Need Ideas for 4 Year Old To Express Anger Safely - Mothering Forums
 
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#1 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 01:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi! Hardly ever start a thread here, so here comes my turn!

I need some help with my 4 year old. She's an explosive child; her emotions very quickly become totally too overwhelming for her to deal with. Not just anger.. happiness too!

However, when she's angry, she usually resorts to kicking and screaming. My only concern is: we live in a VERY small home, which echoes insanely. Her screaming hurts my ears, the baby's ears, etc. And the kicking worries me, because often someone winds up with a foot to the shin, or something may break and hurt her.

So, I'm caught in a dilemma. I don't want her to feel like she can't be angry. I want her to know she's completely entitled to her feelings. But, I think I need to create a boundary, because being angry doesn't entitle her to hurt other people in her quest to express that feeling.

We've been working on it for the past few days, and we're getting better. She has a stuffed bear that she talks to about it/takes her anger out on, I've told her she can punch a pillow, or tell me she's mad. But I think she needs more options than that. I've just been reminding her when I can see her anger building that we need to find an outlet other than screaming bloody murder to vent that anger,and she's been doing very well with it! Any ideas for me?
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#2 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 01:42 AM
 
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The first thing is to understand that there are two separate things happening - a physical outburst/aggression and the verbalization. A child cannot be taught anything during a physical outburst. So, you need to decide how you are going to respond to that and then be 100% consistent in your response.

The other issue is the verbal expression of her emotions. Personally, kids screaming or whining doesn't really bother me. I prefer a verbal expression to a physical one. Having said that, I do think four is old enough to be expressing her feelings more "appropriately". Are you trying empathy when you see her heading toward a meltdown? You can simply say, "I see that you are getting angry" or "Your face looks angry - are you feeling angry?" or, "You look like you're getting frustrated" or "Oh, honey, you look so sad". This will give her the language. Also, model this by expressing your own anger/sadness/frustration verbally. I do think you will have to hang in there with the screaming until she has a replacement behavior.

My older daughter who is 11 recently told me that the best thing I've done as her mom is teach her how to express her feelings. That made me feel soooo good!

Me : living with and loving papa and the kids: Dd1 8/97 , dd2 8/04 and my sweet baby ds 5/09 : :
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#3 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 02:13 AM
 
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Ktmama - your post was excellent! ITA with you.

OP - Some suggestions that have worked for us... my almost 6 yr old is an explosive child as well:

-Role play (when she is in a calm mood) and go over every possible scenario that you can think of. Kids love to play pretend so mine likes pretending with mommy. We take turns playing both "parts". My DD tends to have big explosions when someone else (usually one of her younger sibs) has done something to her - either intentionally or unintentionally. For just a brief example of what we do when we role play, it goes like this:
ME: Crawl over and take a toy that she set down a minute ago (pretending to be baby brother)
DD: "Hey brother! That's MY toy! I'm playing with it!"
ME: OOGOO BABA GAGA (DS doesn't talk much yet)
DD: "NO! You can't play with that! I'm still using it!"
ME: (Switching back to Mommy voice) "Remember that little brother is still learning how to play with you. What do you think you can do now?"
DD: "Drop a toy bin on his head? No. What about taking it back? No. Hey, what if I find him one of his toys and trade? Would that work, Mom?"
ME: "I like that last one. Great idea."
DD: Finds his soccer ball (his fave) and trades toys with him/me.

By the way, the suggestions that she makes like dropping a toy bin on his head are said in a silly sing song tone. She knows that those are inappropriate choices but she likes to throw them in while thinking.

Other things we do:
-Keep her busy. She is very high energy and high needs as well. She HAS to have quality one on one time with me every day or her behavior is much worse. She's quite bright so we do a lot of learning activities. She especially loves writing so we'll write stories and she'll illustrate them as well. She dictates to me a sentence, then I tell her how to spell the words she cannot spell yet.
-Make sure she eats healthy snacks. She is very sensitive to artificial sweeteners, flavors and colors and will have many outbursts if she eats junk. Also I've noticed that she will have more temper tantrums if she hasn't eaten in awhile (low blood sugar). I keep lots of fresh fruit available.
-I second the hitting pillow idea. She gets very angry and just needs to let off that energy and aggression somehow, kwim? At this age she is still working on impulse control and she needs a "socially acceptable" way to deal with those feelings when she just can't verbalize them. She prefers to go in her room and punch, kick or hit her pillows on the bed. Now, at this age, she'll excuse herself and calmly go to her room to let it all out... when she was younger I went with her and just sat on the floor and let her rage. It is quite difficult and somewhat heartbreaking to see your child throw such a tantrum...
-Which brings us to the last point... once she's done with the physical outburst she needs reassurance from me. She will come sit in my lap and I gently stroke her hair or rub her back. We will talk. I ask if she's ready to talk about it... sometimes she is, sometimes she wants to cuddle for a few minutes first. I gently ask her questions and she is allowed to tell me anything. It's okay for her to tell me, for example, that she doesn't like her little brother and wished she didn't have one. It's okay for her to feel that way when she's mad or upset, but it's not okay to push him down or hit him. We discuss why she's mad and what happened. I do NOT judge those feelings, kwim? (I had to have a discussion with DH about this b/c he doesn't want her saying mean things like that.)

Okay, I hope that helped. Please feel free to send me a message. I am here for moral support. It's hard to mother an explosive child sometimes.

One last thing... I do not send her to her room or "banish" her... it's not a Time Out. This is her choice to leave a situation that is upsetting to her in order to deal with it.

Beth
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#4 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 02:47 AM
 
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I will chime in again

Make sure you are vigilant as to the effect of the pillow/bear punching. Sometimes these kinds of activities actually increase agitation rather than relieve it. I also second the recommendation to end each of her "episodes" with a period of reconnection. This is so important for her to feel accepted and loved as I'm sure her feelings and expressions can be quite scary to her.

Me : living with and loving papa and the kids: Dd1 8/97 , dd2 8/04 and my sweet baby ds 5/09 : :
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#5 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 02:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks much, those are great!!

We do definitely do a lot of empathy with her. Right now, she's at the stage where she'll tell me she's mad at me, she doesn't want to talk to me. I just tell her that's fine, she's allowed to be mad at me, I understand, and if she's ready to talk about it, I'm here.

We do a lot of reassurance, too. I was an explosive child, for quite a long time, as was DH. I can remember how totally overwhelming those feelings could be, and how almost scary they were. For someone so small, angry can be a very scary, tumultuous feeling. When she's done being angry, we have a nice chat, and she's calm enough to tell me what she was mad about, and I sympathize with her, and we all do big hugs.

I try to emphasize with her that I do NOT get mad if she's mad. Her being angry doesn't make me angry, at all. I just prefer it if she could find a way to express it other than screaming (cuz man, the kiddo's got a set of lungs!), because it really hurts my ears, and has hurt the baby's ears. Plus it's really awful when she sounds like she's been out partying all weekend because her voice is raspy and I can tell her throat it sore!

We don't do time out. Occasionally, she'll put herself in "Nellie Time", which is a signal to us that she just needs some time to herself to deal with whatever she's feeling. She's free to come and go as she pleases.


I was thinking about some coloring, too. I know that when I'm mad, I really just LOVE the feeling of mashing a crayon into a piece of paper and scribbling like crazy. Something about that release, along with the vivid color, helps me calm down. Maybe that might help her?


You really summed it up when you said how heartbreaking it is to watch them rage like that. I can still remember what it feels like to be totally out of control of my own feelings, because they just got too big too quick. And I imagine that sometimes she scares herself with how strongly she feels.


I will say, she's making real progess at learning about those emotions. We've gone from about 15 HUGE disastrous fits a day to about 3 or 4, which is great. She's been really learning about processing the feelings, and how to handle them, and that they might be scary, but me or Daddy is around to help her cope with them. I'm just coming up blank when trying to find ideas and outlets for her.

I appreciate the help!
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#6 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 02:06 PM
 
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Redifer, have you considered any connection with her diet/sugar/artificial coloring connection to her explosiveness? I have a friend who's ds *completely* melts down when ingesting anything that's artificially colored.

Another prevention strategy that I thought of: Can she come to you when she feels herself ready to explode and give a signal to you? Maybe she can raise her hand or something? Then you two can come up with a strategy to help prevent a blowout. I did this with a little boy I once worked with and it really helped. Maybe during that time, you can offer some concrete problem solving and/or something like Rescue Remedy or some deep breathing to help prevent and help her learn some behavior management too.

Me : living with and loving papa and the kids: Dd1 8/97 , dd2 8/04 and my sweet baby ds 5/09 : :
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#7 of 11 Old 09-26-2008, 07:27 PM
 
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Okay, my son isn't near this stage yet, so I am making a total shot in the dark here. But what about helping her take that anger and turn it into a dance, or a drumming session (maybe even taking her to some dance or music classes so she has a 'tool kit' of movements or feeling of having a concrete skill to use), something where she can transform that energy into a form that expresses her strong emotions but is creative as well as physical? I don't know if that works with kids, but as an older child, I know that playing music helped me work through a lot of anger, and I don't see why a younger child would be much different...

Doula, WOHM, wife to a super-fun papa, mama to the Monkey ('07), and his little brother, the Sea Monkey ('09).
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#8 of 11 Old 09-27-2008, 12:28 AM
 
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OK, I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I'm wondering if Katherine could comment further on why music helped so much as an outlet for anger. K - did you have a *language* for expressing your feelings prior to this development of music as an outlet? So many authors stress the importance of developing an emotional language. Do you think it's as vital an outlet as others?

Me : living with and loving papa and the kids: Dd1 8/97 , dd2 8/04 and my sweet baby ds 5/09 : :
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#9 of 11 Old 10-01-2008, 07:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ktmama View Post
OK, I don't mean to hijack this thread, but I'm wondering if Katherine could comment further on why music helped so much as an outlet for anger. K - did you have a *language* for expressing your feelings prior to this development of music as an outlet? So many authors stress the importance of developing an emotional language. Do you think it's as vital an outlet as others?
Goodness gracious no, no language for expressing any emotions in my childhood. Being angry wasn't okay in my house. My parents were pretty terrible at helping us identify emotions (dad is a sensitive, but very emotionally stunted/repressed person, step-mom did all the emoting (lots of anger/resentment) at their place, and my mom expressed emotion inappropriately, making the kids feel responsible for her emotions). I was angry a lot as a child, but didn't understand why, nor was it okay to express it in either house.

I think that if a child can get familiar with his or her own emotional landscape, they will be better able to navigate it as an adolescent and adult. I do think that identifying and expressing emotion doesn't have to be something that happens ONLY through words. Music, dance, painting, soccer, baking, there are so many ways we can work through and express all kinds of emotion, positive and negative. We are such a logocentric culture; sometimes we neglect alternative forms of communication in thinking about how to develop an emotional language.

I think there's something about the physicality of music - you stand up to play, you move, you sway, you play with your whole body. For me, often the anger was excess energy and frustration that I didn't have another way to express, and playing music acted as a release valve for it. Plus, if I started out angry, played some scales or my part for some school band music and did a good job on them, I felt better because I had done something well. I think partly, just counting and breathing and doing the same thing over and over again was centering (I played trombone). And the occasional BLAAAT! came out too, of course.

Even listening to music can be profoundly mood-altering. Can you listen to Buena Vista Social Club and not dance? When you are really angry, is there anything better than some really loud Dead Kennedys and jumping up and down until you're sweating (yeah, I'm old)? Can you listen to James Taylor and stay angry? Doesn't that Eric Clapton song, "Tears in Heaven," make you cry every time you listen to it (maybe it's just me)?

Doula, WOHM, wife to a super-fun papa, mama to the Monkey ('07), and his little brother, the Sea Monkey ('09).
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#10 of 11 Old 10-01-2008, 11:55 PM
 
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#11 of 11 Old 10-02-2008, 10:10 AM
 
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: I'm definitely taking notes too! Anyone have any suggestions for when the explosion is very aggressive (and painful!), usually towards a parent - hitting, kicking, biting, etc?
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