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Angry Kids

First-time parents confronted with an angry 2-year-old can’t believe their eyes or ears.

Their first question: How could our cherubic cooing, smiling baby turn into this screaming, kicking, purple-faced monster? The inevitable second question: What did we do wrong?

The answers: 1) anger/frustration 2) nothing.

Let’s look at the world from a toddler’s perspective. I’m the littlest. I can’t reach everything I want to get at. I don’t have the muscle skills or dexterity to do all the things I want to do. I don’t have the words to say what I want to say. I sure don’t have the words to express how I am FEELING. All I can do when I feel this way is “throw a fit”.

Almost all day long some big person tells this child to do something, like get undressed for bed, or stop doing something, like pulling the cat’s tail. Someone once calculated that a preschooler is told what to do or what not to do about every 10 minutes all day long. Imagine how you’d feel if your boss did the same thing to you at work!

Children this age want to master the world but they aren’t big enough or smart enough. They long for independence but are still very dependent on you–another source of frustration if you want to do everything by yourself.

So, life can be tough when you’re only 2.

Of course life can also be tough on the parents of a 2-year-old especially if they feel helpless and don’t know how to handle their child’s outbursts.

Some useful strategies:

o Have empathy for how frustrated your child feels at times.

o Start out by helping your child deal with the anger. GIVE IT A NAME: “You feel angry because your brother won’t give you the truck. I understand how you feel but you can’t throw things.”

o Show your children how to GET RID OF ANGER IN APPROPRIATE WAYS. Show them how to march around the room energetically stomping up and down or buy them a special “anger pillow” to whack when they get mad. Some parents object because they say this will teach their children how to be angry. Not so. Your kids will figure out how to be angry on their own; this merely gives them techniques for expressing life’s inevitable angers in a socially-appropriate manner. Some experts object because they say expressing anger this way feeds the flame. I disagree–using big muscles (exercising) always helps me get rid of my anger and tensions and frustrations. I figure kids have the same endorphins.

o Try to avoid over-using the word “NO!”. You can do this in two ways: catch ‘em being good and say “YES!” whenever you can (“Yes, we’ll go to the park after lunch.” instead of “No, we can’t go now.”)

o However you must learn how to say “NO!” and mean it in the case of non-negotiable issues like “No riding in the car without being strapped in your car seat”.

o Make your young child’s environment as appropriate as you can. This means having a safe, explorable, non-frustrating space for the child to play in.

o Be sure your child gets plenty of rest and snacks. Fatigue and hunger promote and enhance negative emotions like anger. In my experience little kids trying to keep up often don’t want to nap or eat because they think they’ll miss something.

o Be patient! Before you know it your child will learn how to handle these frustrations. The more patient and calm and understanding you are, the easier this lesson is to learn.