Help! My child is very emotional and has lots of fits and/or tantrums. I’m tired of the screaming, fits, pouting and rage.

In order to better control himself and to interact with others, a child needs to be aware of what he is feeling and then be able act on those feelings. There are a number of ways to teach these two skills.   

To learn emotional self-awareness, a child needs to see how emotions are expressed visually. One way is to ask your child to look at himself in the mirror if he is experiencing strong emotions. The child can see his expression and connect that with his feelings. You could also play games in which you and your child practice faces of anger, disappointment, etc. Finally, you could also make a sad face and ask your child when she might have felt that way.          
Another way is to have the child connect his emotions with internal physical symptoms. Make a stick figure drawing and have him place an X on the part of his body where he feels stress. Is there tension in his jaws, stomach, heart, fists?  A child might not be aware of his negative emotions building so it is important for that child to connect  his feelings to how they manifest physically.

 Finally you can teach your child to understand his real feelings by attaching appropriate language to what is happening. If a child says he hates his grandmother, it is probably because he does not have the language development to say something like ” I am really frustrated at grandmother for making me wear these itchy pants”. The adult needs to label the feelings for the child. Since a parent can not fully know what a child is feeling, you can guess. “I am wondering if you might be feeling frustration about not being able to pull your socks on”. Sometimes, adults teach children the names of just the basic feelings: sad, happy, and angry. We should also teach the nuances of feelings such as rage, anger, frustration and annoyance to develop even more self-awareness in children.


Once a child can identify and label his feelings, he can better regulate his emotions and better interact with others.