Temper Tantrums:" A Challenging Norm"

Why are children aggressive?

Oftentimes, parents ask themselves, “Why is my child so aggressive? From where did he get this? Who taught him this way of expression?” Aggression in children is not taught unless they are modeling one of the parents’ reactions to consequences. Aggression is a way of communication. Children have not yet developed the linguistic skills or the appropriate way of dealing with unfavorable circumstances. In addition, children have not yet comprehended problem-solving and communication skills to express their feelings properly and improve his/her behavior. 

What might make them angry?

It helps to take a step back and think about what makes children angry. Here is a partial list of things children may get upset about:

  • Not getting their own way
  • Having to share and not wanting to
  • When they are told “no”
  • Being told to do something they don’t want to do
  • Not having enough time to play
  • Having to do chores or homework
  • Sibling rivalry and jealousy

Underlying issues:

You can also think about the underlying issues or less obvious things that make kids angry, like:

  • Being overly tired, hungry, or stimulated
  • Having unmet needs (for example, needing your attention or needing some quiet time)
  • Being stressed
  • Temperature: being too hot or too cold
  • Having unmet expectations (for example, your child expected you to come in to say goodnight, and you forgot to do so)
  • Having unrealistic expectations (for example, your child may have expected to get everything he had put on his wish list for his birthday, and he only got a few of the items).

How do children show their anger?

Children express anger in many ways, depending in part on their temperament. Sometimes your children’s expression of anger is more obvious and sometimes it is less clear.

  • A highly active child may kick, hit, or throw things.
  • A very exuberant child may yell, scream, or tantrum.
  • A quieter child appears to be sad, mopey, or want to be alone.
  • Some may be uncooperative.

Depending on your temperament, some of the ways children show anger can be easier to handle, while others might be unacceptable to you. Anger can build up just like a volcano.

  • A “little angry” just makes children bubble, more anger makes them bubble more, but “a lot of anger” inside of them can make them erupt like a volcano, perhaps in some disrespectful ways.
  • Some children have a long fuse, and it takes a lot for them to explode in anger; for others, one small thing can set them off. For parents of these quick-to-react children, it can feel like they are always waiting for that volcano to explode.

What is the result of children’s anger?

Anger often has a ripple effect, much like a stone being thrown into a pond. You can end up with your child in meltdown. Thus, those around him may feel the effects as the angry feelings are passed down the line. For example, did your child ever have a major temper tantrum? And then get over it and want you to give him a hug? But you now have strong emotions including anger and may not feel so loving at the moment. Those angry feelings may then be taken out on the child, on a sibling, or another person. In the end, the effects can be widespread and quite damaging to relationships.

What to do when a child is aggressive?

  •         Stay calm and control your own temper, since children learn through mimicking and modeling. If the child’s role model were showing anger and frustration, the child would not know how to act otherwise.
  •         Do not give in and agree on whatever the child wants to do if he is asking for it in an inappropriate way. Otherwise, you would be only praising and encouraging them to act upon this way whenever he/she wants something.
  •         Try to help them understand that you’re there for them, support, and love them for who they are even if they show aggression. Do not “silent-treat” them, or show them that you won’t talk to them because of that.
·         Address their aggression; teach them how to behave if this happened another time. Playing pretend helps them learn the appropriate ways to express their emotions. Try to understand the reason behind this tantrum and give them other solutions.