Young children experience some pretty big emotions. And for adults, this can be difficult to understand.
A child may LOVE carrots one day, and the next day the offer of carrots leads to tears.
Outbursts of big emotions such as anger, frustration or even extreme joy are perfectly normal, and necessary for a child’s development. Here’s what Meghan Leahy has to say about this time in a child’s life:
“The good news is that a 3-year-old is growing and emerging in independence, physically and emotionally. With this emergence comes a great deal of emotional and physical messiness. Why? Well, human development is often filled with peaks and valleys, spurts and gaps, and a 3-year-old is right there. His brain is growing rapidly, and even though his language may be improving, he is still very immature.” – from The Washington Post.
Sometimes, children feel the need to express these big emotions in a physical way. Aka, becoming physically aggressive. Let’s look at some ideas for how to handle this.
What To Do When Your Child Gets Violent During a Tantrum
If your child expresses his or her emotions by getting physical, here are some tips to find calm and give your child the space they need. From Simone Davies of the Montessori Notebook:
“If a tantrum gets physically violent, it’s important for the adult to keep themselves safe, and their child. If they are banging their head, you can try to place a pillow or blanket on the ground to limit any injury to themselves.
And if the child is being violent to the adult, it’s important to give yourself some distance and support them from there. You could say, ‘I can’t let you hit me. I see that you are angry and I’m here to give you a cuddle when you are ready.'”
As children become increasingly verbal, you may think that their rational mind is also developed. But in many cases, a young child still has very poor impulse control and will respond emotionally to a stressful situation.
Claire Lerner and Rebecca Parlakian from Zerotothree.org recommend observing which situations or environments seem to distress your child. Find questions to answer like:
“What happened right before your child’s challenging behavior? For example, had you just announced it was time to stop playing and get in the car? Had another child just taken a toy out of his hands?”
During tough emotional outbursts, remember to communicate to your child (verbally or non-verbally) that you are there to support them. Through practice and patience, your child will be equipped to handle all of the many emotions we feel throughout the day in a safe and healthy way.
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