A toddler is not angry because he chooses to be; he is angry because it is the outlet his mind has adapted to and accepted as right in certain situations. The problem typically lies within us, the parents, not knowing how to keep our own emotions under control to handle, help, and heal (when needed) our own children.
The Breaking Point
We all have a breaking point.
Some toddlers experience a breaking point on a far shorter fuse than peers; some have a much more intense reaction than others, and that is okay. As a parent, it is your job to provide the tools for your child to understand that feeling all the feelings is not wrong, but acting on all the feelings can be a problem.
Simply put: Being angry is okay; punching another child in the face because of the anger (aggression), that is not okay.
Struggling with an Angry Toddler?
Are you struggling with an ‘angry toddler’ right now? A child that seems to break into extreme fury over things that you feel are not justified; does he lash out verbally and physically, threatening harm to himself or others? You are heard. You need a hug, and a glass of wine. You also need support. Handling a toddler who struggles with extreme anger can be exhausting, embarrassing, and hard on an everyday basis.
Suggestions from the Child Development Institute
The Child Development Institute states “To respond effectively to overly aggressive behavior in children we need to have some ideas about what may have triggered an outburst. Anger may be a defense to avoid painful feelings; it may be associated with failure, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation; or it may be related to anxiety about situations over which the child has no control.
Angry defiance may also be associated with feelings of dependency, and anger may be associated with sadness and depression. In childhood, anger and sadness are very close to one another, and it is important to remember that much of what an adult experiences as sadness is expressed by a child as anger.”
Causes of Anger in Children
Anger can be felt not just as a result of outside influences, but as the outcome of internal experiences. Feelings of failure, disappointment, fear, panic, pain, and sadness may all trigger an outward emotion of anger, as the child is trying to protect himself – utterly from himself and his own feelings. Understanding that your toddler may be experiencing other emotions and not just anger alone may help you better keep your emotions under control when approaching your child.
Also keep in mind, that a toddler’s brain is not fully developed. This makes it quite hard to entirely process the emotion of anger. It is the reason so many toddlers are aggressive. It takes time, development, and gentle guidance to help a young child learn to express these feelings appropriately.
Tips for Helping Your Toddler Handle Anger
Take a deep breath; you are going to make it through this challenging time. You can help your toddler handle his anger by
- Being a healthy role model. It is time to self-evaluate. If you demonstrate anger frequently by yelling, showing rage in any situations, realize it is your child who may be suffering the most.
- Reacting and reaching out, not punishing. Punishing your young child and scaring him by spanking or sticking him alone in a room does not benefit him. The goal is to learn your child; to reach him on his level and help him weed through everything he is feeling and express it all in a calmer manner.
- Providing examples of appropriate behavior. Squat low to his level and point out specific instances when another child handles himself well. Always use words he will understand and keep the conversation short, so it is not over his head. There will be plenty of times you can bring the positive behavior up again; it is not a one-time moment.
- Allowing Do-Overs. Your toddler may need to be removed from a situation to calm down. It should be done in a loving manner and not as a punishment. Scooping him up and keeping yourself calm as you move to a calm environment is best for both of you. Take time to hug and hear your child. Hear his anger, do not talk over it. Hug him through it and remain calm. Once the moment passes, ask him if he would like to try again? Give him two options on better ways to handle the situation if it was to happen again.
- Being near. Feeling your calming presence may help to stop a situation from becoming extreme. Let him hear your voice and feel your touch every so often.
- Building your child up. It is hard to stay positive when surrounded by a hurricane of anger presented by a toddler; however, it is not impossible. Notice the good deeds and happy outcomes and compliment them. A young child who knows he can do well may strive to so more often.
- Noticing your child through the anger. Ignore the outburst and see your child. Let him know that how he is feeling is okay. That he is heard. That he is always loved. Ignoring does not mean accepting the outburst, it simply means not to give attention – negative or positive – to it.
- Giving your toddler the words. Vocabulary is developing quickly right now, but most toddlers have a hard time using words to express themselves (hence tantrums). Work on short phrases such as, “I don’t like this.” “I am not happy.” “Please help me.” “I need this.”
- Knowing the environment. If you know that certain environments and situations trigger outbursts in your toddler, try to avoid them or talk through them before you bring your child into them.
- Having patience. This stage will get better. Stay patient and walk away if needed before taking out your emotions on your toddler.
Remember that the moments are fleeting, and as hard as it seems, it is worth it. You will make mistakes, and the grass may always seem greener… But that precious baby is yours – YOURS. Take the time to change your approach, and you will begin the journey towards helping your child.
Elizabeth MacDonald, a creative content writer at My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear, a brand that makes recordable stuffed animals, the best pregnancy gift, to record your baby’s ultrasound heartbeat. With wine in hand, Elizabeth tries to find the positives hidden in the messes of parenthood. There never seem to be enough hours in the day, but filling the minutes with memorable moments keeps her smiling.