Tip on Teaching your Toddlers to Deal with Anger

Most of you have witnessed small children kicking, hitting and biting and wondered about the aggressive behavior as well as its genesis, but if you are their parents, your first thought is probably to question the normality as well as the pathology of the behavior. If you are like most, you will most likely not think anger management may be what the little tykes need.

Joanne Baum, Ph.D., talks about the relational subtleties that transpire between parents and babies with respect to their ongoing development and overall interaction that are often not fully explored. In her book, “Got the Baby Where’s the Manual,” she notes that babies have many emotions, but because they do not have the words to express their discontent they act out in the only way they know how. She talks a lot about respectful parenting and she goes outside the box with respect to conventional childrearing and note that young children with limited verbal skills need outlets for their emotions.

Marian Marion, Ph.D., discusses the three components of “the anger experience,” which are 1) understanding, 2) interpreting, and 3) evaluating. Of course toddlers will not be able to make such assessments, but the information should help parents understand what is happening in the psyche of their little ones and as they grow older, they can help them cope with their anger in a mature manner. Young children should always know they are in a risk-free, safe emotional environment that allows them to acknowledge their feelings, no matter what they may be.

Below are some techniques that might help parents with toddlers who bite, kick, scream or hit, because the information offered is foundational and should help them help their children circumvent major emotional problems later on. The idea is to teach children how to use words and not their fists or other overt actions to diffuse anger.

Identify what triggers the behavior

Learn to identify the activity that sends your child into fighting mode: Is it hunger, overstimulation, exhaustion or boredom? Once you figure out what makes him ill-tempered, either try not to do it or do less of it. If you attempt to teach him something and he does not react favorably, it does not make you a bad parent. It may mean the two of you are not in synchronization at the time, so try again later and divide your training into tiny steps rather than attempt everything at once. It is important that you learn your baby’s temperament and tolerance level.

Quiet them down

If your child hits you or someone else, calmly grab his hand and look him in the eyes and say “No. It’s not okay to hit. I know you are angry, but this is not the way we handle your anger, but you can feel it.” Do not let go of his hand until he has calmed down and do not be tempted to smile at him no matter how adorable he may appear. You might need to repeat that it’s alright to feel anger, but he needs to know you are serious and the conduct will not be tolerated.

Role model the behavior you want in your children

Model the behavior you wish to see in your children as you are their first role model, so you must set a good example. If they see you yelling and screaming when things do not go your way, chances are your toddlers as well as any older children will emulate the behavior.

Many young children need to be taught how to handle their anger, even toddlers. For toddlers, you must identify the emotion that triggers the bad behavior as many will not have the vocabulary to verbalize their feelings or discontents. Calm them down and verbalize in a composed voice the conduct you want to see them exhibit. Most importantly, become the role model of the responsible behavior you wish to see your children emulate.