Home > Babies and Toddlers > Toddlers > Toddler Behavior and Discipline > Disciplining Toddlers > Helping Your Child Express Anger Appropriately

Helping Your Child Express Anger Appropriately

Part of the reason two-year-olds have tantrums is because they don't have the words or other tools they need to express their anger or frustration fully or appropriately. For this, your toddler needs your help.

Thus the most important rule in handling tantrums is this:

Ignore the behavior, but don't ignore your child.


Challenging your child by saying, "No laughing," may be a good way to transform anger into a burst of the giggles. Yet although this is a very useful trick at times, this approach also slights your toddler's anger. So if you decide to diffuse your child's anger in this way, be sure to take the time to encourage her to talk about her anger with you afterward, when she has calmed down.

What is your toddler trying to communicate to you through her tantrum? Anger? Frustration? Ask your child what's wrong and at the same time, encourage her to calm down enough so that you can help her. Let your child know that if she's frustrated with something, you can't possibly help her unless you know what's wrong-but that you can't understand her when she tries to talk to you in the midst of a hysterical tantrum.

Don't ignore your child's expressions of anger. In fact, if they are appropriate, encourage them. Suppressed anger can become even more explosive. So don't encourage your toddler to rein in her anger or frustration. Instead, teach your child to express it in non-destructive or non-hurtful ways. Allow and encourage your child to express anger and frustration:

  • in words;
  • by punching a pillow or mattress;
  • by slamming clay around on a cutting board;
  • by banging a drum;
  • by running around outside;
  • by doing something brief, loud, and angry: letting out a "primal scream," yelling, dancing, or singing about her anger; or
  • by creating an angry work of art.

The lessons you teach your child about expressing anger and frustration may seem to have little impact during her third year—and perhaps even her fourth. Your toddler (and later, your preschooler) will no doubt still have angry outbursts, violent episodes, and uncontrollable tantrums at least occasionally. In time, however, your child will absorb these lessons. And learning how to handle anger without becoming destructive or hurtful is an invaluable lesson for anyone, child or adult.

More on: Preschool


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too © 1997 by Keith M. Boyd, M.D., and Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


Buried in Toys?
Get the most use out of your child's toys and space with these simple and kid-friendly ways to organize your child's playroom.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

Top 10 Wintertime Neighborhood Games
Is cabin fever setting in? Round up the neighborhood kids for some cold and snowy fun!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks