4 Year Old - Aggressive Tantrums, Screaming
Looking for some advice re: my 4 year old. In the last few weeks she has taken to having a tantrums that are all out fit - screaming and throwing things, very aggressive. I know most of the time it's from not getting her way so I've tried to make sure I'm not being unreasonable when I tell her no. I've tried getting her to redirect her angry energy (jumping, clapping, etc.) or even sitting with me to calm down but all those things just make her angrier. How do I help her with this angry energy when she gets upset? It's not often but I feel helpless when it does happen. Thanks!
When kids are aggressive, it is always a sign that they have fears locked up inside. They need a safe way to let them out. Sometimes they can "play" them out with games that make them giggle. (For instance, be a wild animal and roar and chase her, scaring her only a tiny bit so she giggles, but then trip, let her get away, or let her be stronger than you and "win." Or act frightened of her, which should also get her giggling.) You can do these games any time, and they will lessen the load of fear she is carrying, and help her not have these tantrums.
But often these games are a first step, and bring the deeper fears to the surface, at which point they have a real meltdown and let the fears pour out. So what you are doing is great: Check to be sure you aren't being unreasonable. But then, if she is still very angry, accepting those angry feelings with love and understanding is the best way to get to the fear that is hiding under the anger.
Meaning, stay close to her, don't use a lot of words, empathize ("You are so upset and angry...You don't like it when I say No...I see how mad you are...") At some point, your calm acceptance will help her feel safe enough that she will move into really expressing the fear she has bottled up that is causing her to be aggressive and angry.
When kids are "venting" fear, they shake and sweat and get red in the face and thrash around and often seem to cry without tears. They need us to stay close so they feel safe, and they often like to push against us, although of course you need to keep yourself safe. You can just keep saying "I am right here...You are safe...I will always keep you safe..."
After children finish such a meltdown, they show us how much better they feel with their relaxed, cooperative, affectionate mood.
Hope that helps. I would love to hear how it goes if you try this!