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7 tips to manage an angry child

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
7 tips to manage an angry child

Anger is a very intense and explosive emotion. Managed badly it can escalate out of control until the parent loses it too. We all get angry, myself included, and it's a pressure release valve that helps us get rid of pent up emotions and stress. We know that stress is toxic but badly managed anger is toxic too.

1. We need to teach our children about anger and other emotional feelings.

It often starts at the toddler stage but some parents say their baby is having tantrums and maybe they are. My recent YouTube video explores tantrums and how to manage them:

We can teach children by giving names to emotions and helping the toddler name their own emotions e.g. 'I can see that you are really angry', 'You look sad Jessica' and 'I can see that you've woken up feeling really happy. I can see a big smile on your face'.

By acknowledging emotions we are allowing them to experience them and have a name for them.

2. Venting anger is important but it also needs to managed or else it can quickly get out of control.

Repressing our children's feelings is not healthy. You may have heard people saying to their children things like, 'Stop crying and behave like a man' or 'Stop behaving like a sook'. All this serves to do is internalise the anger and not allow it to be vented. It's toxic. It's also shaming.

3. Emotional self-regulation is a skill that needs to be taught.

I see many children who have never been allowed to cry and express themselves. I also see children who have been given everything and have never heard the NO word. If this continues until school age imagine what is likely to happen when your child starts school. Imagine the school bully going up to your child and poking fun at them. I know in Utopia there are no school bullies but I'm talking real life here. It will happen.

How can you prepare your child for this? We know that boundaries create security and reduce cortisol. It needs to start young and that includes sleep training/promotion of healthy sleep habits. It also includes discipline. This is not the same as punishment. I think we get confused by what discipline means at times. It's authoritative parenting and it's about moulding behaviour. It's not smacking, shouting etc. I'll give you an example. Your child is shouting very loudly. Discipline is saying to them, 'Stop shouting and talk in your nice quiet voice instead'. Get down at their level and give eye contact.

4. We are a very busy society and we are losing sight of our connection with our children.

Try and practice mindfulness, being in the moment. Modern technology is distracting. We spend a lot of our time on our smart phones, tablets etc. and talking to people who do not matter as much as the cute little person standing right next to us. This is when children will act up, start shouting etc. They escalate their behaviour in order to get our attention. This is how behaviour problems start. I had children at 3 years old in Manchester setting fire to their curtains to get attention that was being denied them. It could happen in your family if the basic care and due dilligence isn't given to our parenting. And I've seen really serious dysfunctional parenting in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. It's not confined to Manchester.

5. Laughter and humour are the best diffusers of any anger.

We expect perfection from children and yet they are still learning. We allow more for developmental imperfection than we do for behaviour fails. We react differently to behaviour issues. We jump at the things we don't like. If we lightened up a bit and saw the funny side we'd all get much less angry.

Children don't often do too much with true intent. These are often accidents. By scolding we are more likely to imprint the behaviour than if we ignored it or managed it with humour. Try getting cross with a smile on your face! It's really hard to do.

6. How we manage our own anger will help our children manage theirs.

If we display inappropriate out of control anger our children are likely to be scared and it models their own likely behaviour. Counting to 10 is a great strategy if something really bad has happened. It gives us time to think, to calm down and clarity on how to act.

We can verbalise how we are feeling and how we are managing our own anger. This is a great learning opportunity for our child. My sister has recently had 2 year old Freya say to her, 'Mummy you are getting very cross. Mummy you need to go into chill-out time!' I'm sure my sister was caught off guard by that one. How cute and also a great learning opportunity.

7. Encourage your child to 'Use your words and tell me how you feel'.

Get down to their level, move in close. They may want a hug. Be guided by them. We're all different in how we manage our anger and calm ourselves down. And they may just want to be left to get it all out in their own time. Respectful attunement is the way to go.

We all need a sense of humour when parenting toddlers and children. How we navigate issues like these are so important and we are their teacher. This will become their template on managing anger. A big one I think. I hope this has given you a few ideas and a bit of food for thought.

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