Emotions can be very big for kids, especially preschoolers. This mom asks how she should react when her preschooler throws an aggressive tantrum.

Q: My nearly 4-year-old son shows signs of aggression/not being able to control emotions/feelings when he doesn’t get his way. It’s mostly when I say the word No. So this happens a lot. It is usually him smacking his hands, hitting a wall, stomping his feet, or if he has something in his hands, hitting it on the ground. Then followed up with him saying, “Mommy did you hear that noise?” or Mommy, I’m hitting X.”

Any suggestions on correcting this? Also, concerned for younger, 18-month-old sister doing the same thing and thinking it is okay behavior.

A: First of all, this is typical preschooler behavior! Emotions at this age feel big, strong and powerful, while kids this age feel powerless to stop the emotional tide—thus aggressive, physical behavior often manifests, especially to the word “no.” And of course younger sister is going to copy big brother!

Emotions at this age feel big, strong and powerful, while kids this age feel powerless to stop the emotional tide—thus aggressive, physical behavior often manifests, especially to the word “no.”

What to do? Treat it like a tantrum. You can ignore it and the follow up questions/statements. You can take him to a tantrum place (like the foot of the stairs, a corner or little used room) for him to express his displeasure. You can grab his hands/body in a tight hug until he calms down.

What you shouldn’t do is try to talk him out of what he’s doing (“Don’t hit the wall,” etc.) or  ask him why he’s doing it, or engage him in any kind of response/conversation about his reaction. That only feeds the tantrum and prolongs the tantrum.