Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/18 month old tantrums

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Question
My 18 month old son stays home with me and is an only child, we do ALOT of fun things and he is a very happy baby..but VERY food driven. If he thinks you have food he will run to you and open his mouth and if he is not given anything he throws himself to the ground, rolls, kicks, screams and even scoots around.
 I have NO idea where or how he learned this but its really frustrating, with anything else he knows the word timeout and he will stop his fit or behavior but not when it comes to food. The boy eats 3 huge meals a day and gets snacks every hour so he is not underfed at all, but being 98% in height and only 60% in weight he isnt fat either.
 Im just at a loss on how to fix this, going to the store with him is a nightmare..we usually scream the whole time or wind up downing half a bag of grapes

Answer
Hello Amber,
Generally, with this kind of behavior in a toddler, the best approach is not responding by giving into the behavior. In other words, your best approach is to ignore the temper tantrum and crying for food.
Obviously, he is not starving, so there is no issue of you withholding food which he needs for his health or nutrition. Therefore, it becomes a behavior issue. Thus, when he demands food in between meals, you must not give in -- no matter how hard or long he has a tantrum.
You can say to him: "I'm sorry but no snacks now. You can eat at dinner time, but no food now." Then stick to that.
When you are in the store I think there's an approach that will be successful over time. Here are the steps:
1. Before going to the store, you say: "I do not want you to ask for food or cry for food while we are in the store."
2. Then add: "If you do not ask for food or cry for food, then when we are done shopping, we will stop at the park and we will play on the swings. But if you ask for food or cry, then we will not be able to go to the park today." (Obviously, you could substitute any reward -- except for food -- for going to the park.)
3. While in the store, do not talk about food or respond to his requests -- aside, perhaps of a reminder: "Remember what I said about going to the park when we are done." Also, you could plan in the beginning to immediately leave the store if he starts crying or demanding food. If you plan on this, you have to be sure, you can get to the store at another time for necessary purchases.
4. If he is successful and doesn't ask for food or cry while in the store, you have to follow through on your promised reward. Of course, you also want to give him verbal praise for being so controlled that he didn't ask for food.

This will work over time if you are consistent.
Any questions?
Best,
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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