How to Help Toddlers Vent Their Anger Without Hitting, Spitting & Biting
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Tame a tantrum with a reliable calming technique.


Toddlers are often angry little creatures. The first thing you should know is that this is normal and developmentally appropriate. Young children are learning their emotions and their emotional responses. What's more, they're often frustrated by the gap between their understanding and their abilities. It's a simple formula: when a toddler can't express what he wants and can't get it himself, he's going to melt down. Believing that this is a good thing is -- shall we say -- a challenge -- especially if your toddler is biting, hitting or spitting, as a way to vent his emotions. Give your growing toddler some acceptable outlets for his anger, and this particular stage of childhood becomes much more bearable.

EditSteps

  1. 1
    The first advice you will hear parenting experts give -- from Dr. Karp to Dr. Sears -- is to tell your child to "use your words." Encourage your toddlers to say "I am angry!" and then encourage him to explain why. You can also ask, "What are you feeling right now?" Offering words to use can also be helpful: "Are you angry at your sister for taking your toy? Are you frustrated that your shoelaces are tangled?" Don't dismiss or minimize, just describe and acknowledge his feelings. Afterwards you can try to problem-solve, if appropriate.
  2. 2
    This technique works wonders with adults, so why not teach it to your child as early as possible? Model taking slow, deep breaths and ask your toddler to practice with you, until she calms down. Later, once she's mastered this simple version, you can tell her that any time she feels like hitting or biting, to take a big breath, instead.
  3. 3
    Instead of hitting or biting, suggest to your toddler that she make an angry face. Model an angry face. Ask, "Do you feel like this? Show me your angry face." You can encourage her to make growly noises, too. Your child gets to be dramatic, gets to physically do something about her anger, and there's no physical contact involved. Dr. Harvey Karp of "Happiest Toddler on the Block" fame suggests practicing facial expressions of all sorts, as a game when you and your toddler are both calm.
  4. 4
    If naming emotions and making faces isn't enough, let your child stomp his feet to vent anger. Let him stomp hard, or even jump up and down in place. The noise and physical release can go a long way toward mitigating his feelings. The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, suggests to add positive reinforcement: "When you respond positively to their behavior, you reinforce that behavior and also build their self-esteem. 'You stomped your feet when you were mad rather than hitting. Great job!'"
  5. 5
    Some toddlers seem to do best when given a physical outlet for their intense feelings. If you set strong boundaries about what's OK to hit or throw and what's not, giving your child space and time to let out his anger in this manner can quickly short-circuit a tantrum. Let him hit a designated pillow, or throw soft, foam balls at a specified target.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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