Parental Guidance – Toddlers: “Help, my child explodes with rage!” – Knowledge

What to do when children are gripped by their emotions and can not let go? Photo: Adobe Stock / Chomplearn_2001


Screaming, crying, beating – endless outbursts of rage. What to do when young children are gripped by their emotions and can not let go? We have interviewed an expert.

A screaming little child in the supermarket hallway. Mental breakdown. The boy is unhappy, throws himself on the ground, cries, screams, spins and thumps wildly. He can not be reassured. The father: embarrassed. In the 1990s, a Scandinavian condom brand used this as an opportunity to promote its products. Parents who experience this in real life find it only moderately fun.

Also because sooner or later it will happen to all parents and they want nothing more than to get their child out of this situation. On the playground, on the way home or at home. But how to de-escalate properly? Family counselor Songül Demirbilek explains the children’s views to parents and helps families help their children. She is very familiar with these situations.

What happens to a child in such moments?

Children carry on real anger right from the start, which can manifest itself in the form of a tantrum, but also in the form of withdrawal. It manifests itself in the form of frustration and is often a sign of being overwhelmed. If the children are even smaller, it is usually too much of their physical, tactile or emotional abilities. It’s like a flash in the brain, a maximum discharge. In this case, it makes sense not to stimulate children further.

And that means?



The parents’ intuitive reactions are usually either to ignore, embarrassed to look away, hope that it will soon stop or, for example, soothingly persuade the child to touch it or pedagogically and intellectually ask why: “What happens? What happened then? We had such a wonderful day, and now you’re doing something like that. Do not be so rude. “And there is the boldness of just grabbing the child and moving on. But all this does not lead to the desired result: a child who” works usually “again.

So it does not help to speak well at all?

In such moments, children are not responsive or receptive to words, rationality, or planning. “Come on, let’s go home now and then eat something tasty” they can not process because they are not on the logical, but on the emotional wave – you do not reach the child that way. This level of stress is often relieved by a physical discharge – therefore they throw themselves on the ground, howl, scream, kick or hit wildly. Only when the stress has subsided are they receptive to the rational again. Intervening in advance only prolongs the process.

How do I respond correctly?

It would make sense to sit down and just be there, but not to offer any further stimulation or incentives. Just sit outside, maintain eye contact, offer physical proximity and avoid endangering the child and others.

Are such collapses already on the way?

These defiance storms usually stem from being overwhelmed by everyday life. Sometimes you can see in advance that something is going on. In the playground, for example: has the child cut back a lot that day, had to compromise, share toys? Was it overwhelmed by situations or was it rejected by other children? If children do not explode in these moments, then they make a compromise. Children live here and now – for them, depending on their personality and experience, rejection can be emotionally very hurtful. It does not help that we adults know that a lot of friends come and go. And at some point, the measurement is full. When this is communicated, physical contact can also help, hug, iron – ensure that endorphins are released. A proportionate counterplay would also be to fill up with the love itself.

What does it mean?

If I notice that my child experienced a lot of rejection that day, I can support them with love and appreciation. Children are always happy to help if they get credit for it. But in stressful situations that build up, they sometimes can not accept offers from parents to deescalate, so I do not say: “Come on, I’m doing something good for you”, but vice versa: I ask child if it can do something good for me. For example, a short hug. Children also perceive this time-out as reassuring. But if the thunderstorm is already unloading, then the only thing that helps is to wait and see. When the wave flattens out again: just open your arms. When the children are ready for physical contact again, they can come. The offer is important.

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How important is a child’s temperament?

A lively child makes many more decisions and thus also many more decisions that can overwhelm him. However, a less temperamental child can compromise more than he wants. The fact is: around the age of three, the defiance phase is a natural development that can not be avoided.

How do children learn to calm down rationally?

Children are children, not small adults. At around the age of six, children develop so-called reflection abilities, and empathy also develops further. Children’s social skills are learned in advance through group dynamics and re-enactment – the mirror. When children give you some of the biscuits, they do it not primarily because they want to do something good for you, but because they have noticed that you are really happy about it.

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To person

Our expert on education issues: Songül Demirbilek Photo: Private

Songul Demirbilek
The 43-year-old from Stuttgart is a family nurse and mother of two children. During her work in the neonatal intensive care unit, she got to know many families in extraordinary situations. In addition, for more than ten years, she has supported young families with parenting counseling in analog and digital formats with individual problems. She is the head of the parent school at the Stuttgart Clinic.

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