It can be so disheartening when your child becomes so angry that you can’t find a way to simply calm them down or find the triggers that are making them so angry. It can erupt at any time making the whole household a boiling pot of oil…..leaving you treading on egg shells hoping it doesn’t happen.
It’s trying to work out the triggers for these angry outbursts. The anger can become habit forming as they become more and more frequent, it’s easier to feel angry than to face up to real cause.
Children respond with anger because they feel helpless. To understand why one child becomes more angry than other children takes some time and effort. What triggered the outburst? The thing to realise is that our anger is generally a reaction to frustration. In children, however, anger appears to be a more generic emotion. It can be triggered by embarrassment, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and hurt. Children often respond with anger to these types of situations because they feel helpless to understand the situation fully, and helpless to change it. In a way, their anger is a response to frustration as well.
A child who is especially defiant may be behaving this way to counteract dependency and fears of loss. A child who feels hurt by a loss may become angry as a way to avoid feeling sad and powerless. While anger is not the best emotion to feel in all cases, it might be easier to feel than some of these other, more painful emotions.
It is important to remember that anger is not the same thing as aggression. Anger is a feeling, while aggression is a behaviour. Anger is a temporary emotional state caused by frustration; aggression is often an attempt to hurt a person or to destroy property. Explain that anger is OK, aggression is not. Teach other ways to vent frustration without acting in hurtful or damaging ways.
Here are some tips:
- Comment on your child’s behaviour when it is good.
- Something like, “I like the way you handled your brother when he took your stuff.” An observant and involved parent can find dozens of things they like about their child’s behaviour…”I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded”; “I appreciate your hanging up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play”; “You were really patient while I was on the phone”; “I’m glad you shared your snack with your sister”; “I like the way you’re able to think of others”; and “Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened.”
- Teachers can do the same, offering, “I know it was difficult for you to wait your turn, and I’m pleased that you could do it”; “Thanks for sitting in your seat quietly”; “You were thoughtful in offering to help your friend with his spelling”; “You worked hard on that project, and I admire your effort.”
- Ignore inappropriate behaviour that you can tolerate.
- Nagging you while you’re on the phone can be dealt with by praising what you liked (“Thank you for waiting while I was talking on the phone. I’m off the phone now, so what’s up?”) and ignoring what you don’t like (ignoring a child’s requests while you are on the phone).
- You may be thinking, “They yell louder and you have to answer them just to have some quiet.” When you respond this way, you reinforce them for yelling. Yelling gets your attention, so next time they will yell louder to make sure you respond. They aren’t trying to annoy you, only using what they have found to be an effective way to get attention.
- Say “NO” clearly and firmly as needed. Limits should be explained clearly and enforced consistently. Of course, you won’t say “no” all the time; when you decide to bend the rules and say yes, explain why that moment is appropriate. Knowing when it is acceptable to break the rules is just as important as knowing when it is not.
- Provide physical outlets and exercise, both at home and at school.
- Forest school or cutting wood, play a sport, work out at the gym… do something that spends our energy. Kids need physical activity to let off steam too. Keep in mind that you can allow this without risking your safety or the child’s. Let them stomp around their room, knowing full well if they make it messy, they WILL clean it up, but no stomping in the living room.
- Also keep in mind that hugs can often make strong emotions less difficult for a child. You don’t hug to make the anger go away though; hug to let the child know you understand their anger and that you take it seriously.
- Take an interest in your child’s activities.
- Attention and pride can often make negative emotions easier to deal with. Failures and frustrations often mean less when a child knows their parent loves them and is proud of them for others things they do and know. Encourage children to see their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Help them to see that they can reach their goals.
- Recognise failures and setbacks part and parcel of life. Sometimes children do aggressive or destructive things when frustrated by difficult tasks, like studying and homework. Parents can move in, acknowledge the difficulty of the task and the feelings of frustration or failure it causes, and offer help. It may make the task easier, or it may make the emotions easier to tolerate. Praise the child for their efforts even when it is difficult.
- Use humour. Teasing or kidding can often defuse an angry situation and allow a child to “save face.” Don’t use humour to ridicule your child; use it to make fun of the situation. Something like, “I know you are mad at that little girl/boy/brother/sister for calling you names. Especially such stupid names (giggle).
- Use several parenting methods
- While spanking/hitting won’t help and I personally don’t condone (what message does that give our children, it’s alright to hit out?!), other physical interventions might. Sometimes a child can’t stop once a tantrum has begun, and physically removing the child from the scene or intervening isn’t a type of punishment. It’s a way to help your child stop their behaviour long enough to gain some control over it.
- Use bargaining as needed. We often control our own behaviour by doing this. “After a day like this, I deserve a really good meal” may help us curb our own temper when needed. This is not the same as bribery or blackmail. Know what your child likes and what is important enough to your child to serve as a good motivator to manage their anger.
- Use modelling. Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence of their actions on a child’s or group’s behaviour. If you curse when angry, don’t be surprised when a child does. If you count to ten when angry, don’t be surprised if your child follows this good example too.
Learning how to deal with anger is a life skill that they take with them in the future.
Good discipline includes setting limits, but being flexible when needed. It means explaining the rules and sticking to them in a neutral way. Handling angry children means understanding why they are angry and responding appropriately, setting your own anger aside as much as possible. Bad discipline involves punishment which is unduly harsh and unpredictably meted out. Sarcasm and ridicule also go along with bad discipline.
One of the most important things you do as a parent, teacher, or other adult in a child’s life is help them respect themselves and others so they can be happy in the world. While it takes years of practice, it is a vital process that pays off. Teaching your young child to manage anger and talk about feelings can prevent many angry outbursts in teenage years ahead, in their adult relationships, and in their own relationships with their children.
Let’s raise good well rounded children, who know what behaviour is required to get them success, and live the life they deserve.
Hope these tips help.
I’m here for any further advice on 07920 840 230.
Love and Warmth.
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