Anger management for preschoolers?
We all need to learn to express anger in a productive way instead of holding it in or lashing out at others. But how do you teach a preschooler, especially one who is all emotion all the time, to react in a productive way when her feelings overwhelm her? Consider these tips from Circle of Moms members.
1. Teach that Anger is Okay, But Not Violence
It's one of the most unsettling emotions a parent can deal with, but many Circle of Moms members agree that a preschooler's anger is as natural as love or happiness. However, it's tricky to try to teach the under-five set that while it is okay to feel mad, there are good and bad ways to deal with it, says Jennifer N. "We have two boys ages five and two and we are still trying to teach them that if they have a problem or something is bothering them to talk to mommy, daddy or grandma," she says. "We've also taught our boys never to use their hands or feet to fix a problem, as this hurts people."
2. Watch Your Own Temper
Parents who scream and swear every time a driver cuts them off en route to school or yells at another mom in the preschool registration line can expect their child to handle their anger much the same way, says Alfreda W. "If you both have bad tempers then the kids will learn by example," she says. "It is not easy, but if we are not able to do it ourselves, how can we expect a five-year-old to deal with his anger?"
3. Teach Them to Take Breaks or Walk Away
A mom's instinct is to protect her children. So it's hard not to feel sorry if your child has been wronged. But moms need to teach their children that they can't get back at the offender with certain behaviors such as biting, hitting or swearing, says Kristel E. "I try to ignore [my son's] tantrum or take away favorite toys," she says. "I also make him go to the corner and take deep breaths and calm down, and when enough time has passed usually one to three minutes, come out, talk about it, have him apologize with hugs and kisses."
Lara R. removes her child from the situation. "After I get him away, I tell my four-year-old, that it's totally ok to feel angry, and to say, ‘I'm angry,' but that it's not okay to yell at me, or to throw/break things. He can even stomp his feet if he feels the need, because that never hurt anyone. Then I ask him ‘Should we try to fix (whatever's wrong), or should we just scream/cry about it? What could we do [to make it right]?' That gets him thinking, rather than simply reacting."
And Nicole C. has taught her son to tune into his feelings of anger early so that he has time to create some physical distance from the child he wants to hit. As she explains, "When my son was lashing out in anger, we taught him to walk away at the first sign of his anger, and go tell mummy/teacher that he was angry and he needed help," says Nicole C. "This seems to have worked, for now when he is angry with his little brother, he just walks to his room."
4. Give Them Words to Express Feelings
Preschool-aged kids need to discover the right words to express their feelings, but moms need to show them how. Elizabeth N. advises: "When they are mad/upset/frustrated I have always taught my daughters to express what they are feeling with words," she says. "This is very helpful to the people around them and everyone understands what they are feeling...they learn how to deal with the feelings they have." She suggests giving a preschooler an example such as: " I feel upset/angry/frustrated because ...."
5. Keep Outbursts in Perspective
Moms need to understand that preschoolers are navigating their way from their toddler-like self-absorption to an increasing understanding of the feelings of others. If you want to help your child learn to express himself and his anger more effectively, understand they he is trying to learn by testing limits, advises Ashley P. "My daughter is two-and-a-half and she gets frustrated or angry quite a bit, especially when she doesn't get her own way, but I understand [it] is natural for her to get frustrated and...take something from [another child] or bite them. I simply ask her to go to her room until she has calmed down and is ready to talk."
6. Help Them Feel Safe
Anger is often justified, but your role is to help your child find a safe way and a safe place to express his feelings of frustration. "We've taught our girls that if they need to be mad that's perfectly okay, but they need to take it to their room," says Tasha M. We've talked about how it's okay to go in their room and scream and cry and yell, or hit their pillow or stomp their feet. Then, when they've gotten all of their mad feelings out, they can come get a mommy or daddy hug and we can talk about their problem. "
How do you teach your preschooler to deal with his anger?
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