ANGER

Mother & Baby - - BABY & TODDLER -

Ever had that dilemma where your tod­dler is busy play­ing, but it’s time to get him ready for bed? And you take a deep breath as you say the words, “You’ve done a great job do­ing your puz­zle, but let’s go and get your jim-jams on now”. You’re think­ing, “I want to stick to the bed­time rou­tine. The smooth run­ning of our en­tire life, not to men­tion my san­ity, rests upon him get­ting enough sleep.” But your lit­tle one thinks, “What?!! Can’t you see what I’m do­ing here?! This is im­por­tant! Why are you telling me to stop?!” And flings the puz­zle across the floor. Yup, he’s an­gry. And most of the time, it’s frus­tra­tion that causes this emo­tion. “Anger oc­curs when some­thing hap­pens that your tod­dler doesn’t like – maybe his sib­ling steals his train – or when he wants to fin­ish a task, but that need is frus­trated,” ex­plains Mar­got. “And when the emo­tion is in­tense, it floods your child’s sys­tem with stress hor­mones, mak­ing him feel out-of-con­trol, en­raged and scared.” Which, we’re guess­ing, is a lit­tle bit how wit­ness­ing his lit­tle out­burst makes you feel, too. “It can be tempt­ing to try to stop your child feel­ing an­gry,” says Mar­got. “But if you deny an emo­tion it be­comes scarier, be­cause you’re in­di­cat­ing that the emo­tion is ‘bad’ and shouldn’t be felt. Ac­knowl­edge his anger, how­ever, and you teach him to recog­nise and un­der­stand the emo­tion. So, as he grows up, he’ll be able to recog­nise why he’s get­ting an­gry and find ways to re­solve the sit­u­a­tions.” So, the very best thing you can do when your tod­dler is an­gry is to sim­ply ex­press why he’s feel­ing that way. “So you might say, ‘Mummy knows you want to fin­ish your puz­zle. You’re cross. You were en­joy­ing do­ing your puz­zle and you wanted to fin­ish it’”, sug­gests Mar­got. By putting his feel­ings into words, you ac­knowl­edge his needs and show him that you un­der­stand how he feels. ‘And when we feel un­der­stood we be­come calmer,’ says Mar­got. ‘Nam­ing the feel­ing also shows him that this is an emo­tion you know, so he’s not alone in feel­ing it. And that makes the emo­tion far less scary.’ It also gives him the words to de­scribe it, which, one day, he’ll be able to use to ex­press his feel­ings in a calmer way. This process soothes your tod­dler and al­lows him to en­gage with, and start to recog­nise and un­der­stand, his feel­ings. And re­search shows that help­ing chil­dren put words to feel­ings at a young age has long-terms gains for their brain devel­op­ment, and helps them to man­age stress well in later life. Now, if you’re read­ing this and think­ing to your­self, well, that’s all very well, but it’ll be a bit tricky when I’ve got puz­zle pieces be­ing thrown at my head, hold on for a mo­ment. It’s prob­a­bly not the anger it­self that’s the prob­lem here, just the be­hav­iour that fol­lows. “And while you shouldn’t stop a feel­ing, it’s OK to stop a be­hav­iour,” says Mar­got. “If your youngster is hit­ting out, or be­hav­ing in a way that’s go­ing to hurt him­self or some­one else, then add that it’s OK for him to feel re­ally an­gry, but it’s not OK to hit or throw. And once he has the words to ex­press how he feels, the need to ex­press it phys­i­cally will ease.”

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