What to do if the child breaks out constantly in anger like a small volcano? Our guide explains how parents can help their children to deal positively with their feelings and stop a child having tantrums.
My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter recently freaked out when she wanted to put on her shoes. A shoe twisted so badly that the foot no longer fit in. Her frustration was as great as my perplexity. How to deal with such outbursts of anger in children?
Ways to stop a child having tantrums
Such outbursts of anger are quite normal – until adolescence. However, it is difficult to start with a strategy to emotionally support the child only in an acute case. It’s important to create a positive family atmosphere for feelings. Generally speaking, all feelings are okay and allowed, but it’s about finding an appropriate expression.
In order to reduce, mitigate or deal with anger in children, parents should give the topic of feelings an important place in everyday family life.
Because only those who know their feelings can deal with them. And when children learn to regulate their feelings, they experience self-efficacy, gain self-confidence, and realize that they are not at the mercy of their feelings, but can make a difference.
Dealing with feelings as a family
1. As a parent, you’re addressing your own feelings
This way, children learn to recognize feelings and they see that there are different ways to deal with them. Tell your child, for example, if you’re angry because you’ve received a negative email. Tell you that you want to have tea or go to the window to calm down.
It is a problem that adults often do not share their strategies for dealing with feelings with their children. If they do, children learn that adults also have feelings. Together, parents and children can also talk about how the child could deal with anger or other feelings.
2. The ‘feeling game’
Make a fun game about feelings, for example on long car journeys: A child thinks about a feeling, for example fear, and the others ask: What would be your feeling as a landscape? Or as food, colour and so on. Family members guess what feeling the child has chosen. It’s fun for the kids. And whenever someone else describes a feeling, they also notice that the mother or father, for example, experience fear in a completely different way.
3. Exploring signs of a tantrum
Explore with your child the signs of a tantrum to stop a child having tantrums. Explain to them by talking about volcanoes. Tell them what happens to the volcano before it erupts? What could you tell of the eruption soon? Then draw a graphic with the children with many small and large humps that symbolize earthquakes, warmth, smoke and so on – and run to the point where there is no going back, where the volcano erupts.
And then paint their volcano, the outburst of rage with the physical signs. Before the outbreak, the children may feel their stomachs tighten, how they start to sweat, or how their voices change. When children become aware of physical changes, there are strategies to deal with these first signs and prevent the outbreak. It is important that children then know what is good for them and reassure them. Some children want to drink a hot chocolate, others want to cuddle with their mom or listen to their favorite story. This knowledge is important for life.. The body often speaks to us early on.
4. Set up a tantrum corner for an emergency
This place can be quite individual. Take, for example, a large paint block and oil crayons. Those who are angry can turn the anger there into color and paint a picture of anger. A punching bag can also help reduce frustration. It should be a place where you can just let the anger out to stop a child having tantrums.
React correctly to stop a child having tantrums
And what if you’re in the middle of it, in the rage? When the child screams and rages and beats around because the shoe has twisted and the foot doesn’t fit in? In the outbreaks themselves, it is recommended for adults to remain calm and clear and not to try to clarify the situation before the child has calmed down again. You can fall back on practiced rules, such as the Wutecke, and there are no-go rules that can be defined beforehand. For example: Beating is also forbidden in rage. In general, adults should pay as little attention as possible to the child’s undesirable behavior so that it is not amplified.
Anger outbreaks and developmental psychology
From the age of six months, children learn to regulate their emotions themselves. This transition from foreign to self-regulation is constantly increasing with the maturation of the brain and the learning of language and strategies in dealing with feelings. In the beginning, the children were still overwhelmed by the force of the feelings.
Take the example of a two-and-a-half-year-old who gets a burst of anger because her foot doesn’t fit into the twisted shoe: Rage breaks often have to do with children’s learning processes. The child learned how to put on the shoes themselves and was proud. But then something happens that it didn’t involve in this process, it doesn’t work anymore and the frustration is huge.
What factors influence the emotional expression
It is normal that after such developmental steps there are bursts of anger when something unexpected happens. Two points are causing the child problems in this situation: for some reason, he or she cannot cope with what has already been learned – and it is not yet accustomed to dealing with the many emotions that follow. It gets better and better over the years. Character, social competence, cultural norms and the parenting style are important additional factors that influence the expression of feeling.
However, impulsivity and tantrums can occur into adolescence. Because the prefrontal cortex, our control body in the brain, only matures at the end of the teenage years. That’s why it sometimes seems in teenagers that this control body is on vacation and the young people behave very impulsively. You need to turn a blind eye to that and try to reason with them as young adults
Author: Genevieve Dumas is a food, fashion and beauty stylist from New York, who has worked for a range of major magazines.