In her seventh book on parenting, Jo Frost – better known to U.S. audiences as the “Supernanny” – lays out the basics for raising a child during one of the most trying stages: toddlers.
The inspiration for Jo Frost's Toddler Rules is not only her 25 years’ experience guiding families. It was an incident on a Jet Blue flight a couple of years ago.
Watch the video below for the Supernanny's guide to handling your toddler's tantrums
“I was watching television and I saw that an aircraft had turned the plane around because a family couldn't control their child while she was having a temper tantrum,” recalled Frost in a Newsmakers interview at My Gym in New York City. “Have we come to that? Have we really got to the stage where pilots are turning around airplanes because children are having meltdowns?”
In her book, Frost not only details the steps to dealing with tantrums, but says they’re healthy opportunities for a family to connect with their child and learn what the real problem is. The first step is understanding what triggers the meltdown so parents can respond rather than react.
Frost breaks tantrums into three categories:
--- mock: a child behaves a certain way to get what he wants
--- situational: for example, a child doesn’t want to leave the playground when dad says it’s time to go home
--- emotional: the result of transitions at home – new baby, divorce or death
Once you know why your toddler is screaming at the top of her lungs, the next step can be a tough one: take a step back.
“The S.O.S.,” explained Frost. “Step back, Observe, and Step In. In order to stop ourselves from being wrapped up emotionally, and that tornado that happens when everything is pandemonium, we have to slightly detach. And being able to take a step back allows us to observe. That's when we're able to see the bigger picture. We're able to see all the players.”
The result, Frost says, is that once a parent does act, mom or dad is more decisive and assertive in resolving the situation.
Dealing with tantrums is just one area in which Frost offers her ground rules. But she says there is a larger problem in dealing with behavior issues in all children.
“Some parents are afraid to discipline,” she said. “Some parents feel guilty that they work, and that they don't have the desirable amount of time that they wish they had. They say, ‘yes’ and they don't learn to say ‘no’ and feel okay with it.”
Oftentimes, the unwillingness to discipline stems from parents who remember their own scarred childhoods and become passive with their children.
“It's part of being a responsible parent to discipline. But I've spoken to many a family who have come from a very strict and very dysfunctional, abusive family life, and actually felt that they couldn't gauge where they were being very fair and realistic, and worried that perhaps they were going to turn into their mother or their father,” said Frost.
“That's the silent epidemic here in this country that no one really talks about.”
Whether dispensing advice on getting your toddler to sleep or eating his veggies, Frost says an overarching thought can help every parent.
“We have to honor our children, and respect our children first,” she said. “I think it really helps if as parents, we can look at the world through children's eyes, and just see how they may see things.”
ABC News' Luis A. Yordán contributed to this episode.
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- Jo Frost