Why is your one-year-old angry all the time? It’s important to ﬁrst understand the reasons behind these outbursts, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON.
ILLUSTRATION CHENG PUAY KOON
Don’t be surprised if you feel your one-year-old is angry all the time – it doesn’t mean she has started her terrible twos already. It just means that she is a typical toddler who is full of her self-importance.
She thinks the world revolves around her, so if she doesn’t get exactly what she wants, when she wants it, she explodes with rage. In a flash, your normally quiet, friendly, loving one-year-old can transform into Miss Angry who won’t tolerate anyone standing in her way.
But in most instances, she is not being naughty when she has a tantrum; it’s just that her youthful frustration has reached boiling point and an angry tantrum is her instinctive way of releasing this inner tension.
The first step in taming her anger is to first understand the reasons behind these outbursts. For example, these are what she is trying to tell you:
“I’m very tired.” Tiredness and angry behaviour are closely linked at this stage in your infant’s life. When she gets exhausted, she becomes irritable and restless.
“I want to put the shape in the hole but I can’t.” Your one-year-old’s threshold for frustration is low, and a small challenge can easily trigger a furious tantrum.
“I don’t like being told what to do.” Your toddler loves you and wants to be loved by you. But she also wants to be the one who lays down the rules at home.
“I’m hungry and I want another snack.” Most children like limitless amounts of sweets, whether or not mealtime is only a few minutes away.
“I want to do this by myself.” Your one-year-old wants to be independent and to do things without help. But she becomes furious when she can’t manage on her own.
Prevention is better than cure, of course. So if you see her anger building up, do your best to calm her.
For example, if she is struggling to do complete a task by herself, offer her some support before she explodes with rage. If she is fuming because you refuse to give her any more biscuits, offer her a piece of fruit as an alternative.
In other words, use your understanding of the temper triggers to soothe her before she reaches that dreaded point of no return.
Stand your ground
Despite your best intentions, however, you can’t always stop her tantrums. When your one-year-old does transform into Miss Angry, resist the temptation to give in to her demands because you want to calm her down.
That will only teach her that when you say “no”, you really mean: “No, but if you get angry I’ll change my mind.” And you’ll soon find that the frequency of her tantrums actually increases. That’s why it’s important to stand your ground, no matter how much she rages at you.
When possible, remove her from the source of her frustration (for example, the shape that won’t go into the puzzle board, her older brother who won’t let her touch his toys). The change of context can break the tension and help your toddler relax.
Once she is calm again – and that may take several minutes – sit with her, soothe her, cuddle her, give her a drink of water and chat to her. Tell her that you were very upset by her outburst. This message will get through eventually.
There will be times, of course, when she copes without losing her temper. When that happens, make a big fuss of her, tell her how pleased you are and give her a special treat. This reinforces her positive behaviour.
If you see her anger building up, do your best to calm her and remove her from the source of her frustration.