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Autonomy phase: How to deal with an angry child

Reading time 7 minutes
Autonomy phase: How to deal with an angry child

Your child doesn't seem to care at all about what you say anymore and acts like a changed person? Welcome to the autonomy phase! He has discovered that he has a mind of his own and is now putting you to the test - without any bad intentions, of course. How much autonomy do you allow him? Both of you are about to embark on an interesting journey, during which you will get to know your child from a completely new perspective, and perhaps even yourself.

What is the autonomy phase?

The autonomy phase is also often referred to as the defiance phase, because that is exactly what your child is currently trying to do: He is trying to defy you, but of course without any bad intentions! He simply feels a very strong desire for freedom and wants to determine for himself what happens. The young offspring now realizes for the first time what it is like to really want something. However, he does not yet understand why he cannot have everything or do everything he wants. Your child quickly reaches his or her limits. Frustration builds up, which may well turn into anger.

Why is the autonomy phase so important?

It used to be assumed that children only enter the autonomy phase if their parents are not authoritarian enough. Of course, this is complete nonsense, as we fortunately know nowadays. A child in the autonomy phase doesn't set out to dance around on your nose and make life difficult for you. It has simply discovered that it has a will of its own, but cannot yet control the feelings that go with it. They just bubble out of him. It is now learning to deal with them, which is incredibly important for its later life.

But in the meantime, your child not only discovers its own will, but also sees itself as an independent person for the first time. He or she is developing a personality and is just getting to know him or herself. This can quickly become overwhelming, and your child desperately needs your strong shoulder to lean on. Equally important is your guiding hand, which shows him a direction. Of course, this doesn't mean that you should shape your child's personality. Rather, it's about giving him guidance on this important journey.

autonomy phase child

How long does the autonomy phase last?

At the latest when your child throws himself on the floor for the first time, protests loudly, cries, screams and bangs on the floor with his little fists, you know: The autonomy phase has begun. Usually, this is around the age of one and a half to two years. On average, this phase lasts four years, so it is usually over by the age of six. But don't worry, your child won't want to defy you every day for four years now. More strenuous times alternate with calmer, more balanced ones.

Especially at the beginning of the autonomy phase, it is often exhausting for parents. Your child has just started learning to speak and therefore can't express himself well yet. This can be frustrating for both sides. That's why it's especially important now that you stay calm and make a special effort to understand what your child is trying to tell you.

From around the age of four, it becomes much easier, because your child's language skills have increased considerably. Nevertheless, the time is not yet ripe for long discussions, because they still overwhelm your child. For your part, short sentences in a loving tone of voice are now required so that your offspring opens up and tells you what is bothering him.

10 tips for dealing with children in the autonomy phase

The autonomy phase not only puts you as a parent to the test, but also your child. You don't understand why your child suddenly gets so angry, and your offspring himself can't explain why he feels the way he does. So what's the best way to deal with him? We have compiled ten tips for you that will help you both to cope well with the defiant phase. Let's go!

1. be there for your child

Children need an incredible amount of attention and closeness. Even if you would like to just close the door to the child's room, that is of course the wrong way to do it. Show your child that you are always there for them and that you will support them when they are overcome by their feelings.

Physical contact is usually a valuable tool here. With a firm hug, you show your child particularly clearly that you will support him or her in any situation, no matter how difficult. But be sure to wait until your offspring is ready for it. Some children want to keep their distance during a phase of particularly intense anger and prefer to withdraw. You should allow your offspring to do the same. Wait until he is ready to allow closeness.

2. talk openly about feelings

If your child also feels misunderstood during an emotional outburst, more and more frustration builds up that he or she must somehow let out. So stay calm and patiently and tell your child clearly that you can see that he or she is angry. In doing so, you are not only showing him that you are aware of what is going on. You are also giving the feeling a name. This in turn makes it something tangible for your child.

It sees that what it is experiencing is something quite normal, because after all, there is even a name for it. This helps him to calm down. Later, they can ask you what exactly anger is, and you take the time to explain it to them fully. In this way, you help your offspring understand what is going on with him.

3. show your child that you take him or her seriously

Time and again, parents catch themselves downplaying situations that are very serious for their children, or start laughing secretly because they seem so absurd to them. But you should stop that at all costs! Your child is already tense enough, because he can't assess the situation himself and doesn't understand why he is so angry right now.

If you then also signal to him that you don't take it seriously, you can quickly overflow the barrel. Be understanding, even if it is difficult for you, and always remember that the situation is much more difficult for your child than for you.

4. change the room

If your child is already bogged down in his frustration and can no longer be distracted, then simply change the room with him or go into the garden together. This way, he can leave his anger behind and it will be easier for him to get away from it. In addition, there is the distraction that the change of location offers. Many new stimuli are waiting for your offspring, which are much more interesting than the frustration from before.

5. create an environment where everything is allowed

If you are constantly chasing after your child because, for example, he has something in his hand that he should not take, this means stress for both of you. It is anything but pleasant for you to have to constantly take something away from your offspring or forbid him to do so. Of course, he feels this too. In addition, there is the frustration that builds up because he is simply never allowed to do what he wants and you keep interrupting him.

You can minimize such situations by providing an environment where your child can touch and play with anything he finds there. If your child is still so small that he can't walk, a play gate is the perfect solution. If these times are already over, then why not build a cave together out of blankets, for example, and conjure up your child's own realm in which he can do whatever he wants.

6. give your child a sense of achievement

As a parent, of course, you always want to support and help your child. You just want to make sure that nothing happens to him. But let's be honest: You're not doing him any favors, especially not in the autonomy phase.

Your offspring is just realizing not only that he has a will of his own, but also feels the Motivationto create something on his own. So don't interfere everywhere, but give him the chance to experience success. In this way, you build the foundation for the later Your child's self-confidence.

At the same time, they can learn that not everything works out right away. They see that sometimes it takes more than one attempt to reach the goal. So they understand that it's worth trying again and again and don't give up right after the first attempt.

7. allow your child to be more independent

Your offspring is just getting to know itself as an independent person and feels more and more the urge to be considered a full member of the family. You will be able to observe that it tries to imitate you when doing everyday things. Support it in this!

For example, let him put his children's dishes on the table all by himself, pass out napkins to the family, or bring you a wooden spoon while you cook. Make him feel like he's making a valuable contribution.

8. thank

If your child wants to help you and brings you a pen, for example, if you want to write something down, don't just send him away again. Thank him, even if you don't need the pen at all. He or she wanted to contribute something useful and you should do that. value. Just say, "Thank you." It doesn't hurt you and your child is happy about it. Otherwise, unnecessary frustration can build up again, because your offspring does not understand why he is sent away, although he wanted to do you a favor.

9. recognize first signs

Eventually, you'll be able to recognize early on when a tantrum is brewing. For example, do you notice that your child is starting to nag, is getting cranky, or is maybe just really tired? Then you can intervene quickly and counteract the situation.

Distract him and take pressure out of the situation. Suggest that they play or read something together or go outside with them. You can also ask them directly how they are feeling or what they are thinking about.

If you feel that your child is tired, invite him to cuddle with you. The main thing is to take action as early as possible so that your child's frustration doesn't build up to the point where it erupts.

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How to help your child learn in the autonomy phase

The autonomy phase is not easy for you or your child. You need a lot of patience and empathy. Make sure you give your child the attention he or she needs, but don't restrict him or her too much. Give him the chance to celebrate successes and to master challenges on his own. Still, show him that you'll always stand by his side if he needs your support.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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