It can be quite difficult to express our emotions, even as adults. But, as a young child, with limited vocabulary and trouble figuring out exactly how they feel, dealing with emotions can be just plain overwhelming. Anger is a particularly tricky feeling to verbalize, and tiny tots sometimes have no clue whatsoever how to handle such a big, fiery feeling. So, how can parents and teachers help soothe an angry little person?
Angry Child+Trouble Expressing Emotions=Temper Tantrum Trouble
Whether it’s fighting over a toy with a classmate or waking up on the wrong side of the bed in the morning, young children do certainly get frustrated and angry at times. Now, while the emotion of anger itself isn’t necessarily deemed a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, the manner in which a child does deal with that anger can be classified as either constructive or destructive. As a parent, guardian or teacher, it will often be tempting to simply give the child in question a time-out or consequence for verbally or physically acting out in anger. However, it can be infinitely more productive if you, dear adult-in-charge, help them instead to develop the ability to cope with that anger.
Let’s Start by Identifying Anger and Aggression in Young Children
All children, at various times in their development, display frustration, aggression, and anger, even during infancy. By the time young children start preschool, approximately between the ages of two and three, these types of behavior are quite common, although children do vary widely in this behavioral area.
One prime example of anger in a toddler/preschool aged child is the ever-so-dreadful temper tantrum which is characterized by emotional outbursts and is often triggered by a moment of frustration, or an inability to deal with a particular emotion or situation. Aggression can manifest directly because of these “angry emotions.” Although dealing with a tantrum can be one emotionally exhausting roller-coaster ride for the adult present, it is in fact considered to be an entirely normal occurrence one observes in young school-aged children.
Use These Strategies to Help Calm an Angry Child
1) Discuss the (Explosive) Situation:
It can be hard to stay calm and composed when a toddler is flying-off-the-handle-berzerk, but keeping your cool is what you’ll need to do. Start by asking the child to explain what happened to cause the angry outburst. Sometimes, all it takes is some adult help in talking through an issue, especially when children find it hard to verbalize their anger, and calm down. If a child doesn’t want to talk to you about it, they may feel more comfortable “talking” to a stuffy or puppet, a classroom pet, or even an imaginary friend.
2) It’s Important to Always Give Comfort:
Little people always want to know that you’re on their side and that you genuinely care about how they feel. All children, regardless of age, are comforted by your physical presence when facing an emotionally frustrating situation. Never underestimate the power of a smile, pat on the back, high-five, or quick hug to help make a child feel accepted.
3) Get Moving and Shake the Anger Out:
A wonderful way to help kids let off some (angry) steam is to get them moving. Let them (safely) get physical (within reason) by encouraging them to stomp their feet, run around, punch a pillow, or pound on play-doh. Don’t like those ideas? No problem. You can also have them release all that pent up angry energy by dancing around the classroom or taking everyone out for a walk. Any activity that helps a child refocus their thoughts away from their anger, especially ones that encourage a child to do things they particularly enjoy, like reading, drawing, or painting, is a step in the right (calming) direction. For some kids, getting creative IS getting physical.
4) Speak Up and Praise that Good Behavior:
Lastly, always remember to let a child know that you notice when they deal with their anger in a positive manner. Water that little flower and watch it grow.