It’s times like those mad dashes to the grocery store to get some milk, with the children screaming about not getting to buy boxes of cereal, where we so desperately want our children to learn how to be emotionally aware. It’s irrational! It’s overblown! Honestly, it seems unfair that just hours ago, the women at my daycare were saying how gentle and kind and well-behaved my kids were, then as soon as they’re with me it’s like they’ve taken on a new personality. Why oh why do our children seem to save all their tantrums exclusively for us?!
Despite how unfair or downright hurtful it might seem, there’s a pretty good reason for it, and it all comes down to trust. You are their safe space to express their emotions, the good and the bad. They know that if they misbehave or have a fit at school, they’ll be punished and maybe even embarrassed for it. When they get home, they know (even if they don’t verbalize this feeling) that they can let loose and experience all the pent up emotions they have and at the end of the day, they will still be in a safe and loving environment.
Nonetheless, this can be painful for parents. It’s hard not to take it personally or feel like you are failing in some way when your child says or does hurtful things. Even still, know that you are not powerless! You do not have to act like their doormat. Here are some things you can do to process the reality of your child’s aggression and fits, and some ways you can help to prevent them.
Gather a Support System
It can be so difficult to balance taking the brunt of your child’s emotions and offering a safe space with the fact that you too are a human being whose feelings can get hurt. Make sure you are supported by a partner, other family members, and friends so that you have the capacity to absorb some of the negativity your kids hurl at you. Sometimes it takes another person with “no skin in the game” to assess the situation and remind you that it’s not your fault.
Do a Reality Check
It can feel personal when a child’s anger is directed solely at you, but how do you know how your children are behaving when they’re not with you? Are your kids good around others? Do you get good feedback from their teachers/coaches/other parents/neighbors? Do you see them interacting well with strangers at the store or restaurant? If the answer to any of these is “yes,” your child will be fine. They are learning how to be emotionally aware and understand the importance of kindness, patience, and cohesion, but they need a safe place to express all their emotions.
Let Them Work it Out – Even if it’s Hard
It’s so important to remain that safe place for your child to purge their emotions, starting at a young age. They will never forget that. Try not to get emotional and overreact even though that would be natural and justified. Support your child through his/her difficult moment, but if it goes on too long, it’s okay for you to calmly step away and explain that they are welcome to talk to you when they calm down. This will give them the opportunity to self-soothe and develop resilience and coping skills. You can’t solve all their problems and you shouldn’t. And sometimes as painful as it may be, it’s okay for them to cry it out and reflect on the fact that they said something hurtful to you. Maybe next time (or the hundredth time) they’ll act differently.
Share How You Feel
It can also be okay to share your feelings with them and teach them the impact of their words to show how to be emotionally aware. You can do this simply, in an age-appropriate manner. Use “I” statements – I feel hurt when you tell me X, I feel sad when X, please try to stop saying X because it is hurting my feelings.
Swap Out Harsh Words for Realistic Assessments
When your child starts bombing you with harmful phrases like “I hate you,” it’s our instinct to react in an equally dramatic way. Instead of saying harsh things like “How dare you say that,” or “I don’t care what you think,” keep as calm as you can and swap it for more helpful phrases. Try naming the emotion you are seeing in them. For example, try saying “You seem very angry, something bad must have happened today.” Naming the emotion and the cause for their reaction helps them learn how to be emotionally aware. It helps them to regulate their own feelings and learn that they are in control of their actions, and that their actions have consequences.
Ask What They Need From You
Another tip, difficult as it may be, is to calmly ask what they want or need from you. They might not know at that moment, and that’s okay. You are there to show that no matter what they need, you’re willing to help them. You can offer suggestions by asking if they need a listener, a hug, alone time, or some problem solving. Try the HALT acronym – are they Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired? If yes to any of these, address that need before exploring more complex emotional issues.This might not be a magical fix for their tantrum, but it shows your child that they are not helpless in their emotions and in fact, there are people who love them and want to help them. Eventually they will have to ask themselves the same questions to get over tough emotions too.
A lot of times, children feel out of control when they experience anger and start lashing out. They don’t innately know how to control or manage their emotions, especially not the “difficult” ones like anger or frustration. They often don’t realize, as most adults don’t, that they have power of their emotions and reactions. That’s why we developed HAPPÉ, to empower children through their emotional development journey and shape the way they experience the world around them. You can sign up for either HAPP? program for free:
- Mission I’m Possible is a series of play-based “secret missions” to help them build emotional skills.
EFT Tapping is a globally recognized tool for managing anxiety and overwhelming feelings. EFT is backed with decades of research as a form of “non invasive acupuncture” that helps us to feel calm, in control, and emotionally aware. HAPPɒs Tapping program is guided by an animated character to help teach you and your kids the easy-to-learn methods and apply them to even the toughest of days.