B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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