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We’ve all been there: You’re in the mall or at the playground, looking down at the red-faced, tear-stained, shrieking child trying to pry away his hand from yours. All you may want in that moment is to be invisible—but, sadly, those cloaks are in short supply.


Left with the reality that tantrums are just a part of life with (cognitively developing) toddlers, many parents struggle to figure out the best course of action. Do you ignore? Distract? Talk it out? According to the experts, there may be appropriate times and places for all of those responses.

Here’s what the pros want us to know about tantrums and taming them:

Toddlers don’t like tantrums either

It helps to stop seeing tantrums as willful outbreaks and start approaching them from places of compassion, says Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of Gentle Discipline: Using Emotional Connection—Not Punishment—To Raise Confident, Capable Kids.

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“As hard as it is for you to cope with your toddler's meltdowns, especially when they happen in public, it is so much harder to actually be the toddler,” says Ockwell-Smith. “Imagine feeling so out of control, unable to calm yourself and get a hold on your emotions and being completely unable to communicate how you feel with anyone.”

Add stares from strangers and scolds from parents and it’s much easier to see why this is a stressful situation for little ones. Ockwell-Smith says that’s why, at least initially, the best reaction is a hug and some support.

Rationalization doesn’t help much during the tantrum

“In the moment the tantrum is happening, most parents don’t realize how much the tantrum is affecting them–their tone of voice, their feelings, their body language,” explains Katherine Firestone, founder of the Fireborn Institute, a nonprofit providing parents with practical strategies for educational success.

According to Firestone, becoming frustrated, annoyed or angry is a natural response when someone is yelling (or screaming and kicking) at you. Although telling the tantruming kiddo to “calm down” may seem like a good solution, it usually doesn’t work; kids just don’t have the skills to look at the situation as rationally as we do.

She suggests a better way to help everyone chill is to take a deep breath, gauge your feelings and validate your tot’s emotions. Says Firestone, “Get down on his level and say something like, ‘Oh dear. I know this is very frustrating. I get frustrated sometimes too.’”

Bedtime, screen time and mealtime are all factors

How often have you felt hangry? Now think about how extreme that can be for little bodies and bellies, says Shanna Donhauser, a child and family therapist at Happy Nest Therapy. The same goes for out-of-whack habits with screen time and bedtime.

“It's hard to notice patterns when you're in them, but I encourage parents with children who have extreme tantrums to record diet, sleep and screens over the period of a week or so,” Donhauser says. When parents keep track for awhile they can see if a a late soccer game, movie night or extra helping of dessert is the precursor to a tantrum—and adjust household schedules and menus accordingly.

Sometimes intensity is better than calmness

As counterintutive as it may seem, some kids respond better when parents get on their level—of strong emotions, that is. Says Holly Klaassen, author of The Fussy Baby Survival Guide, some tantrums can be tamed by redirecting the high energy in a positive way, such as by eagerly pointing of a cool item on the other side of the room.

Temporary distraction doesn’t mean the tantrum should go entirely unaddressed, however. Says Klaassen, “After the flood of emotions has passed, there’s time to talk about feelings or to deal with whatever caused the meltdown.”

You don’t always have to worry about who ‘wins’

As any parent knows, tantrums don’t always happen in ideal environments. If you don’t have the time or ability to talk your child down, St. Louis-based childhood and anger management specialist Kelsey Torgerson says it’s okay to give in.

“You may have somewhere you absolutely have to be or you're not at a good location for a tantrum. If that's the case, it is okay to give into your child's demands,” Torgerson says with the caveat of making sure you do it promptly so your child doesn’t read it as the fit getting them what they wanted. “The longer you wait before you give in, the more likely your child is to reach that level of tantruming again in the future.”

Outbursts are normal, 20-minute tantrums are not

When your kiddo is melting down in the grocery store and everyone is staring, it can feel like your kid is the only one who acts like this. But, according to Dr. Cheryl S. Al-Mateen, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, a tantrum here or there (or in aisle six) is a normal part of early childhood.

But parents should consider getting help if the tantrums are frequent, regularly occur outside the home, typically last more than 20 minutes or involve aggression or self-injury.

The experts all agree, most tantrums are a normal part of child development. When they do happen, you can lay the groundwork for lessening tantrums—and rest assured that your kiddo will likely be back to flashing that magical smile soon enough.

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Jessica Simpson's life seems perfect. She has three beautiful kids, a wildly successful career, a seemingly solid marriage...she has it all, at least as far as we can see. But recent revelations prove that no one really knows what anyone else is secretly dealing with—and Jessica, by her own admission, has been struggling with alcohol issues.

The singer-turned-business-woman recently sat down with TODAY's Hoda Kotb, and it will air on NBC's TODAY Wednesday morning.

"I had started a spiral and I couldn't catch up with myself…and that was with alcohol," Jessica explained. "I would say it openly to everyone. 'I know. I know, I'll stop soon. I'll cut back'," Jessica continued when asked if she realized things were getting out of control. "For me to cut back, like I'm an all or nothing girl, and so I didn't know it was a problem until it was...I completely didn't recognize myself…I always had a glitter cup. It was always filled to the rim with alcohol."

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She's hardly alone. The rise of #winemom phenomenon is well documented and many parents struggle with substance abuse problems. But Simpson's story proves there is a way to get your life back.

Simpson quit drinking in 2017 after she found herself unable to get her kids ready for a Halloween party. She says she'd started drinking before 7:30 in the morning, before accompanying her husband, Eric Johnson, to a school assembly for their oldest daughter. Later that night she was unable to get her kids dressed in their Halloween costumes. The next morning she was so ashamed. Feeling like she had failed her kids she slept until they left the house, then got up and drank some more.

That episode was her tipping point. She quit drinking (as did her husband, Eric Johnson, who supports her in her sobriety.)



As parents, we know how overwhelming the demands can be...and how easy it is to sink into habits that don't ultimately serve us well. For Jessica, the way to heal was to sever her relationship with alcohol.

"I had to give [drinking] up," Jessica said. "I'm not going to miss another day. I'm not going to miss another Halloween. I'm not going to miss another Christmas. I'm going to be present."

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Mamas expecting babies this month are a special bunch—and not just because it's statistically unique to have a birthday during the shortest month of the year.

Science shows babies born in February already have advantages with everything from physical growth to creativity to even presidential elections. (It's no coincidence that President's Day is this month!)

Here are six reasons why February birthdays are so special:

1. They may be bound for the NBA

According to a 2006 study from Harvard researchers that examined data from 21,000 children around the world (including the southern hemisphere), those born in February were taller and weighed more at the age of 7 than their friends who were born during other times of the year. (Further proof: Michael Jordan celebrates his birthday on February 17.)

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2. Or on their way to a doctorate

The same study also showed winter-born babies performed best in a series of intelligence tests. As the researchers concluded, “The overall pattern of findings is that winter/spring babies are both 'bigger' on the anthropometric variables and 'smarter' on the selected neurocognitive variables."

3. They also have artsy sides

February babies are either born under the Aquarius or Pisces star signs—which are linked to the traits of originality and creativity. But even if you aren't one for astrology, a study complied from the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics found that people born in February are more likely to be artists.

4. Which may set them up for stardom

Speaking of the zodiac, one study published in the Journal of Social Sciences found a disproportionate number of celebrities claim the Aquarius star sign. That includes everyone from Bob Marley to Jennifer Aniston to Shakira. It's also one of the most popular star signs for American presidents—including Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Ronald Reagan (February 6).

5. Or, at least, satisfying careers

But don't feel bad for babies born in the latter half of the month: A survey from CareerBuilder.com found Pisces adults were among the “most satisfied" with their jobs. (They also have legs up on the competition if they ever find their way into a presidential election.)

6. They may have the rarest birthday of all

Babies on their way this year are out of luck. But, come 2020, a special group of newborns will have the distinction of being born on Leap Day, February 29. Sure, they won't get to mark their birthday for another four years, but they do get a prime pick of perks when that day does roll back around!

Snuggle up with that newborn while you can, mama. Once your February baby gets going, they'll be hard to stop.

[Originally published February 2, 2018]

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As the world continues to mourn father of four Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, many are remembering Bryant for his role not only as a basketball great but also as a #girldad.

That is how SportsCenter anchor Elle Duncan remembers him. On ESPN this week she recalled meeting Bryant back in 2018 when she was 8 months pregnant.

She says Bryant asked her "How are you? How close are you? What are you having?" and when she told him she was expecting a girl he gave her a high five and said, "Girls are the best."

Instagram post by SportsCenter • Jan 28, 2020 at 4:59am UTC

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The two talked about raising girls, with Duncan asking Bryant for parenting advice. She also asked him if he and his wife Vanessa were going to have any more kids.

"He said that his wife Vanessa really wanted to try again for a boy, but was sort of jokingly concerned that it would be another girl. I was like, 'Four girls, are you joking? What would you think, how would you feel?'" Duncan recalls

She continues: "Without hesitation, he said, 'I would have five more girls if I could. I'm a girl dad."

As Duncan noted on Instagram, she couldn't have known that Bryant, then a father of three, would welcome another baby girl, little Capri Kobe, in 2019. All she knew was that she was impressed by this man who loved his girls so much.

"I'm glad to have had that brief time with him. I'm so sorry that 4th girl won't know her dad," Duncan writes.

During his 2018 conversation with Duncan, Bryant remarked on the athletic abilities of his middle daughter, Gianna, telling Duncan she was better than he'd been at her age.

Tragically, Bryant and Gianna died en route to a basketball game where she would have played and he would have coached.

"When I reflect on this tragedy," Duncan said on ESPN, "I suppose that the only small source of comfort for me is knowing that he died doing what he loved the most: being a dad. Being a girl dad."

Our hearts are with the Bryant family this week, and all the families of the victims of the helicopter crash.

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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

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A study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

[This post was first published December 18, 2018.]


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