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Supernanny Jo Frost tackles toddler tantrums in new book

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Jo Frost, who travels the world as a parenting consultant, made her name on TV with Supernanny, Extreme Parental Guidance and last summer’s Family S.O.S. with Jo Frost.

In the new book, Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules (Random House), she’s taking aim at toddlers. More specifically, she focuses on the thing so many parents dread: tantrums. Frost, 43 and newly engaged, with no children of her own, hails from England but lives in Los Angeles. She spoke with the Associated Press:

Is there such a thing as an inexplicable tantrum? The kind where you’ve tried to figure out the cause and there just doesn’t seem to be one?

No, I don’t believe so. Whether they’re hungry, whether they’re too hot, too cold, they’re always trying to communicate with us. Tantrums are only natural. It’s part of child development, but we don’t have a good tolerance level for it here in the states.

Does it surprise you that more parents don’t understand the causes of tantrums?

Having spent 10 years in this country helping families now in 47 states, American families use the word very flippantly: ‘My child’s having a meltdown, they’re having a temper tantrum. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know why they’re having it.’ It concerns me when parents don’t think what possibly may have happened. There’s not even a: ‘Well it could be this. It might have been that.’ It’s just this general answer: ‘I don’t know. They just flipped out.’

Is this generation of parents more permissive?

Are there parents out there that are very permissive? Yes. But this country is very polarizing. I also see a very extreme set of behaviors as well, where there’s no room for the child to breathe, where there’s no room for the child to have a choice. I don’t think it’s unique to this generation.

What is your best piece of advice for parents dealing with tantrums?

To identify. Ask why, then we’re halfway there. Recognize that it’s not uncommon and stop for a moment once you get over that initial feeling of either wanting to control or wanting to run. It’s fight or flight. Most parents want to control it and stop it and just act very aggressively or become very permissive and just try to do anything to make it stop. Those are the two most common mistakes.

Is this generation suffering a crisis in confidence in parenting?

Certainly lots of parents lack confidence. Call it confidence, call it trust, call it having some faith in believing in your ability to do something. The world has become a smaller place through technology and yet a larger place with how much more isolated we are as families. How many families do you know that are not the extended family anymore, that are not given a pat on the back and the reassurance that they’re making the right moves to build that confidence?

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