There are many things young children are especially adept at: sneaking into your bed at night, colouring on the walls, and finding that lipstick in your bag, even when it's in the secret pocket. But the one skill they all develop is waiting for just the right time to throw a tantrum for maximum impact - namely in a crowded supermarket or packed playground.
Just like adults, young children can get angry. And when they're angry, everyone around them knows about it. From screaming and throwing things, to hitting out and lying on the ground face-down, children express their anger in different ways. But how do you know when their anger is more than typical pre-schooler behaviour? And just what can a three- or four-year-old have to get so angry about?
Joanna Fortune, psychotherapist and attachment specialist at Solamh, says anger is a normal, healthy, albeit unpleasant human emotion that can be felt even in infancy.
"Frustration, anxiety and even anger can be observed in infants, and certainly beyond toddlerhood, children are exploring ways to express these feelings, usually at a behavioural level at this stage," says Joanna. "We should not dismiss or try to 'get rid' of anger because sometimes, angry is exactly how we should feel in a given situation. It is not the feeling but how we learn to manage and express the feeling that can be the issue."
When your day revolves around snack, nap and play times, you'd wonder what a small child has to get angry about. But then again, just as with adults, it becomes clear when you take a minute to see the world from the child's point of view.
"It is hard to be small in a big world, to crave independence when you are mostly dependent on others to meet your needs," says Joanna. "Add to this that you are still developing language and you don't have the emotional language yet to express how you are feeling. At this age, behaviour is your language and this is how children display, process and experience emotions, including anger. Physical dysregulation can often serve as a trigger for emotional or anger outbursts, so before you respond to the angry behaviour, pause and quickly assess if your child could be hungry, thirsty, tired or unwell and respond to those physical states first."
Aoife Lee, parent coach at Parent Support, agrees there are plenty of things that can anger young children.
Source: Irish Independent