What is the Best Way to Handle Anger Tantrums by My 3-Year-Old?

Crying toddler girlMy three-year-old has anger tantrums that make him so out of control where he just screams at me. I try to give him time outs but that just escalates things. I don’t know what to do! Do you have any suggestions?

Mommy Zen™ Answers

Kids do not have the inner resources to process strong negative emotions and we adults often don’t either, so we either teach them to knock it off and they swallow their feelings, leaving the adrenaline and other stress hormones circulating in their bodies with no place to go. A lifetime of swallowing and suppressing one’s own feelings can play havoc with our immune system. We need to teach our kids to acknowledge their strong negative emotions such as anger, frustration and sadness and then physically release those feelings.

I read once where ducks can be gliding along peacefully in a pond, come into each other’s territory, get into a little battle. As they swim away from each other after the battle is over they each flap their wings a few times and then continue to glide peacefully. If only humans could deal with conflict so effectively.

Recently my grandson was having a bit of a fit himself (because he wasn’t getting his way), then he started pouting. I told him the story of the ducks and asked him if he could flap his wings and do an anger dance to get the anger out of his body. Reluctantly at first, he started to flap his wings and wiggle around. As he did this he started to laugh (which also releases negative feelings). The issue was quickly resolved. Later in the day, a similar thing happened and I said, “Did you forget to do your anger dance?” and he started smiling and flapped his arms a bit and that was that.

So teach your kids to acknowledge the feeling. Don’t make it a sin to feel negative emotions, and create an anger dance or frustration dance to get the bad feelings out of their bodies.

Marianne Clyde is a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializing in anxiety, depression, relationship issues and eating disorders. Happily married with a combined family of 8 children and 10 grandchildren, her office is located at 20 Ashby Street in Warrenton, Virginia. For more information, visit: MarianneClyde.com or call 540-347-3797.

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