Ooooh, My Kid is MAD
Children have strong emotions just like adults. The challenging part for children is to learn what those emotions are and how to handle them. That’s where the adults come in. It is up to us to help children learn the names of what they are feeling and the most appropriate way to express those feelings. This is something that most adults don’t think about- we know when we are sad, happy, mad, frustrated and we (usually) know how to express those emotions in a healthy manner. Children have to learn all of this. So, what do we do for our children? We name what we believe they are feeling. You know when your kid is bouncing off the walls because he gets to go play at the park? But, you’re not quite ready to leave yet? You can get down on his eye level, and tell him in a gentle voice, “I know you are really excited to go play at the park. I am, too. But, I’m not quite ready yet. We will go after I get some snacks and water for us. Would you like to help me get our things together?” Giving your child concrete timeframes in ways that make sense to him (30 minutes might feel like 30 years to some children) and something to do until you’re ready will make the wait (and his level of excitement) more manageable for everyone.
What about if your child is really angry? Again, at her eye level, tell her in a gentle voice, “I know you are really mad. But, yelling hurts my ears. Tell me why you are upset.” If your child is able to express her anger, address it. If she tells you she’s mad because you won’t let her play outside, tell her why she can’t go outside right now, and offer suggestions for what she can do instead. If your child is unable to express why she’s mad, try to help her figure it out. "I can see you are very mad because you want to go outside. But, it’s raining. We can go out later when the rain stops. Right now, would you like to dance to music?”
What if you don’t know why your child is upset? Be honest with him. Say, “I see you are upset, but I don’t know why. I really wish I could help you feel better.” Then, give your child the space or love that they need. Some kids want to be held until they are able to calm themselves down; others need to be left alone. If that is your child, tell him, “It looks like you want to be left alone. You can come back to me when you are ready.” Then, stay nearby where you can see him, but give him the space he needs.
When your child is expressing strong feelings- either feelings of joy or not- be honest and validate the feeling. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the outburst will subside when you offer some true validation to your child.
Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting. Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.