Rebel with a cause... toddler and kids rebellion
We’ve all been there – at the mall when our three-year-old decides to ask for something unreasonable and then proceeds to embarrass us (at least it seems that way) by crying loudly, or worse, throw themselves on the floor and refusing to listen.
Or how about when you are ready to leave for the office, and they end up dropping all the food on the floor and refuse to eat?
While it may seem like the last straw, the first thing we all need to remember is that it is a form of expression and exploration of the world around them.
So take a deep breath and get down to what needs to be done.
As a child grows up and he starts seeing more of the world, he starts realizing that there are choices to be made. From a toddler’s perspective, some things are more fun and worthy of exploration, while others are not so exciting.
They may be even constraining. Like a ride in the car seat in busy traffic may be less exciting on that day than playing with a toy that has captured their interest right at that minute.
When we as the adults in their lives take them away from what is attractive to them, they feel frustrated, angry and helpless.
Where do tantrums come from?
Toddler tantrums are often an expression of frustration and helplessness. They do not know how to express their needs in a socially acceptable manner. They are also not sure of what it is they want.
They do not want to be left behind while the parent goes off to the office, nor do they want to leave their current interest behind. Since their concept of gratification is in the instant they end up throwing a tantrum.
Pre-schoolers and young children have a new level of independence. From being with the parents and caregivers all the time, they understand that there are places where they are responsible for themselves.
They are testing their boundaries, and they are also examining the boundaries that we as parents have set for them. So it could be a visit to a school friend that causes frustration, especially when both want to play with the same toy for instance.
Anger management for children has to start young, and you can intervene to help them understand their own boundaries better.
For tweens and teens, it is about pushing boundaries and fitting in with their peers. So it is cool to rebel against what your parents have to say, from wearing what they ask, to returning from a play-date on time.
Every one rebels, and it is also necessary to some extent. Without rebels, we would not push our limits and advance our abilities as individuals or as a community.
It is also essential to channel that rebellion into the right things and in the right way as it can cause immense harm if left unchecked. Anger tends to build up, and it is for parents to help children with their anger management issues and tantrums.
So what can we as parents do to help a rebellious or angry child?
Stay calm: Frustrating as it can be to have a screaming toddler or a sullen teenager who refuse to listen, remember that they are looking at you for cues. Let them understand that you are not angry. Take charge of your emotions and the situation.
Listen carefully: If your toddler or teen feels he’s been heard out, it goes a long way in calming them. You can reason better with them later only if they know that you listen.
Choose your fights: You have to pick your battles. Not everything is of the same importance. Prioritize and help them do so as well. An occasional late-night or an extra helping of not-so-healthy food is not a lost battle.
Prevent the situations: If you think screen time is a problem, try to prevent it by not agreeing to some for the sake of convenience. If going to a toy store triggers a tantrum, try to avoid it till you have figured out why and ways to deal with it.
Offer choices and alternatives: Let them feel like they are in control. The trick here is to give toddlers to teens some power by offering choices. Be specific and do not give open-ended options.
Be consistent: Children are frustrated when they do not know what to expect. Make sure you are consistent in your rewards, penalties and overall discipline.
Parenting is never easy, and it does not come with instructions. We need to figure out what to do as all children are unique and even within a family what works for one child may not work for another.
Frustrations are normal for the child and the parent. But know that it is a passing phase. Also, a completely obedient child is a figment of the imagination. All kids will have their difficult moments. It is what makes parenting so challenging and exciting.
What's your experience of dealing with such tantrums? Share with us in the comments below. We'll love to hear you!