Coping With an Angry Toddler
As parents, we've all been there: we've seen the meltdowns and heard the screams that tell us our toddler is angry. They are angry at Mom or Dad, angry at their friends, or just angry at the world. If we admit it, there are times when we feel exactly the same way. We would like to just lie down on the floor and kick and scream. However, we know that it is unacceptable behavior and the wrong way to deal with our feelings of anger.
So, how do you teach that idea to a toddler? It's a complex lesson to which even many adults do not know how to respond. It is essential that we begin training anger management skills to our children as early as possible. While the term "anger management" sounds adult-like, it is something that needs to be learned early in childhood. It's much easier to train children correctly than to retrain them later in life or as adults. Here are four strategies you can use to help your toddler learn how to handle their anger correctly.
#1 Teach Them Words
One of the reasons toddlers get so physical when they are angry is because they don't have the words to explain how they feel. They have this strong feeling inside like it could burst and they must get it out. That is why hitting, kicking, biting, and screaming are so popular with young children. It allows them to show you what they are feeling and provide a release.
One way to show them how to handle their anger is by teaching them the right words for it. Say to them "You're angry right now" or "You feel mad, don't you?" This will help them be able to say it to you in the future, "Mom, I'm mad." They will learn to associate that word with how they feel.
Help them understand why they are mad. You can do this by saying something like "You're mad because Johnnie took your toy, aren't you?" or "You're upset because I couldn't stop and play with you." This teaches them to associate the feeling with something that happened. In time, they will be able to tell you when they are angry and why.
#2 Teach Them Appropriate Behavior
Sometimes the anger is so strong that they want to do something physical to feel better. The parent's job is to help them find correct ways to handle it rather than hitting or throwing something. Here are some ways to provide physical release without hurting anyone or anything.
- Let them hit a pillow or other soft object.
- Give them play dough to punch and squeeze and pound.
- Have them draw an angry picture. It may just be scribbling with a dark color, but it can help them feel better.
- Allow them to scream for a few minutes in an appropriate setting.
- Let them run around. Exercise can help diffuse anger.
These are safe ways that allow your toddler to get rid of their anger. Once they have calmed down, you can discuss the issue. Trying to talk to them in the heat of the moment will not work in most cases.
#3 Separate the Emotion From the Behavior
It's important to help the toddler understand it is okay to be angry, but not all behaviors are allowed. You can say "I know you're angry at Johnnie because he took your toy, but it's not okay for you to hit him." Then suggest an appropriate behavior. Once they calm down, they should apologize for their behavior, but they shouldn't have to apologize for being angry.
Parents need to understand the difference between preventing wrong behaviors and denying feelings of anger to help their children develop good emotional health. It's not healthy to avoid your feelings of anger or suppress them, but they need to be dealt with in the right way.
#4 Set an Example
As with many areas of parenting, your toddler learns more about dealing with anger by watching what you do than listening to what you say. They will watch your behavior when you get upset, so it is essential that you demonstrate the appropriate behavior you want them to show.
Don't try to hide your anger. It's fine to tell your child you are upset. You don't have to give them a reason why or go into details, but allow them to recognize that feeling in you. Once they watch how you handle it, they will try to do the same thing.
Of course, parents make mistakes and there will be times you'll do something you wouldn't want your toddler to do. This is a great teaching moment. Sit down with your toddler and apologize to them for your behavior. Let them know you did wrong and should've handled it a different way. Ask them what they think you should have done. You'll be surprised at how much they will learn from your mistakes when you discuss them.
It's Never Too Early to Begin Anger Management
As soon as your toddler starts exhibiting signs of anger, you should begin helping them deal with it. If you start early, you will raise an emotionally healthy child who treats others with respect even when they are upset with those people. It may not seem like you are getting anywhere with your toddler, but remember that you are raising them to be adults and not children forever. Your lessons will get through and make a difference in their lives.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Audrey on August 27, 2018:
So much needed information because toddlers are little grown up people and they need to know early how to deal with their emotions the right way. Thank you for your wisdom
Raj Lally Batala from Chicago ,USA on December 27, 2012:
great hub !
Renee' D. Campbell from Gaithersburg, Maryland on December 17, 2012:
i like this hub and you are so right. I don't think we can ever teach children too early. I think a lot of their behavior comes from watching us and listening to us, but that does not mean we still do not have the opportunities to teach them right from wrong.
dallasd on October 12, 2012:
Great article very good read. I don't have any kids yet but I am always around my nieces and nephews and I had one of my sister's read your article as well.
JP Carlos from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on July 19, 2012:
It's really important to help children put a label on how they feel. Placing a handle on their emotions makes them express themselves better.
DEEPA JOHN from Trivandrum, Kerala,India on May 04, 2012:
Anger management in toddlers!! great piece of info, I need to try this with my kid. Voted up.
Melis Ann from Mom On A Health Hunt on May 04, 2012:
Great advice. Teaching anger management early makes it easier for parents, but also makes life easier on the child. Voted up and SHARED!
mariale2003 on May 04, 2012:
So well done hub!!! Love it!!! ...As early we teach them identify feeling and emotions they will understand life better and they will make better choices !!! thank you for sharing!!!
Proscovia Mudanyi from Nairobi on May 04, 2012:
Really nice and educational!