Why is her 3-year-old angry?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 11, 2012 06:00 AM

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I have two baby girls, first one is 3 and a half yrs old, second one is 1 and a half years old. I'm staying without my husband for [the] last one year and I'm worried for elder one's anger & frustration. She screams and shouts in anger and cries a lot for every second thing she does in a day.

From: Sadhana, Agra, India


Dear Sadhana,

I can't tell if you're wondering if your daughter's anger and frustration are connected to the fact that her father is not living with you, or if you're worried that this is a personality trait that predicts future problems. While either (or both) are possibilities, I suspect that the behaviors she's exhibiting are about something else entirely: her stage of development.

This is typically a time in a child's life where she is testing out all sorts of things, especially her own power: "If I do this, what happens? Hmmm. What happens if I do it again? Does the same thing happen? What about this time.....?" These thoughts are not conscious but they are what fuel many acting-out behaviors, nonetheless.

That's why it's so important for parents to set age-appropriate limits and to respond in a consistent way when limits are broken. When your child sees that your response is the same calm, "No," to behavior X every single time it happens, whether she cries or has a tantrum, she has less incentive to repeat the behavior. In other words, your response can reinforce her angry and frustrated behavior. Children feel safest and most secure when our response is predictable and consistent. If you're emotional one time -- "I can't take this anymore, please please please stop!" -- and angry the next -- "I have had it! Stop this now!" -- and just plain exhausted another time -- "You know what? I just don't care, do what you want!" -- you are essentially freaking your child out. Why is mom acting this way? What do I have to do to get her to take care of me?

So before you go looking for a more complicated answer, consider the dynamics between the two of you. Click here for some strategies that might help.

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1 comments so far...
  1. She is probably acting like YOU or someone else that she is around. Children don't act like this by themselves. They imitate others.

    Posted by Muddy April 16, 12 04:27 PM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. She is probably acting like YOU or someone else that she is around. Children don't act like this by themselves. They imitate others.

    Posted by Muddy April 16, 12 04:27 PM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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