Controlling the Angry Child

Someone asked me about how to control the angry child. My immediate response took me back to when we received our youngest. His eighteen-month old tantrums consisted of throwing his head back against the floor and banging it senseless. His eyes would roll back in his head.
No amount of talking or calling would bring him back. 
I controlled him with physical force, sometimes requiring putting a knee on his back so he wouldn’t move.
That is extreme. 

Toddlers are acquiring new skills. They want to tie their own shoes. They want to zip their own coat. 
“I do it,” becomes the mom’s worst patient building episode. Especially when getting out the door for an appointment.
This determination of becoming independent is necessary for development but can be frustrating for both the toddler and mom who must wait, while they learn that next feat. 
The toddler can easily become frustrated when they are not allowed to practice.  
Planning ahead, especially when you do have a time constraint, to allow for these extra time periods can keep yours and their frustrations low.

Expressing his frustrations appropriately can go far in helping to avoid the nasty tantrum.
“Use your words” is a common phrase moms say.
I have recently seen how some have taught their nine month old sign language. 
This allows the child to express his need of hunger without anger or crying. 
Some say this delays speech, but it does eliminate mom’s guessing on what could be wrong. 

My husband was always amazed that I would be running to get the baby before he started to cry. 
But as they became toddlers, they had to learn mom wasn’t always at their call. They had to wait. That is hard. And is a big adjustment for them.
But a toddler’s ability to wait should not be stretched too far. 
Telling them “one minute” better mean one minute. (I did not use this phrase. Words do mean something.) 
Yet even one minute to a toddler can seem like forever. 

When I was busy making dinner, or nursing the baby and the toddler needed something, I would distract, usually by rocking them on our glider, or asking them questions, or giving them a job, that would enable their "need" to be forgotten.
Do not aggravate them by making them wait too long. (The Bible says, “provoke them not to wrath.”) 
Although with a house full of demands, I have been known to allow a toddler waiting to have me, “Wipe my butt, Mom” to fall asleep as he waited. 

But also, the toddler must learn, (now and throughout life), that they cannot keep others waiting. Others' time is also important. By allowing them to practice their skill at times when no one is waiting for them, they can gain confidence and mastery. 
By instructing that Mommy will do it this time, because they need to go, but promising (and fulfilling that promise) can help to avoid the situation of anger for a short time. 
But you must remember to allow them to practice another time. 
Repeated delays may result in a melt-down. After all, they can only wait so long. Balance on the mother’s part can help.

My husband would seek to encourage me by predicting how great their ability to persevere when they were older, since they were so determined and persistent now.
I was not encouraged. I was the one who must direct them to be determined and persistent in what God wanted, not their own needs all day long.

Another time where anger can be expressed is during social interaction. The toddler must share his toy, or even relinquish a toy that is not his. The temper flares!
One way to avoid this is distraction.  

Since the toddler can’t play with Johnny’s toy, maybe she might be interested in helping mom make cookies, or holding the baby.
Distraction helps refocus on something they can do, without making them feel like they have lost the “battle.” 

Often, individual time spent with mom can give the attention they may be craving.
This may be interpreted as bribery to some. 
We are not begging them to give the toy to Johnny. We merely give other options that are more enticing, enabling them to decide. 

Allow a reasonable time to decide. Some may abuse this time and that also must be addressed.
Time must be given for them to process, or they will feel like either choice is not what they wanted.
Nor do we repeat our requests over and over, hoping they choose well. That is begging. Moms shouldn’t beg.
When they decide poorly, instruction and correction must be given. 

With small children, a change in their schedule can bring anger. 
Instead of announcing that they must stop playing and go home now, give them warning. “In a few minutes we will be leaving…”
No one wants to be interrupted in what they are doing. 
The parent still decides when. You are not asking if they want to end their time. You are telling them. But it gives time for them to adjust to something else.
Especially with bedtime.

Sometimes a request for a chore to be done may result in anger.
They have created a habit of responding with anger.
BEFORE you request the act, make sure you have their eye contact, they have stopped their activity and are giving you undivided attention.
Tell them that you are going to ask them to do something, but that you want them to think first about their response before they say or do anything.
Remind them that their proper response is “Yes, mom.”
THEN request the job or the request that you wanted them to do.
If they respond poorly, address the poor response, then the act of disobedience. 

But keep reminding them BEFORE you request something to think about their response before they do or say anything.
This helps break the habit of instant disgust or anger over being given a job.

Remember children's ability to respond well can also be influenced by being hungry and tired. 
Do not excuse bad behavior because of this, but mom's planning to prevent hunger or tiredness may go far in eliminating melt-downs that come with empty stomachs and tired bodies.

When these efforts still result in anger, tantrums, or disobedience, use the Biblical means of controlling a child—spank. The book To Train up a Child by Michael Pearl explains what the Bible says about child training and how one does that. Read it with discernment. 
Temper tantrums are not cute, regardless of what age. They show our rebellion in all its ugliness.

When we evaluate what causes people to be angry, it comes down to some need or right that has been violated. Helping your child meet his needs in appropriate, timely ways can help or showing them how to deal with needs that are not meet immediately can help any age level. These helps are more for toddlers.
Although we cannot reason with a toddler, they do understand God’s principles of discipline, when given appropriately.

And working gently with their spirit to correct their strong and wayward will is a balance that moms must delicately and consistently persevere in order that the angry child learns to control his anger.

Displaying all 3 comments

Thank you for these tips! I find them very helpful.

I agree with everything you said, very well done. Wish I'd lived up to this better, often feel they turned out pretty well in spite of me. The Lord is good!

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

Receive weekly articles by giving your email address below: