Is Your Child Having A Fit?

Concerned citizens gather on the dock as survivors arrives in Pangai on Tonga's Lifuka Island, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2009, after a ferry carrying 117 passengers and crew sank around midnight Wednesday, northeast of the Tongan capital, Nuku'alofa. The number of people missing and feared dead after the Princess Ashika sank in Tonga rose Friday to more than 60 and could jump further, police said, as the prime minister called tragedy a "major disaster" for his tiny country. (AP Photo/Sustainable Coastlines, Emily Penn) ** EDITORIAL USE ONLY **
Whether you're concerned about a shy teenager or frustrated by a stubborn toddler, it's time to "Ask Mike" for help.

The Saturday Early Show Family and Adolescence Counselor Mike Riera answered some parenting questions e-mailed by our viewers.

The first letter reads,

"Dear Mike:
My 3-year-old is having terrible tantrums. I cannot communicate with her, and leaving her in her room to calm down seems to make the situation worse.
I'm afraid she's going to hurt herself during one of these episodes.
Any advice?"

Mike's response:

It's normal for kids to have temper tantrums between the ages of 1 and 3. Most tantrums are due to fatigue, hunger, or over-stimulation.

One of the things to do is make sure she gets enough sleep. One of the things the parents should do is to make sure children that age have the afternoon nap. Even if you go in the room with them, turn the lights down, get a book and read to them. Quiet time is important.

I also agree in this regard with Dr. Spock; often, we're responsible for our kids' tantrums, we set them up and make them worse. We tell them to be quiet and tell them to stop, which gets them angry and doesn't help at all. We try to argue with them and talk them out of it. The reality is when a child that young hits a tantrum he can't stop it.

If your child has a tantrum at public place, like a restaurant or store, force a smile on your face, and get down to their level, and say, 'I know you want to stop yourself, but you are unable to, so I am going to help you." And walk out of the store. Be ready to walk out.

Go to a quiet place, often a car. The way you calm them down is just sitting with them or directing their attention somewhere else and come back to it later. Distracting is the way to go.

Don't panic. If they get away with it, then they learn tantrums are effective.

The next letter says,

"Dear Mike:
My daughter has been shy and introverted since the day she was born.
She only has two friends, doesn't like talking on the phone, and prefers reading or listening to music.
She is an independent thinker and makes me forget she's 16 because she sounds 10 years older.
She never has said she's unhappy, but how can I get her out of her shell?"

Mike's response:

She sounds like a great kid, the one you want to meet.

First of all, being shy and introverted are different things. Shy is, you want to get involved with things, but you are afraid to, you are nervous about it. The social interaction scares you.

Introverted is one who has a life more focused on him or herself. In this country, 75 percent of us are extroverted. We like to be around people. Introverts prefer to be by themselves, and read books. They like to come up with their ideas on their own and then tell them to people. As parents, we project our needs onto our kids. So when we haven't eaten all day, we come home and tell our 9-year-old, you have to eat, or we tell our 15-year-old you have to go to bed, you must be exhausted, when we are the ones who are tired.

We do the same thing with introversion and extroversion. We think our child is lonely. Doesn't sound like the case here.

As a teenager, you can learn to be more outgoing. I have a friend who is very much an introvert, but he leads workshops, and lectures about the difference between the two. You can do it. You just have to be motivated.