April is Child Abuse Prevention month, all humans experience anger, and your child is no different. How we deal with these overstimulated moments and how we react can make all the difference. A child’s brain often cannot process their emotions, especially during a stressful time. That can result in an emotional or behavioral outburst. Parents typically resort to one of two reactions when their child is acting out. A parent might “bring down the hammer” as Kim Abraham, LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, puts it, trying to stop the anger/outburst through intimidation and punishment. Or, a parent may do everything in their power to change the situation and get rid of the child’s adverse behavior.
Neither method is wrong, but they often don’t diffuse the situation, nor do they create a positive learning experience for your child.
Changing how you speak to your child during these situations can help them develop the tools to properly deal with anger and other emotions.
Remember these tips the next time your child has an emotional outburst: (From empoweringparents.com)
- Don’t try to control your child’s emotions. You can’t expect someone to control their emotions. You can only ask that they control their behavior. It’s okay for a child to be angry, as long as that anger is expressed appropriately.
- Control your own emotions. If you start to feel your emotions getting away from you, take a breath and a mental step back. It may help to picture your child as a neighbor’s kid to provide some emotional distance.
- Make sure your responses don’t escalate the situation. Just because you choose not to argue with your child doesn’t mean that you’re giving in. If your child needs space to cool down, give it to them. The time to discipline your child is not in the middle of an emotional or behavioral tornado. Address these things later, when things have settled down.
- Help your child recognize when anger is building. Physical signs of anger, such as stomach clenching, tension, feeling flushed, or jaw clenching, are all things your child can recognize. If they begin to notice these things happening, they can dial down and hopefully begin to control their anger.
- Brainstorm with your child. Many kids experience or express true remorse after having an emotional meltdown. If your child is open to talking and willing to learn some anger management skills, you can help them work backwards to understand the incident. Ask questions like, “What happened right before you got angry?” “What was said?” “What other things were you feeling, i.e. embarrassed, frustrated, anxiety?” Learning to recognize underlying emotions is a powerful tood your child can use throughout life. Many kids may not be willing to go over the issue. If they resist, drop it, and see if you can make progress another time.
- Remember that emotion is different from behavior. The problem isn’t the anger; it’s the behavior that follows. You can validate your child’s emotions while addressing the behavior that is a concern: “I understand you were angry when I said you couldn’t go to your friend’s house. Sometimes there will be rules or limits that may frustrate you, but breaking things won’t change that rule and will only end in a consequence for that behavior.” Then help your child identify more positive ways to express their emotions.
Responding to Anger in Children
How to Respond to your Child or Teen’s Anger
10 Rules of Dealing with an Angry Child
Helping your Child Learn to Manage Anger