How to help your child manage anger: Part-1

Children, like us are prone to feeling a range of emotions; disappointment, disillusionment, stress, anxiety, grief, sadness etc. Most importantly, children a lot of times feel they don’t have a sense of control and feel like their lives are being guided and “controlled” by adults around them. Throughout the day, they hear all sort of instructions like “do this”, “don’t do this”, “you always do this”, “stop this” and sometimes it gets overwhelming for the young mind, where he/she feels like a puppet on strings.

Today, as parents, we are much more informed and I know a lot of us take the time to explain to our children the “why’s” and “how’s” of things rather than just order them around but despite doing our best, sometimes our kids fly-off-the-handle and refuse to listen to us. Rather than bursting into tears or losing temper, the best way is to learn how you can manage your kid’s anger. You may still have bad days and arguments with your kiddo, but it’s okay. Take heart. Our behavior has to come across as corrective than admonishing.

angry

How can parents help kids learn to manage their anger?

by Dr. Laura Meckham

Set limits.  Allowing feelings does not mean we allow destructive actions.  Kids should never be allowed to hit others, including their parents.  When they do, they are always asking for us to set limits and help them contain their anger.  Say “You can be as mad as you want but you cannot hit.  I see how mad you are, and I will keep us all safe.”

Some children really need to struggle against something when they’re angry.  It’s fine to let them struggle against your holding arms, if that’s what they want, but take off your glasses, and don’t let yourself get hurt.

Similarly, don’t let kids break things in their fury.  That just adds to their guilt and sense that they’re a bad person.  Your job is to serve as a safe “container” and “witness,” to listen to what your child is telling you.  

Never send a child away to “calm down” by herself. Remember that kids need your love most when they “deserve it least.” Instead of a “time out,” which gives kids the message that they’re all alone with these big, scary feelings, try a “time in,” during which you stay with your child and help him move through his feelings.  You’ll be amazed at how your child begins to show more self control when you adopt this practice, because he feels less helpless and alone.

Stay calm.  Yelling at an angry child reinforces what she’s already feeling, which is that she is in danger.  (You may not see why she would think she’s in danger when she just socked her little brother, but a child who is lashing out is a child in the grip of deep fear.) So your anger will only make the storm worse.  Your job is to restore calm, because kids can only learn and understand how to “do better” when they’re calm.

If you are in the habit of yelling at your kids, know that you are modeling behavior that your child will adopt by the time she’s a teen, if not well before.

Kids need to learn from you that anger and other upsetting feelings are not so scary as they seem — after all, Mom isn’t scared of them. Your presence helps them feel safe, which helps them develop the neural pathways in the brain that shut off the “fight or flight” response and allow the frontal cortex, the “reasoning brain,” to take over.  That’s how kids learn to soothe themselves.

Teach ’em how they can manage her anger. Teach her to use her “PAUSE” button by breathing in for four counts through her nose, and then out for eight through her mouth.  Grab two squishy balls; hand her one, and demonstrate working out annoyance on the squishy ball.

When your child is calm, make a list with her of constructive ways to handle emotion, and post it on the refrigerator. Let her do the writing, or add pictures, so she feels some ownership of the list.  But also model using it when you’re mad:  “I’m getting annoyed, so I’m checking the list.  Oh, I think I’ll put on some music and dance out my frustration!”

When a child has “anger management issues” it means that he is terrified of those pent-up feelings under the anger (fear, hurt, grief.)  To defend against those vulnerable feelings he thinks will destroy him, he hardens his heart and clings to the anger as a defense.  Therapeutic intervention can help the child work through those deeper feelings and develop more ability to manage all of his emotions.

How do you handle your child’s angry emotions? Tell us in comments, I would love to feature your suggestions.

Till then, keep shining!

~ KaT & Kiddo ~

Source: Angry Child

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