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“It’s Okay to Get Mad” Helping Kids Express Anger Without Hitting or Biting

I remember the first bite. My kids had just entered a blissful stage where they could play together for stretches of time. I was quietly congratulating myself when I heard a 2-year-old’s howl of anger followed by a 4-year-old’s shriek of pain. The older sister ran over to show off the fresh teeth marks on her arm.

The cause? She had thrown her brother’s beloved stuffed tiger across the room.

Kicking, hitting, biting, throwing. It can be upsetting when our kids act out physically. It’s also normal. Little kids may feel angry, afraid or frustrated, but have limited language — so they often use their bodies to express themselves. Sometimes this looks like stomping feet or falling to the floor in the check-out aisle. Sometimes that looks like running away and hiding. And sometimes that looks like biting your sister when she takes away your favorite toy.

A big part of parenting is helping our kids understand their emotions and then respond in a way that does not hurt themselves or others.

It’s Okay To Get Mad

Everyone gets mad, sad and scared sometimes — and that’s an important message for kids to hear! It’s absolutely okay to feel what you feel. It is not okay to hurt other people. That language of “okay” and “not okay” is easy for kids to understand. It’s a clear, teaching message that doesn’t shame them or belittle them when they do make mistakes. For example:

  • It’s okay to be mad that your tower fell down; it’s not okay to throw blocks.
  • It’s okay that you are frustrated at your brother; it’s not okay to hit him.
  • It’s okay to be sad that you have to leave the park; it’s not okay to run away from me.

As the Daniel Tiger strategy song goes: “Stop, stop, stop. It’s ok to feel angry, it’s not, not, not ok to hurt someone.”

Offer Healthy Alternatives

A brilliant preschool teacher once told me that instead of saying “Don’t run in the hall,” she tells kids to “Walk with your quiet mouse feet” or “Let’s do our sneaky tip-toe all the way to the lunchroom.”  Instead of simply giving them a “don’t,” she gives them an appealing alternative!

To read the rest of the tips, check out the entire article by Deborah Farmer Kris.

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