We all know that adults go through a lot of complex emotions every day. But have we taken a moment to think that maybe children and toddlers go through the same as well. Unlike adults, they are too young and have no experience on how to express or process these complex emotions – owing to their limited vocabulary and understanding. The things which parents invalidate as a tantrum may be arising from a deep-rooted emotional rollercoaster. Let’s talk about this in detail to understand this in a better way.
What causes temper tantrums?
As adults, we may feel angry when we have a fight with someone. We may feel sad when things don’t go according to us. We fear losing things and feel jealous when we are insecure about certain things. These emotions are hard to deal with as high-functioning adults. So when babies and toddlers; with their limited understanding and vocabulary face these complex emotions, there are definitely going to be meltdowns and tantrums. What parents need to do is be patient and try to understand what is causing those emotions instead of invalidating their feelings. Let’s talk about these emotions and how to deal with them.
Anger or Aggression?
Have you come across a situation where a toddler came to you and hit you? What was your reaction? Did you shout at them or scold them? While it is important to draw certain boundaries with children at a very young age itself – that hitting is a big no. But how you create the boundary matters as well. When they hit you or express their intention to do the same – Ask them about their feelings. Ask them what makes them want to hit. Give them an opportunity to express themselves in words. Validate their feelings. For example, if they are angry that you did not allow them to eat ice cream at night, explain to them why they can’t have it, instead of just telling them that they cannot have it.
Create a way in which they can express their anger in a way other than hitting you or some other person. Create some game where their anger could be directed. For example, get them a ‘Hit Me Toy’. They can hit that toy as much as they want to as it comes up again and again. This way they may end up forgetting their anger and start playing which is an excellent way to direct their anger to another way.
The emotion of sadness.
Let’s talk about sadness now. Just like us adults, sadness can arise from a lot of things even for toddlers and children. Sadness may involve a lot of tears as they may not be able to process the emotions. During such times it’s ok to let them cry. Scolding them or telling them to stop crying will only teach them to hide their emotions. Being there for them when they cry is more important, hold them and calm them down. Then ask them what happened and try to talk to them. Encourage them to express their sadness in words and talk to them about similar situations from your life that made you sad when you were their age.
It’s ok to be scared!
How many times has your child come to you being extremely scared and what has your reaction been? Did you laugh or say to them that they are brave and they shouldn’t be scared? The emotion itself may be too much for the toddler and, when their concerns are not validated they may feel unheard. In such situations, the parent needs to stay calm and let them express themselves. Just an assurance that they can come to you and talk about their fears can make them feel safe.
Jealousy- A complex emotion.
Now let’s come to jealousy. This is very common when a child has one or more siblings. They may sometimes feel they are not given importance and may get jealous of their sibling thinking that they take away all the time of the parent. Or in the case where it’s a friend’s birthday and they receive all the gifts, a child may feel jealous because being so young they may not understand why the other person is receiving gifts and not them. In such situations, the parents should give one on one time with each child. Build a routine with them so they don’t feel left out. It is even important to explain to them that it is ok to feel jealous but it is their friend’s birthday and hence they are receiving the gifts. Explaining things may help them process their feelings.
To conclude, it is important that toddlers express their emotions and talk to their parents about the same. Parents sharing their own experiences of such emotions may help too as the child will relate and won’t feel alienated. We at Little Aryans Pre K, the best pre-school in Kalyan and Ambernath have trained educators who are sensitive towards dealing with emotions. Building games and routines which help them channel their emotions would give them an opportunity to deal with their feelings in a healthy way.