Difficult and distressing, but anger can be an opportunity to help your angry child learn to cope with emotions as well as solve problems.
More often than not a child who’s resilient will deal with pressures or concerns by working through the challenge and look to solve the problem; less inclined to be anxious, angry or aggressive or display avoidant behaviour.
However with a child who in general has more of an avoidant behaviour they may well become angry as a way to respond to a situation or experience.
In these intense interactions, it may be challenging to control your own frustration. One way to be in the best position to help is to see yourself not in opposition to your child’s anger but beside them looking at it. Imagine yourself standing next to your child and looking at this problem, this emotion, from a distance. Be curious as to what it is. See yourself kneeling next to them and asking what they think it is. Remove yourself from the idea of being swept up my the situation, and notice how seeing yourself next to your child reduces your need to get angry or upset.
The idea is that we get behind the outburst to understand better what has caused the anger in the first place. I’ve listed below some ways for you to understand, appreciate and help your child improve how they manage their anger.
Before we get to the 10 techniques, it’s worthwhile and valuable to keep these three principles in mind as often it is our behaviour that we need to also be mindful of.
Read more about a child’s inner critic and negative self-talk here.
#01 Don’t engage or retaliate. This will wind her/him up even more; and you’ll only teach them to resolving conflict, unsuccessfully, by fighting fire with fire
#02 Model the behaviour you want your child to display. Soon enough they will copy. If you hit, they will learn to deal with anger through hitting. If you lose control, they may become scared with their own anger.
#03 Let her/him know that you understand and appreciate how they are feeling.
#04 Suppress any urge to explain another point of view until their anger has been expressed and acknowledged.
#05 Ask what they would like to do to improve things.
#06 Acknowledge what she/he says. Reaffirm the feelings and then help look at the options. For example, “What could happen if you did that?”.
#07 Try not to force children to apologise when they don’t feel sorry. You may be forcing them to bury their anger and be teaching them to be hypocritical.
#08 Look to understand what may have triggered the anger. Come up with all the ways they could handle it differently.
#09 Make a point of praising their positive behaviour. Often it can be the case that we comment on their failings more than their successes. We jump when something goes wrong, but usually don’t have the same intensity when they do something well.
#10 Try getting your child to let off some steam by stomping their feet, punching a pillow, or pulling, twisting, or pounding on clay. You want to dissipate the anger so they can better communicate what’s going on for them.
Set up Rules for Being Angry
It’s okay to be angry, but:
Give consequences to the act not the emotion; the behaviour not the anger. For example, if a child runs upstairs and slams the door, breaking an mug on the way, set up consequences for breaking the mug, rather than the storming upstairs and slamming the door.
I hope there are one or two tactics here that might resonate with you and that you feel will work. As ever, please comment, feedback or leave questions.
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.
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