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Turning Tides at Home: Managing Aggression and Tantrums in Children

Written by: April Preston, Director of Behavior Services

Parenting is a journey filled with challenges; and navigating through episodes of screaming, crying, and throwing things can feel like trying to sail through stormy seas. Our children often express frustration, fear, or unmet needs by engaging in these behaviors, and understanding this, is the first step toward calming the waters.  Addressing these behaviors with patience and empathy can transform tumultuous moments into opportunities for growth and learning for both parents and children.

The key to managing these challenging behaviors lies in proactive strategies and consistent communication. Start by setting clear, understandable boundaries and expectations for self-calming behavior when upset. Children thrive within structured environments where they know what is expected of them. Practicing these boundaries and expectations of calm behavior in the presence of frustration, fear, and unmet needs can set children up for success. When rules are broken, respond with a neutral calm voice and provide natural consequences rather than punitive measures.

In moments of calm, engage in open dialogue with your child about their feelings and frustrations. Teach them healthy ways to express their emotions, such as using words to describe their feelings, taking deep breaths, or finding a physical outlet like squeezing a stress ball. Pictures, books, and songs about emotions can be helpful for children with emerging speaking skills. Recognition and praise for positive behavior go a long way in reinforcing the behavior you want to see. When your child does tell you how upset they are without screaming or crying, make a big deal with a shout-out, praise, or high-five. Patience, consistency, and practicing self-calming behaviors can significantly reduce instances of challenging emotional behavior.

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