Anger and sadness are a choice

Anger, sadness, tears - what to do with the feelings?

Parents need to take their children's feelings seriously.

Text: Katja Schnitzler

The mother buys chocolate, but the child is not allowed to eat it right away - a reason for two-year-olds to jump out of their skin. Explaining to them that this is not that bad after all does not help at all. Developmental psychologist Professor Dr. Dr. Hartmut Kasten explains how parents react better to emotional outbursts from their children.

The other child does not immediately free the swing, the foot refuses to fit into the shoe, and there is no ice cream for breakfast either: in the parents' eyes these may be small things, but for small children they almost break because of something like that World together. They react with great anger and tears when things don't go the way they imagined. Family researcher Professor Dr. Dr. Hartmut Kasten explains why three-year-olds cannot wait and how parents should react.

Some parents sometimes have great fun with their toddlers crying with anger or say: It's not that bad. How does that go down with the children?
You feel misunderstood - and rightly so. Parents need to take their children's feelings seriously. Of course it's bad, there is nothing worse in the world for the toddler right now! So much is part of being a parent that mothers and fathers can empathize with the emotional state of their child.

Why do small children run out of their skin so quickly because of apparently small things?
Older children and adults have learned to manage these feelings. When we get angry at work, we get comfort from our partner or friends in the evening. Small children in the autonomy phase, as I prefer to call the defiance phase, do not have this option. You have a plan and it must be fulfilled now - otherwise frustration and disappointment will be overwhelming. You can also only resist temptations towards the end of the fourth year of life, when certain areas in the cerebral cortex have matured. This is shown by experiments in which four-year-olds are left alone with a piece of candy on the table - with the promise of getting a whole bag of candy if they don't eat that one piece of candy. But most of them prefer to grab it straight away.

You just can't hold back?
Exactly. It is helpful for parents to know that toddlers do not consciously choose anger and tears, but cannot act any differently. You're just not ready yet. Anyone who perceives the helplessness and despair of the children at this moment will find it easier to remain calm themselves. Small children in the defiant phase are downright overwhelmed by their emotions. A warning "Don't act like that" from the parents does not help them out of the emotional chaos. The psychologist Doris Heueck-Mauß gives tips on how parents and children can get through the time of anger more easily.

"Aggression is a form of looking for contacts."

And then parents take their children comfortingly in their arms - and everything is fine?
If it were that easy Consoling tends to help older children, while the little ones in the autonomy phase usually do not want to be hugged in their rage. It is better, if possible, to let them rage, but to signal: I'll be there when you need me. So as parents don't turn away in horror because the child behaves like that and thus deprive him of your love. Let it vent as long as the child is not endangering themselves or others. It helps when the child hears that the mother or father is nearby and can come to them when they have calmed down.

"Consoling tends to help older children."

How is this easier for the child?
There is no silver bullet. Sometimes distraction or a compromise proposal will work after the child has calmed down a little. Some spontaneous solutions, however, parents should later question whether they were really right: It happened to me myself that my daughter had a violent fit of anger in the department store and couldn't stop screaming. At some point I asked aloud if anyone knew who this child actually belonged to. Then she quickly took my hand. I wouldn't do that anymore today, she was probably afraid of being abandoned. But parents also make mistakes.

That you should talk to your kids about?
That depends on the child's level of development. When the mother and father argue in front of a three-year-old, he is deeply insecure. Only older children know that their parents have their own inner workings, their own opinions, and they know arguments with their playmates. Otherwise, however, it is very important that the parents convey that they themselves sometimes have anger in their stomach, that such feelings are quite normal. Even after the child has an outburst of emotions, they should signal that this is part of growing up and that they know how difficult it is to deal with emotions.

Does that also help in the situation itself?
Absolutely. When parents name the feelings - "But you are now angry because you have to wait" - the children notice: They take care of me and understand what is wrong with me, I am not alone with my anger and disappointment . Then they know the parents are always on their side. And that is the most important thing.

Professor Dr. Dr. Hartmut Kasten is a developmental psychologist, early childhood educator and genealogist, he teaches at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Among other things, Kasten has the advisor “0 to 3 years. Basics of Developmental Psychology ”. This text first appeared on Sueddeutsche.de in the “Education” section. It was edited for the kiziPendium.

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