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When kids get angry, they get really angry. And parents, despite their best intentions, get cranky too and often react by yelling back. One thing leads to another, and a simple disagreement turns into a battle of wills, with screaming, kicking and tears.

What to do? First, try not to feel embarrassed. Remember that any child, with any sense of self, is likely to have a tantrum sometime, somewhere. And parents everywhere are wondering how to cope.

‘Children often start to have a tantrum because they don’t feel heard’, points out Dr Michael Thompson, author of Best friends, worst enemies. ‘They think what they want is for their parents to give in. But often, what they really want is for their parents to stop and listen.’

Experts agree that when you listen it’s important to accept, rather than dismiss, your child’s feelings – even if they’re hard to take. ‘We live in an emotion-dismissing culture’, says Dr John Gottman, author of Raising an emotionally intelligent child. ‘But if you build an awareness about your child’s emotions and your own, particularly an awareness of smaller emotions, then it might not be necessary for emotions to escalate.’

Let kids express their feelings without judgment
It’s natural for kids to sometimes have big feelings. You haven’t done something wrong if your child has an occasional tantrum or blow up. Parents should only worry if a child is chronically, constantly unhappy, or if tantrums are their only repertoire or tool for getting things.
– Michael Thompson, PhD, author of Best friends, worst enemies

Note
The information in these articles provides guidance for parents dealing with a child who experiences upsets in the normal course of growing up. If your situation is particularly challenging, and/or you have a child who has chronic tantrums, the suggestions provided here (while helpful) might not be sufficient. Parents who are caring for a child with greater emotional needs or who are dealing with a particularly challenging situation might want to seek specific professional help.

 
 
 
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  • Last updated or reviewed 08-08-2012
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