This is a sensitive and sometimes a disturbing subject. Your little angel is six years old and, now, he’s starting to act as a real little demon! He multiplies the crises and phases of anger. How to calm him down but above all how to understand what is going on in your toddler’s head? Mom of a child who has just turned 6 and who regularly has tantrums, I give you my tips below. Believe me I’ve tried anything! But finally only a very very square philosophy of education works is efficient.
Distinguishing frustration from anger
A tantrum is different from a whim in its roots and in its essence. A whim usually begins with frustration. For example, your child wanted you to buy him a gift, a toy or an ice cream, but for some reasons (which are probably legit) you refused. Maybe he had already received a present in the last few days or maybe he had already eaten too many sugars. In general, changing the place or the subject and remaining firm and straight in your decision and in your attitude should be enough to appease this moment of whim.
Tears, screams, blows…
Let’s imagine another case: the real big anger that leads to a big crisis with tears, screams, blows, sometimes insults. If you have the feeling your child is possessed like in the movie The Exorcist (laughs) then here you are not in the presence of a recalcitrant ghost but in a real tantrum bordering on hysteria… It is unlikely that your child will start talking in Latin. He simply talks with what he has got at his disposal: his effervescent emotions…
It is rather these moments that are very complicated to manage. The angry child, an anger bordering on hysteria in fact, can be hateful and ultra-violent. Something bothered and that’s not why the reason he mentions or even what could have put him in this black anger.
How to defuse the anger?
This time you will have to think quickly and well and to defuse the anger rather than amplify it. Alas, getting angry or shouting, trying to reason with your child using some adult ideas about wisdom is useless. The more the child gets angry and makes angry gestures, the more he may hurt himself by doing anything with his body and his hands.
Let me give you an example. A few days ago my child asked to eat with us rather than going to the canteen for lunch. As he is still small and that day we had the possibility of having him at home for the lunch time, we accepted. So I cooked dishes he usually likes.
But when he came home from school with my husband, he was into a rage that lasted the whole lunch break. He ate very little. He spent the meal moaning then began to insult us copiously. Then my husband got angry and put him in his room alone to think about his anger. Of course that didn’t work. He pounded the walls with his fists, stomped the floor with his feet, and couldn’t suppress his tears. In short, it was awful and we wondered why he was so keen on having lunch with us to finally do that!
Listening and talking
After a while, when I noticed the situation was even worse, I went to his room. He didn’t want to talk to me and continued to insult me. So I told him about the hut he had built with cushions in his room and somehow I sat next to him. I explained to him that at his age I had big fears. I was afraid of being abandoned by my school friends, by my parents, by my grandmother who had moved away. So he started to listen to me, warning me: “You know, I don’t care what you tell me about. And above all, I don’t want you to call me your big baby or tell me that you love me because I don’t love you anymore, I hate you!” I said okay. Then I asked him if anything had happened at school. He replied: “I spent the morning drawing and writing to please the teacher and waiting for recess. But finally at recess there was a storm outside so I couldn’t have fun. . We were forced to stay in the courtyard. I worked and I didn’t even play with my friends”. So we talked about the anger he felt and then about the changing weather. We concluded that in life everything changes all the time and that it is sometimes difficult to plan outings or activities in advance. We talked about people who don’t like snow and how they don’t have to worry because in our area the snow never lasts more than two days… I insisted that good things come to an end one day but so do bad things. The temper tantrum had passed. The main thing is that he learns something from this moment like the fact that talking can help us to understand our anger and where it really comes from.
Why does your 5 or 6 year old have big tantrums?
The first reason is that he feels emotions but is not able to understand them nor to express them in any other way. Imagine I ask you to cook lasagna without having any dough, tomatoes or meat. What would you do if you didn’t have the utensils or the raw materials to concoct this recipe? Now imagine that I don’t give in and ask you again and again for my lasagna, ignoring the fact that you don’t have the basics to prepare this dish. You would probably get upset.
What works well is to have small white paper cards on which you write with a big pencil the emotions, you arrange them in a column on one side. Then you write an element of the situation on each card. Then you ask the child to identify 3 things that are really present in the situation. For example : Fear – Sadness – Anger – Joy – Disgus -t Surprise – Tired and then Class – Playground – Professor – School mate – Weather – Recess – Work… Here the child will surely choose Anger – Sadness – Weather. So talk with him about these elements and normalize things.
You need to know the principles of emotions and the messages they carry. Fear, anger, joy, sadness, surprise and disgust. Ask your child one question per emotion:
Fear: What threatens it? Or What is he not ready for?
Anger: How does he feel limited? In what topic does he feel limited?
Sadness: From what or from whom does he feel cut off? (sometimes it’s an emotional bond for example)
Surprise: What thing did he not expect to happen?
Disgust: What could you change for him if you had a magic wand?
His fears make him insecure
The second reason for these tantrums to occure: your child is afraid of something. He is “insecure”. He thinks and feels that his own parents are not able to protect him from his fears. If you are lax parents and he knows how to manipulate you quiet well to achieve his ends, then he may not feel reassured by your side. He will use and evoke some pretexts (and this is unconscious) to push you to the limit. Then you will reprimand him and he will be satisfied because he will feel that you have finally set limits. The child does not like you to be a puppet or his puppet. He needs to feel security around him. Parents who let themselves be taken over by a child and are unable to set limits are “scary” parents. It is not their strength nor their power that scares the child but their weaknesses. He may ask himself the question: “How could parents who do not know how to control a child would protect me from mean or violent people or evildoers?” The child tells you about the fears he feels and has about you.
These are two of the main reasons why the child has terrible tantrums around 5 or 6 years old.
Often the first idea is to see a therapist. However, in the case of parents who are too flowing or lax, it is rather the educational framework that needs to be reviewed.