Little Ones Have Big Feelings

English
Help! My 5 year old seems to be out of control these days. He throws toys, he's very physical with me and our nanny,  hitting us (and friends) as hard as can.
He'll be sweet one minute, but when when asked to do something he doesn't like, he'll begin a hitting tantrum. I'm worried he will hurt his 23 month old younger sister. I feel like I've tried everything. What can I do?
-Tired of Tantrums

Dear Tired,
Aggressive behavior in children can be very upsetting for the adults in their lives. I'm sure this is a tough situation for all involved and this little guy clearly could use some help with big feelings.First, it's important to understand that children don't want to attack other people. I'm sure your son would much rather have fun and feel safe and loved. Kids get along well with others when they are able to feel a loving connection to the caregivers in their lives.

Unfortunately, a child's sense of the connection that they need can be very fragile. Children may not always be able to tell that they are loved, respected and safe. When their sense of safe connection breaks, kids  feel tense, frightened, or isolated. Not feeling connected to an adult who has ‘got your back' is very upsetting to a child. It causes them to lose touch with their good thinking. In this “emotional emergency,” they may lash out at other children or adults. But it's very important to understand that children don’t intend to be harmful. In fact, acts of aggression like this are beyond the child's ability to control themselves. They need an adult to help them.

This “Helping Children with Aggression” article will give you some practical steps to take to stop the hurtful behavior and listen to the feelings behind the aggression so you can both move on to having a better, closer, day.

You might also be interesting in a second article called “Handling Children's Feelings in Public Places” that talks more about using this connecting approach with children to get ahead of feelings that may cause aggression later. We have a full set of booklets that go in depth about your child's feelings and how to use tools like Special Time and Staylistening to help you and your son turn the tantrums into moments of connection.

We'll be thinking of you and your little guy. Let us know how it goes,

Julianne Idleman

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4 thoughts on “Little Ones Have Big Feelings

  1. Pingback: Top Parenting Posts of 2011 | Super-protective Factor

  2. This is totally great and exactly what we strive for with our little one. Now we are also connecting some of that behavior to possible dietary sensitivities too. No medical diagnosis yet but some physiological reactions to certain foods lately have put us on alert to certain behaviors that might also be connected to certain foods. We are trying an elimination diet taking out the food source we think is the culprit to observe any improvement in aggressive behavior. In addition we strive to provide connected, loving guidance when the behaviors present themselves. Also search for possible sensory activities that can help alleviate challenging behaviors as a preventative measure. We are just at the beginning of looking at possible the food aspect of the problem so I hope between the two approaches we will see improvement. Connection for us has also meant to be in tune to the possible stressors and life changes that are contributing factors also and helping our child articulate if those things are bothering her, how they might be bothering her and helping her find some tools for coping. Best of luck, kids are highly sensitive to their environments and if we tune in to those sensitivities it can help us usher an empathic response to the behaviors we do not like to see exhibited.

  3. Hi, our 1 year and 8 months old Hassan is having anger fits in which he tends to through him self on the floor, or through things, bits, and lately even slaps with his tiny hand s anyone or anything, when ever he doesn’t get what he was reaching for, or when told not to touch or do something as playing with a power socket etc. . Not to mention that the long face he putts on in protest, while hanging out his lower lip is actually very cute; his mom & I are very worried about that kind behavior in the future, specially that we have a “No Hitting” policy and only stare him down when something really major happens. We are actually extremely frightened of that attitude as we know it might be a result of frustration for not being able to express him self due to the fact that he’s still building up his vocabulary, but we really don’t know what is the right way to deal with this at this current age of his!!?

  4. Hi, our 20 months old Hassan is having anger fits in which he tends to through him self on the floor, or through things, bits, and lately even slaps with his tiny hands anyone or anything, when ever he doesn’t get what he was reaching for or when told not to touch or do something as playing with a power socket etc. Not to mention that the long face he putts on in protest while hanging out his lower lip is actually very cute; his mom & I are very worried about that kind of behavior in the future, specially that we have a “No Hitting” policy and only stare him down when something really major happens. We are actually extremely frightened of that attitude as we know it might be a result of frustration for not being able to express him self due to the fact that he’s still building up his vocabulary, but we really don’t know what is the right way to deal with this at this current age of his!!?

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