Your child is angry. You are not sure why — or perhaps you do know? Maybe it’s something easily put right — a small misunderstanding? Or maybe it’s something he refuses to talk about.
In either case — you are the adult and it’s down to you to take the steps needed to regain your loving relationship. You may just need to ask the right question.
Maybe your child shouts, lashes out or maybe there is a storm of tears and accusations — “You don’t love me…”
Even more frightening is the child who holds it in, where you meet shifty looks, leaving the room refusing to answer you, doors banging, loud music or deathly silence.
Now you really are scared. Just how can you help him?
What Is Really the Matter When Your Child is Angry?
Anger is usually a response to fear. From the time of our earliest ancestors, we knew fear — our very survival depended upon our response to danger. And anger is usually a manifestation of fear.
Fear is a primitive emotion, seated in the most primitive part of our brain — and often expresses itself as anger.
And anger has its uses. It conceals our fear, makes us appear more imposing and less vulnerable. An angry man is more intimidating than a meek one.
But anger needs to be controlled before we do something we will really regret. And the ability to control anger grows within us as our brains grow and develop. A child’s forebrain is not fully formed. And it is the forebrain where reason and self- control are to be found.
Your child may find it impossible to act reasonably, in the way you expect them to. But all the time they are watching you.
How do you react when you are angry?
Look at Your Own Responses
Children are great mimics — they learn by copying us. And they will learn to manage their anger by seeing the way you manage yours, and by your responses to them.
Calm and measured control is far more effective than lashing out in your turn, by shouting and perhaps frightening your child still more.
And this might take some effort on your part.
Just one tip here, choose your battles well. And if you do indulge in one, be very sure you win. But don’t ever have more than you absolutely must have. It really doesn’t matter if she wears the blue dress or the green on — but it does matter is she hijacks your computer and watches God knows what.
How You Can Ensure Your Child Can Trust You and Feel Supported By You
And there are times when the cause of the anger is not our fault. But there may still be some action you need to take to prevent a recurrence of the situation. An example, all too common, is when your child has been bullied or indeed is the bully. This needs to be addressed by a competent adult, preferably in a calm and collected manner. (Not like the friend of mine who grabbed his shotgun before paying a visit to the bully’s father).
“It’s not fair!” How often we hear these words from our children and, no. life is unfair, unjust and unequal. As children we just have to learn to lump it; maybe as adults, we can try to change the world… if we dare. Your kindness and respect for the child will go a long way to helping them accept what is unjust, unfair and unequal.
And there are times when the cause of the anger is justified, by some action on your part. The child who threw a temper tantrum because her mother had bought her a “nice” new blue toothbrush when she had clearly asked for a green one, wasn’t so cross about the toothbrush but the fact that she had not been listened to. This is a time when an apology is indicated.
Learning to apologise gracefully is a very useful tool you and you can demonstrate how to do it. And some people do find it very difficult to apologise. In fact, in some languages, there is no word for “sorry” as it is said to weaken you.
5 Techniques To Teach Your Child How to Deal with Anger
Sometimes an explosion of anger can take your child by surprise — but other times they can feel themselves simmering. It’s a bit like a pressure cooker, if the pressure is released the pot won’t explode.
Here are a few ideas to help your child release the tension before she erupts.
Take a Foreign Breath
Our mothers used to say “Take a deep breath before you speak” — and the advice was good. it gave time for a pause so that our controlling part of our brain had time to take over and squash the detonation. Counting to 10 at the same time makes it more effective (especially if you are learning a foreign language and count in that. That makes you think as well and distracts your mind).
Elena and the Punchy Cushion
My friend Elena, had three lively children and there were times when she felt she just wanted to lash out at them, so she had a puffy cushion in the bathroom where she could get at it easily and she would punch the cushion instead of her children. Your child could choose a cushion or maybe a punchbag for the same purpose. It really does help to let off steam.
Draw Away the Fury
Drawing is another way to express anger. You might find the crayon pierces the paper, and that’s fine. Older children may prefer to write an angry letter to the person who has wounded them. Just writing it can be helpful, even if it is rarely sent.
Twist and Stamp the Anger Out
A musical child might have an “angry dance”. You need some vigorous but not too angry sounding music, the best type is something that starts off loud and then gets quieter — often the child will follow the sound and calm down as the music slows and quietens. But there is little point in starting with calm music- an angry child will either not hear it or will ignore it, you need to start off where the child is, loud and vigorous, and progress to where you hope she will be, quieter and calmer
The Surprise Tactic — My Own Favourite
This is fun to use, and it works. If you and your child are having a right old ding-dong, say something totally unexpected. In the same loud voice you have already been expressing your opinions, something like…” and I like baked beans on a Tuesday” It’s almost worth engineering an argument to see the astonished expression on your opponent’s face.
How You Can Ensure Your Child Can Trust You and Know That You Will Support Her
So many children seem to go through childhood without really having a conversation with their parents. The telly child and the games console have taken over in many households. It’s good to have a time when the family meet and talk — and dinner time is often the perfect opportunity.
Here you can discuss problems which might arise, and how as a family unit you will deal with them.
But it’s not the only time you can give her. Bedtime stories are as popular as ever, and much better than the box for getting your child relaxed and ready to fall asleep. And if she brings up a problem you can either deal with it there and then or mull it over through the evening.
In some families, even breakfast time can be a source of conversation — although this is less common.
What matters is that every single day your own child should have time and encouragement to express themselves to you in a loving and respectful way.
Listening to your child is the key to helping her control her anger; when you show respect for her opinions and fears, you will be helping her and teaching her, ensuring that she knows she really can rely on you, depend on you and that you will love her no matter what.
That is why if you send her away to “calm down until you learn to behave” is counterproductive. She will never learn to deal with anger responsibly if you neglect her at a time when she needs you most.
When to Seek Professional Help
There are a few times when professional help can be invaluable. Sometimes a skilled outside view can throw light on the problem and help you deal with it effectively. You do not need to cope all alone.
Here are some signs that professional help might be your best option:
· She hurts smaller children or animals
· He always takes the opposite point of view after the age of about 2 years
· She refuses to accept responsibility for her actions
· He alienates friends and adults alike
· She is always ready to explode
When Your Child Knows You Will Help find a Way Through
Your child is angry. You are not sure why — or perhaps you do know?
Maybe it’s something you can easily put right — a small misunderstanding? Now that she has learnt that sharing her anger may lead to a solution, and she confides in you.
And you respond, knowing how to take the steps needed to regain your loving relationship. You may just need to ask the right question.
Maybe your child cries — life can seem very unfair, but you are there to support her, and maybe lead her to take actions that will prevent the situation arising again — or at least help your child to an easier acceptance of life’s injustices.
Your child has learnt that you are there for her, that you respect her views and that you love her no matter what.
Now you really feel worthwhile deep within yourself. Your child knows she can trust you and that you will respect and love her — always.