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Toddler Tantrums Got You Down? 'Group Training' May Help

Group training toddlers may help tantrums
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Every parent's been there. Public meltdowns in the middle of Gymboree; epic battles over just one more cookie... When it comes to toddler tantrums, none of us is safe. Science tells us this stage is all about "discovering the independent self" and a sense of autonomy. Which all sounds lovely; but for some parents struggling through the Terrible Twos, the word "terrible" doesn't exactly cover it.

If you're in this camp, there may be some help out there for you—if you're willing to switch tactics a bit.

In a recent study, researchers looked at 150 parents with kids in the 2- to 4-year-old age range who showed signs of moderate to severe disruptive behavior. They then placed half of the parents in behavioral training classes with six to 12 other parents, and the other half in a control group, which was on a waiting list to receive the training.

The training classes were led by psychologists or social workers over a 10-week period, and stressed to parents how important it is to reinforce good behaviors and avoid harsh parenting.

The results? Checking back a year later, the researchers watched videos to assess each kid's behavior and spoke with the parents for more info. They found that in cases where parents received training, their kid actually had significantly improved. But for the parents who were put on a wait list and received no training, their kid was still up to their old tricks.

The study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, reasoned that although it may cost a bit, behavioral training sessions are definitely worthwhile (and could even be a lifesaver) for lots of parents. It also urged pediatrician offices to offer training to their patients on a regular basis with trained, knowledgeable staff.

"If we can incorporate behavioral approaches in a primary care setting such as the pediatrician's office, perhaps we can involve more families," noted Dr. Martin Stein, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego.

Would you be interested in behavioral training classes if they were offered by you?

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