You’re so concerned that your toddler and the Devil might have been separated at birth, you keep checking his head for horns. One minute he’s a sweet little angel, but the next he’s an angry, out-of-control demon who shouts, yells, insults, throws things, hits and even bites.
It seems like just about anything can set off an angry outburst — such as when he’s told to follow a rule, doesn’t get his way or is simply trying to get your attention. Parenting strategies can help teach him to manage his anger rather than acting it out.
Be a Role Model
You’re a mom, not a saint. So it’s no surprise that your patience is repeatedly tested when your preschooler throws a tantrum at the mall, bites Grandpa, hits his little brother and throws food in the restaurant.
You might feel like reverting back to infancy and throwing a tantrum yourself. But If you scream at your toddler in response, you’ll be behaving in the same out-of-control manner that you’re asking him to stop. Instead, count down from 10 or take a few deep breaths.
You might say to yourself, “It’s OK. I can handle this and act like an adult.” By remaining calm, you’re also teaching your mad munchkin by example that it’s possible to stay cool under stress.
Don’t Give it Attention
It’s never easy to turn your back on your little one, even when he’s throwing a fit. But ignoring him during his angry tirades is the best way to make them ineffective, according to EmpoweringParents.
If you try to stop the tantrum by begging, pleading, commanding or bribing him with toys, you’re actually feeding it and giving it power. Your tot will conclude that throwing tantrums is an effective way to get Mommy’s attention or a new toy, and continue to throw tantrums in the future, hoping for the same results.
Avoid intervening unless your child is close to breaking things or causing harm to himself or others. If you consistently ignore his outbursts, he’ll eventually learn that acting out won’t get him what he wants.
If the anger continues, enforce a time-out. Time-outs can be an effective method of discipline, according to KidsHealth. Avoid making accusations and threats or hurling insults.
Instead, calmly state that his outburst is unacceptable behavior and has led to the time-out. You might say, “We don’t yell and scream in this home” or “There’s no hitting in this family.” Sit him in an area of your home that you’ve designated as his “time-out” spot, such as on the stairs or in a kitchen chair.
The time-out should be approximately one minute for each year of your child’s age, recommends KidsHealth. If your tot is 2 years old, the time-out is two minutes.
Teaching Healthier Communication
Kids often act out their emotions because they haven’t learned self-expression skills. Once your child calms down, encourage him to put his feelings into words.
You might calmly say, “Tell me what made you so angry.” If he’s hesitant, help him by saying, “Are you mad at your sister for playing your video game?” Even if you believe his anger is unjustified or silly, listen with empathy and without belittling his feelings.
You might say, “I can understand why your sister hurt your feelings, but name-calling and hitting isn’t allowed.” The more he can verbally express his anger and maintain self-control, the less likely he’ll be to act out by throwing tantrums.