Answered by: Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D.

Question: I have a 3-year-old, and if we are out playing somewhere or have playdates at our home, when it comes time for fun time to end, she throws tantrums. She won't listen to me at all and will cry for one to two hours straight. What can I do? I've done away with all playdates for the time being because she gets so out of control.

Answer: Preschoolers and toddlers feel their emotions intensely, but they can't express those strong feelings in words. Instead, when they're feeling emotionally overwhelmed, they express those feelings through their behavior: They have a tantrum. There are a few specific things you can do to help:

First, recognize that this problem will go away once she can tell you how upset or angry or frustrated she is feeling. Tantrums are perfectly normal in a 3-year-old, and even a slightly older child.

Second, remember that you should stay calm when she's having a tantrum. If you become upset, it will only make matters worse. Gently pick her up to show that you're in control. Move her to a new location, if only a few feet away. Talk to her calmly.

Third, put her frustrations into simple language she understands. "I know that you'd love to stay here and keep playing, but it's time to go home now." "I can see how angry you are. You don't want to say good-bye." This helps your daughter identify her emotions and associate them with words. Eventually, this will help her use words rather than kicks to share her feelings.