It would be a lie to say that we always manage to control our anger. Unfortunately, we all have felt that adrenaline rush that made our heart beat faster. We have all shouted, we have all erupted and because this almost never happened with strangers, but with our loved ones, we all regretted it a little later, feeling awful. We, as adults, can sometimes go “out of ourselves”, but we have developed deep inside that potential that will push us to think and process everything in the light of logic, further down. Think about it, what would happen if such skills were lacking? How would we feel if we experienced anger without understanding it and without cultivating the skills needed to control it? Wouldn’t the outside world scare us even more, but also ourselves? This is how preschoolers feel when they have temper tantrums.
Why does a child have temper tantrums?
The preschooler can be angry for a number of reasons: because he was jealous of his little brother, because he needed to deal with him when you worked late, because someone bothered him, because you didn’t let him play with his favourite toy, because he wants you to notice him, because he feels hurt, because he is afraid. The list can be very long, but the main idea is common: the child is angry, because something is out of his control field. Outside of what encloses everything that he realizes about himself and about the world around him, so far. In infancy, the self and the outside world are one.
Gradually and advancing towards infancy, the demarcation of the self and the environment will improve. Self-control, empathy, rational thinking, are skills that are at a very early stage of development. The toddler is currently unable to rationally process the feelings and consequences of his actions, as he is unable to control and perceive everything he feels. Moreover, the egocentricity that is characteristic of his stage of development, doesn’t allow him to put himself in the place of others. Whatever has caused his tantrum, it’s beyond his ability to manage. These skills take time and patience to cultivate successfully.
Are temper tantrums worrying?
Temper tantrums are expected in preschool. Self-discipline and anger management will be achieved more effectively at older ages. It is easier, to treat temper tantrums in the preschool period. We should only worry, if the child is constantly angry and aggressive, without any particular reason or event being mediated that has been the cause of his tantrum. In this case, it would be good to seek the advice of a qualified professional, who will guide you accordingly.
How to deal with temper tantrums?
In the first place, knowing that a young child doesn’t yet have the necessary skills to contain and control the emotions that overwhelm him, accept and understand his anger.
Search for the deeper cause
Often, the preschooler has temper tantrums without fully understanding why. This may frighten and confuse him, amplifying his already intense reactions. Look for the deeper cause behind his anger. It would be good, to locate the cause and explain it to the child. That would help to relieve the anger to a great extent.
Verbalize child’s feelings
Tell him, for example: “Now, you are very angry, because you are jealous of your new little brother. You cry and stamp your feet on the floor, because you are afraid that we don’t love you, as before. I understand how you feel.” In this way, you show the child that you understand him, while giving him the opportunity to perceive exactly, how he feels.
Encourage the healthy expression of anger
It would be good, to encourage the healthy expression of emotions, such as sadness, fear, jealousy, but also anger itself. Which can be expressed categorically and verbally. As the child manages to externalize all his feelings, he will have less and less the need to vent his anger into his aggressive form. All of the above, of course, require skills that will be cultivated over time, the foundations and boundaries, however, are very important to enter from preschool.
Limit the aggressive anger
The child’s tantrum needs understanding, but not tolerance of his intense reactions. Say, for example, to the child who hit his/her little brother: “I understand that you are angry, but I will not accept you hitting your brother/sister again.” Explain that every time we hit others, they hurt. Similarly, don’t allow the child to destroy toys and objects or harm himself. However, trying to discipline the child, try not to resort to punishments, which will not benefit him. In fact, they will create a vicious circle of anger, through which no result will be seen.
Keep yourself calm
As common as this may sound, it’s very important not to lose control of the situation, getting angry with your child. Stay calm, with clear thinking. Remember, you are the adult in your relationship with your child. You are one of the most valuable people in his life. You will set the limits he needs, you will help him cultivate self-control and the required skills to express his emotions. Stay next to him and support him, even if many times his behaviour makes you mad and drives you away. It’s certain that the moment he has temper tantrum, he needs you more than ever.
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