According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, 1 out of 7 children ages two to eight- years old have been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral or development disorder. What parents might think are normal tantrums associated with the “Terrible Twos” could be a more serious problem. Children with emotional and behavioral challenges can begin displaying behaviors such as aggression, trauma, biting, and severe tantrums as young as two years of age.
Young children who exhibit aggressive and emotionally dysregulated behaviors can be disruptive at home and in preschool or daycare environments. If left untreated, these behaviors may worsen and cause significant delays in a child’s development.
Severe emotional challenges often need therapeutic care early on to support healthy, emotional growth. Anna Curtin, Ph.D., director of the Therapeutic Nursery Program (TNP) at The Lourie Center for Children’s Social & Emotional Wellness (Lourie Center), provides therapeutic care for children whose social and emotional challenges interfere with their success in a typical daycare or preschool. The TNP provides structured play and therapy for children with aggression, temper tantrums, or trauma.
“Families often come to us in distress,” said Dr. Curtin. Their young child might be acting out so severely that they are threatening the safety of other children or teachers at daycare or becoming unsafe at home.”
The TNP helps parents by guiding them through how to create a safe space in which their child can express their feelings. Dr. Curtin shares the following techniques to help parents reduce tantrums and other challenging behaviors in young children.
Dr. Curtin’s Tips:
- Whenever possible, think about your child’s perspective and their need in the moment
- Whenever necessary, take charge by setting firm and consistent limits
- Give your child comfort and affection, especially after they calm down
- Encourage your child to use words to express their feelings
- Model ways of calming down, taking deep breaths along with your child
- Find a creative outlet for your child’s expression