Helping Toddlers Manage Emotion

March 21, 2019

Toddlers are energetic, curious, and excited to learn about the world. When they’re not able to engage with their environment they can become frustrated. While you should always try to provide opportunities for your child to explore and play, there will be times when you have to tell your child no or set boundaries they don’t like. During those times, many toddlers—new to the world of emotion as well as the physical world—will lash out. These tips can help you teach your toddler how to control negative emotions.

Take a Time Out Together

Unless you sense that your toddler needs a break from you to cool down, try staying with them during time out. This lets your child know that you care about them, you will not reject them because of their behavior, and you are not intimidated by what they’re doing. This can also be a great time to talk with your child about what they’re experiencing.

Acknowledge Emotions

Ask your toddler questions about how they’re feeling, and acknowledge their emotions. Help your child learn that how they feel is natural, but how they react to it needs to be controlled. This can be done in simple language: “I’m sorry you’re upset. It frustrates me too when I can’t do what I want. But it isn’t okay to hit people.”

Help Problem Solve

Help your toddler come up with ideas of what they can do when they’re frustrated. You might come up with a list of two or three ways they can calm down when they start to feel that way, like draw a picture, cuddle a favorite toy, tell someone how they feel, or just take a deep breath. The next time you see your toddler getting emotional, help them choose something on the list to manage their emotions.

Establish Standards

Set clear boundaries for your toddler. Make it clear that feeling frustration is okay, and can be handled with something on their list. But you should also establish consequences for inappropriate behavior like hitting, throwing things, or screaming.

As you help your toddlers learn to recognize and control their emotions, be patient and set a good example for them yourself. Helping toddlers control emotion can be a challenge, but the lessons you teach them now will carry into their school years and adult life, and help them to be happy and well-adjusted.

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