The “terrible twos” can be tough on parents and kids, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking the tough part will magically stop as soon as the clock strikes midnight on your child’s third birthday. Frustration, emotional outbursts and tantrums will likely happen off and on for a while, and it’s important to help your child learn to deal with anger constructively while they’re young so it doesn’t become a problem when they get older.
Understand Where They Are Biologically
It’s no secret that the brain doesn’t come fully developed at birth, but many parents may not know exactly what that means in regard to how their child deals with anger. First, it’s important to know that the frontal cortex of the brain isn’t developed until roughly 25, and while you as parents won’t have to wait that long to see rationale or other coping mechanisms kick in, it will take some training when they’re young to deal with their emotions. That’s another thing – the anger your child is expressing is likely a response to another emotion they’re feeling, such as hurt feelings, sadness or confusion. Anger is an easier emotion to express and if they feel cornered with these other emotions, they’re likely to go to anger as a way to express themselves.
Tips on Helping Your Child Deal with Anger
All children are different and you know what’s best for yours, but here are some tips to consider if you’re having trouble helping them deal with their emotions.
- Help them pinpoint what they’re feeling. If they clobber their brother or sister because that sibling took their toy, are their feelings hurt? Do they feel helpless? If you corrected them for something and they lash out, is it because they feel embarrassed? Helping them pinpoint the exact emotion they feel underneath the expression of anger can teach them how to vocalize and deal with those emotions so anger isn’t their default.
- Make sure you’re not escalating the situation. If a kid grows up in a home where yelling is commonplace, he or she will think this is the best way to deal with anger. Be calm and try to find what’s underneath that’s causing their behavior.
- Don’t let them be aggressive. Make sure they know boundaries. They can’t be allowed to hit or be disrespectful.
- Let them know their feelings are OK. Your child needs to feel safe telling you how they feel – so make sure they aren’t being chastised or corrected for their feelings as long as they’re sharing them with you in a constructive way.
- “Time-out” without you may not work. As a parent, part of what you want to do is make your child feel safe. So sending them to time-out by themselves to deal with feelings they don’t understand can potentially make the situation worse. Stick with them and help them work through it.
What problems are you having? Please leave a comment.