I stand and watch helplessly, as my usually pleasant child screams at the top of his lungs and kicks on the living room floor because I’ve told him that he can’t play video games until he completes his homework. With his fists clenched, teeth gritting and a tight jaw, he hardly seems like my little boy that I know and love. Sound familiar?
These dramatic and uncontrollable outbursts often happen because children haven’t learned coping skills yet to handle their big and strong emotions. They also don’t have the language to express what they’re feeling so they cry, scream, kick, bite and thrash around instead. Children also lack impulse control, so when they are frustrated or angry, it’s almost like an instant stimulus response to react in such ways.
Although, it looks less than normal to watch your angry child turn into this tiny monster, anger is an absolutely 100% NORMAL emotion! And, it will present itself through all of children’s development stages into adulthood. It is our job as parents to help our children learn the best anger management tools so as they get older, they are able to manage their own emotions effectively and independently.
Here are some effective ways to deal with childhood anger:
Teach them words
Kids have outbursts because they lack the vocabulary to express their emotions. So, it is imperative to teach them how to verbalize their feelings even if it is by teaching them basic words such as happy, angry, sad etc. When they kick or throw things, tell them to use words such as ‘I’m mad because…’ instead of physical actions. When they are upset, ask them to share how they are feeling and what caused them to feel this way. If they are not good at expressing verbally yet, allow them to draw and color pictures to show you. Over time, they will learn to control their aggressive impulses and express their emotions through words instead.
Make a what-to-do-if-angry plan
It’s a good idea to come up with a plan on what to do next time they are feeling a bout of anger coming on. First, discuss signs on how to identify their anger is rising such as they feel hotter or have the urge to hit others. Once they are able to recognize that their level of anger is increasing, they should engage in an activity that will divert or deflate their anger and help them calm down. This could include activities such as coloring, writing in a journal, squeezing their stuffed animal tightly, reading a book, building blocks, drinking some water or even taking a nap. It’s best to come up with a plan so next time, they can take the responsibility of calming themselves down before they get super angry.
Be calm yourself
The best way to inculcate good habits in your children is by setting a good example yourself. The next time you feel angry, remember to remain calm and use your words to express your emotions. Show your children anger management techniques live in action such as going on a walk, counting backwards, meditating, or repeating a calm-down mantra in front of them so they know that their parents can also get angry but choose to manage their anger using these techniques. It’s also recommended to discontinue viewing any violent media so your children don’t pick up unhealthy ways of dealing with anger.