Menu

"I always feel like I am yelling. And it just dawned on me how much I'm really expecting of them. I feel like they're out of their routine. I'm asking them to do things around my work schedule. They think it's the weekend. I can't play every time they ask. I'm constantly shushing them because I'm on the phone. Or telling them to wait. Or getting off a call and snapping when they ask for the fifth snack of the morning." —Ashley

Sound familiar? Kids are having a ton of uncharacteristic anger these past few weeks. They're burned out and frustrated with quarantine fatigue, just like the rest of us—and they are *over* their parents working from home. They have gone so many weeks without their usual outlets—no seeing friends or taking trips to the park or to see grandparents—and have less predictable attention from you.

Their lives have imploded, and they have nothing to do with it or the ability to wrap their minds around why it's happening.

All they know is that they were sad about not being able to do the things that were the framework of their lives. And now they are mad. Aggression follows as they lash out, yelling and maybe even hitting. But don't worry, mama, this uncharacteristic behavior is a normal response to their emotions—and it's not permanent.

Sadness is an emotional pain that occurs when we have lost something significant.

Our daily activities support our identity and missing those can feel physically uncomfortable. Anger is a healthy and natural response to sadness over something that you cannot control. It's natural to find temporary relief by lashing out.

Anger is often expressed through aggressive behaviors like hitting, kicking or throwing toys. We are wired for aggression—the biological function of anger is to help us prepare to fight off threats. Additionally, their capacity to process and regulate emotion is not fully developed yet.

"Children have all kinds of big emotions," says psychologist Dr. Laura Markham. "Because they don't have much prefrontal cortex yet, their brains are still developing the circuitry needed for self-control."

Getting kids to think differently about situations can lead to a reduction in their anger.

Dr. Leonard Berkowitz, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, found that paying attention to negative feelings can help regulate how we express them.

Here's what you can do when your kids are experiencing sadness, anger and aggression:

  • Help them accept the sadness they are feeling by finding words to name it. Ask them what was lost, then let them feel sad, even if it is hard for you.
  • Understand they might not have the exact words, so be patient and honest with them to retain their trust. Be gentle with them, and yourself.
  • Don't avoid their sadness, but let them fully feel their sadness without judgment or comments. Sadness fully expressed authenticates their feelings and validates their perspectives and the importance of what is lost.
  • When they get angry, help them feel it in their body. Then use relaxation skills, like deep breathing and yoga to control the level of their emotions.
  • Help them retrain their attention, thoughts and feelings to the things they can control—like the timing of daily activities, chores and creative outlets—to regain their sense of power.

Just as importantly, prioritize your own self-care and try to model healthy coping for stress and anxiety. "Children are keen observers and often notice and react to stress or anxiety in their parents, caregivers, peers and community," explains Dr. Arthur C. Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association.

Bottom line: You might think they're pushing your buttons, but that's not what's going on. They're upset and under a lot of stress. As parents, we need to understand that underneath much of their anger is a sense of powerlessness. We need to reassure them, and ourselves, that we will return to what was lost, reclaim our power and, ultimately, a sense of peace. What you do now makes a big impression on how your kids will deal with problems and pressure in their futures.

[Editor's note: According to the American Psychological Association, if anger isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward on yourself, causing internalizing behaviors, like sulking or increased symptoms of depression. If you or your child are experiencing any of these behaviors, please consult your doctor.]

And if you're looking for tools to help children name their feelings or cope, these can help.

Slumberkins Hammerhead snuggler

Slumberkins Hammerhead Snuggler

Developed by a therapist and educator, the Slumberkins Hammerhead Snuggler comes with a plush animal, board book and affirmation card that can help children articulate and name their feelings. Hammerhead is perfect for guiding children through conflict resolution while learning the valuable life skills of communication and emotional regulation.

$44

Mindful Moments guided exercises + mantra cards

 Mindful Moments Guided Exercises and Mantra Cards

Help your little one discover new ways to breathe, move and express feelings with these beautifully illustrated mindfulness exercise cards. The everyday exercises and empowering mantras aim to increase emotional intelligence, improve focus, build resilience, reduce anxiety and help children feel more connected to the world around them and better understand their big feelings.

$30

 'Om the Otter' children's book

Articulation Books "Om the Otter"

Created by a group of mothers, clinicians and friends, Om the Otter takes children on a journey of friendship, compassion and how to be present for someone experiencing difficult feelings. Through the story, little ones learn breathing exercises that can help them deal with tricky emotions.

$24

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

It may have been hard to imagine just a few weeks ago, but life with your baby is probably starting to feel like the new normal. From establishing sweet rituals throughout the day to finding ways to carve out that all-important time for yourself, you are really doing great, mama!

Your baby is also getting the hang of life on the outside, too. Especially if you two waged a battle against colic together, this is the point where you are probably claiming victory, which means interactions are getting all that much sweeter. As your baby feels more comfortable with their new world, you will probably notice that some new routines are falling into place, which makes this a good time to reinforce some healthy habits around nap time and bedtime.

With more reliable sleep schedules, you two might also have more energy to take on some stimulating at-home activities. If returning to work is also on the radar, whether in a home office or in a workplace, you might be wondering how you will balance it all. Trust us when we say that you can and will figure it out, just like millions of mamas and babies before you. Thankfully, you can also learn some of the best tips and tricks from them, too.

As you continue to settle into this exciting phase, here are some of our 3-month essentials for you and baby:

To takealong a favorite toy anywhere: Infantino Playtime Pal

Infantino Play Toy

Now that your baby is awake for longer stretches of time, a tactile toy can help keep their focus while you cross tasks off the list around the house.

$14.99

To keep organized: GO by Goldbug stroller organizer

stroller organizer

Why is it that blow-out diapers happen at the worst times?! Keep everything you need organized and within reach with a stroller organizer so you don't spend precious time searching for the wipes.

$16.99

To bottle-feed with ease: Dr. Brown’s bottle set

Dr. Browns

Cleaning bottles can feel like a part-time job, so make it as simple as possible for yourself with a set that is easy to clean. (A bottle-specific brush helps, too!)

$39.99

To offer tummy-friendly formula: Up&Up gentle formula

Babies often arrive in this world with mighty sensitive stomachs. If you are formula or combo-feeding, finding an option you both feel good about can do wonders.

$19.99

To entertain your mini Mozart: Baby Einstein ocean orchestra

baby einstein

Piano lessons might still be years in the future, but it's never too soon to start fostering your baby's music appreciation! By stimulating multiple senses during playtime, research shows babies experience even stronger cognitive benefits.

$19.99

To simplify pumping breaks: Spectra breast pump

breast pump

Whether you are going back to a job outside the home or simply want to help your baby get comfortable with an occasional bottle, breastfeeding mamas are going to want a workhorse pump that makes those pumping sessions as easy as possible.

$200

To keep breakfast simple: KIND breakfast bars

Kind bars

Gone are the days of taking your time to get ready in the morning. Make sure you always have breakfast covered with a supply of nutritious bars you can eat while multitasking.

$2.99

To get past the midday slump: Keurig k-mini single serve

Keurig

Unfortunately, multiple wake-ups during the night doesn't mean you'll get to sleep in longer. If the alarm went off too early, it can help to have a midday coffee break (or two).

$89.99

To protect your lobes from a grabby baby: A New Day stud earrings

New Day earrings

If dangling earrings are suddenly feeling like quite a hazard in the proximity of a handsy baby, swap them out for some stylish new studs. Your ears will thank you!

$7.99

To manage your day: The Time Factory mom life planner

mom life planner

Show mom brain who is boss by keeping all of your tasks and commitments together in one place. Now you'll know exactly what you're supposed to do on any given day.

$8.19

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

How often do we see a "misbehaving" child and think to ourselves, that kid needs more discipline? How often do we look at our own misbehaving child and think the same thing?

Our society is conditioned to believe that we have to be strict and stern with our kids, or threaten, shame or punish them into behaving. This authoritarian style of parenting is characterized by high expectations and low responsiveness—a tough love approach.

But while this type of authoritarian parenting may elicit "obedient" kids in the short-term, studies suggest that children who are shamed or punished in the name of discipline face challenges in the long-term. Research suggests that children who are harshly disciplined or shamed tend to be less happy, less independent, less confident, less resilient, more aggressive and hostile, more fearful and at higher risk for substance abuse and mental health issues as adults and adolescents.

FEATURED VIDEO

The reason? No one ever changes from being shamed.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play