“Dr. Linda, my 3 1/2-year-old son Manny is throwing a lot of temper tantrums since his baby sister was born. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?”
It’s very normal for Manny to feel jealous after his sister gets home from the hospital. After all, he was used to being the complete focus of his mother’s attention all the time. Now she’s busy taking care of the new baby and is distracted from him, naturally, he doesn’t like this new development one bit!
So, in order to get his moms attention, he’s started doing things he’s not supposed to do and throwing more temper tantrums which are sure ways to get his mom’s attention.To Manny, as a toddler, any attention, even negative attention, is better than no attention at all!
Children naturally use their bodies to express their emotions. They run, play, sing, hug, and dance when they’re happy and they throw temper tantrums when they’re frustrated, hungry, jealous or overtired.
Both my own children had very strong opinions and emotions which they loved to express fully. I remember cringing in shame every time either my 2 or 3-year-old would throw a temper tantrum in public. I tried to completely avoid going out but that didn’t work for long because we all started to go stir crazy. I had to find another solution!
After doing some research I found some tools I could use to give my toddlers ways to use their bodies and voices to express their sometimes very strong emotions in ways that would be socially acceptable. I didn’t want my kids to have to suppress their feelings because these unexpressed feelings could get ‘stuck’ in their bodies and show up later in other ways like stomach aches, constipation, headaches, poor sleep or behavior challenges.
In this blog, I’ll go through 3 techniques I taught my own children and many others in my practice to deal with negative emotions. They’re healthy, fun and socially acceptable ways for your kids to express their negative emotions without throwing temper tantrums.
They use your children’s imaginations and show them that they can find other ways to express how they feel which improves their sense of control which is so important during the toddler and preschool years.
- The grumpy gorilla or the angry elephant ’ tricks’ are easy and fun even for young children.
- Before you try these techniques make sure your child knows something about these animals. Read a book, watch a video or go to the zoo to learn about them.
The Grumpy Gorilla:
When you see your child getting upset have them pretend to be a grumpy gorilla. How do grumpy gorillas act?
Do they stomp around and make funny noises?
Do they pound their chest?
Do they jump up and down?
Have your children use their imaginations and pretend to be a gorilla until they feel better.
The Angry Elephant:
When your child is getting frustrated have them pretend to be an elephant stomping through the jungle.
Have them get on all fours and stomp through the jungle.
Have them use their arm as a trunk and use it to make elephant noises releasing all the ‘negative’ feelings.
Dancing is a technique you can use yourself and teach your child.
Dance is one of my own favorite ways to deal with strong emotions. There’s nothing as good for expressing and moving emotions out of the body as purposeful dance! As busy parents, many of us have forgotten how important it is to have fun. Letting go and dancing like nobody is watching( except your toddler of course) is a good way to deal with frustration and stress. You don’t need any special equipment, its free and all you need to do is put on some music and let your body do the work.
To use purposeful dance with your toddlers make sure you have one or two pieces of upbeat, fast and loud music stored on your phone that you can pull up easily.
When you notice your child getting tense or unhappy turn the music on as loud as you can and start to move to the music. Do what feels good, you don’t have to be a ‘great dancer’ or have ‘fancy moves’. Just start moving to the music and encourage your toddler to join you. Instruct them to dance out how they feel. Do they need to swing their arms? Stomp their feet? Roll around on the ground? Encourage them to come up with ‘moves’ that express how they feel.
What to do once the ‘crisis’ is over:
After any of these methods when you’re all feeling better:
- Take a few moments to have a nice hug or tickle session.
- Talk to your toddler or preschooler very briefly about how they can help themselves feel better whenever they want by using any of these ‘tricks’.
- Encourage your child to make up their own ‘tricks’ to feel better. This is a great way to let your child know that you trust them to come up with their own solutions which strengthens their self-esteem.
In” The Holistic Pediatrician’s Guide to Raising a Healthy, Mindful Child” eBook, I go over other easy to use practices as well as the 4 pillars of raising a healthy, mindful child. Click here to download it!”
To your holistic health,