Every kid has a tantrum every now and then, but when a child is experiencing difficulty controlling their temper it can be a really frustrating and challenging time for their parents.
Little kids, big feelings
Kate Eshleman, PsyD of Cleveland Clinic Children’s said many times children will act out because they are experiencing changes and don’t yet know how to express their feelings.
“What might be causing that? Are there changes at school or are there changes at home?” said Dr. Eshleman. “Often times kids have what we call ‘big feelings’ and they just don’t know how to appropriately express them.”
Dr. Eshleman said it’s important for parents to remember that anger is a common emotion, especially in younger kids who often don’t get what they want.
She said many times, anger can be caused by the fact that young children have very little control over things in their life and have few opportunities to make decisions for themselves.
Dr. Eshleman said parents can help by letting young children make small decisions, like picking out which color shirt to wear, or what vegetable they would like with dinner.
Anger is normal
Dr. Eshleman reminds parents that when their child acts inappropriately, it’s helpful to use that as an opportunity to explain to them and demonstrate the appropriate way to respond.
She says parents also need to keep in mind that young children are not able to put their wants and needs into context with the big picture just yet, so it’s important to be patient with them.
“Also keeping in mind that parents often perceive that kids get mad over silly things or little things but those things, while they may seem silly or little to us as adults, are probably very important to the child.”
Dr. Eshleman said that some children have problems with excessive anger and that seeing a behavioral specialist can not only help the child manage their reactions, but also help the parent learn skills that can help the child as well.