One of the major problems in dealing with toddler tantrums
is handling our own angry
Learning how to handle and express anger without becoming destructive
or hurtful is an important lesson for any person, child or adult.
We need to remind ourselves that dealing with our own anger is usually
something we didn't learn well during our own childhoods.
If we were taught that to be angry or to show our anger was to be bad, then we
will have strong feelings of guilt and shame about our own expressions
Dealing with toddler tantrums
, toddler rage, temper and sudden displays
of anger, will be much easier for us if we disabuse ourselves of the whole idea that
expressing anger is wrong.
Instead we need to try to accept the angry feelings and to help channel
them into constructive rather than destructive ends.
We need to learn not to bottle up, suppress or destroy angry feelings
in ourselves. Then we can model this behaviour to our children.
Dealing with Our Own Anger
So, how can we understand what is happening with toddler tantrums?
Toddler Tantrums - What Triggers the Angry Outburst?
Firstly, we need to have some ideas about what may have triggered the
With toddler trantrums it is more likely to be a response to
. It helps to remember that toddlers are beginning to
understand a lot of the words they hear, yet their inability to respond
in language is very limited.
When a toddler can't express how
he feels or what he wants, frustration is his natural response, over
which he has no control.
When dealing with angry, struggling toddlers, try to respond
rather than react
. Parents need to show that they accept the
, while suggesting other ways to express them.
You might say, for example, "I can see you are feeling really angry.
When you feel a bit calmer let's see how else we can do this." When
teaching your child how to cope with the angry feelings, try to
communicate what you expect of them. Punishing them for their
outburst is not the way to communicate to children what we expect of
Some people suggest holding your angry child to help him feel secure
and accepted, while others advocate ignoring the temper tantrums
attention when he is calmer. Each child is different and only you will
know the right approach for your child.
It certainly helps to remember that toddler tantrums belong to toddlerhood! They are a toddler's response to frustration,
a cry for understanding and oftne the only means by which the toddler can express himself. They do not last forever!
Strong feelings cannot be denied or ignored, and angry outbursts need
not always be viewed as a serious problem, rather, they need to
be recognized and treated with respect.
Children really thrive on security, boundaries, routines and consistent order. They don't enjoy chaos, drama,
and irregularity any more than you do - even though it doesn't always appear like that!.
- You are the parent
Remember that your child would prefer to be in control and is
already frightened by his powerful emotions. Stay calm and be clear,
firm and consistent in your approach.
No matter how long the tantrum continues, don't give in to unreasonable
demands or try to negotiate with your toddler. This will only teach him
to throw a tantrum to get what he wants. Try to take him out of the
situation if you are in public to prevent it escalating, or you giving
in. Stay quietly with him.
- Talk about it when your toddler is calm
Reassure him by acknowledging what happened. Help him express his
feelings by mirroring his words for him.
For instance, "You felt angry because you wanted something you couldn't
have. Now you are quiet let's talk about what we can do about that".
- Pay attention
Often toddler tantrums can be avoided if parents are tuned in to their child's
situations. Try not to push them past their coping points around food,
drinks, or sleep times. Often as parents we expect a great deal more
than our youngsters are capable of.
Prepare them by communicating clearly what's ahead and what you expect.
"We will be leaving the playground in five minutes." Often
toddler tantrums can be averted by an alert parent on the look out and
tuned into their toddlers' signs.
When your toddler has a meltdown, love him through it and lighten up
- Be Consistent
Be clear, firm and consistent in the way you deal with your
toddler. This way he has clear emotional boundaries around him.
How Do We Deal With Our Own Anger?
As a family counsellor, I am constantly aware of the high numbers of
clients over the years for whom anger has been a huge issue. Their
predictable question is usually, "How can I learn to 'deal' with it?"
My response is to help them search for what is hiding below the layers
of anger, what the anger is signposting
to them, and to try to
recognise what the anger is telling them.
When you think about your
feelings of anger in this way, rather than being frightened, guilty or
ashamed of them, you can see them as being useful to you.
Seeing anger as a signpost
to some deeper unexpressed emotion such as
hurt, rejection, shame or fear, often provides us with an answer to the
problem of dealing with anger.
I encourage you to seek professional help if you are dealing
with ongoing or deep-seated issues in this area. Your children will
thank you for it by learning from you how to deal with their toddler
tension and stress.
Toddler Tantrums: Dealing with Our Anger - a case study
(Names changed to protect privacy)
Kevin came for help feeling very ashamed of his reactions to two
year old Martin's temper tantrums. Kevin's partner and extended family
members had pointed out that Kevin's angry responses were harmful to Martin.
Kevin realised he had a longstanding anger problem which caused him to be verbally
abusive to his family, and more recently to a work colleague.
also realised that his toddler's sudden, but violent outbursts of
anger were really pushing his own buttons, and confessed that he was having
trouble controlling his feelings of rage when confronted by Martin's toddler
After some soul searching, Kevin identified that his anger
was signposting feelings of hurt and rejection that he had carried
without expressing for many years. Verbal anger has become his valid way of
expressing these other painful emotions.
Further counselling helped
Kevin to identify and talk through these hurts. It also helped him to
understand how Martin's toddler tantrums hooked into his own unresolved childhood
Today Kevin reports that regularly working through his
own anger issues has helped him to treat his child with respect
and he no longer fears being triggered by Martin's frustrated rages.