Dealing with anger in children

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He stamped his feet, kicked the wall, sighed continuously in my face to show his anger (i am no mind reader so i pretended not to hear). He hits the pillow, makes a few tiny cry. I am like is ‘everything alright sweetie’ (pretending not to know what he is protesting about). He manages to say – mummy you made me sad. Ehen? Sad ke? What did I do? (feigning innocence). Mummy you didnt give me my caprisonne. (He murmured). Wait o, is that why you are kicking my wall and hurting yourself? I then explained to him that not giving him his caprisonne was a consequence for not doing what i asked him to do earlier. ‘But mummy I did it’ he protested. Yes, only after I had shouted. Next time, you do what I ask you and you get what you were promised. Kapich?! Sooooo, whose leg is paining him now? ‘Me’ he said. I asked why, he replied ‘because I hit it on the wall’ and did it help you get your caprisonne? I asked. No. Show your anger but dont hurt yourself or somebody else in the process. Nothing gets solved.

Children like adults will get angry but its about managing that anger properly. Managing anger is the one of biggest emotional issues that children face. When they learn to manage their anger they can handle their fears and other emotions.

Most of us grew up with the notion that anger should not be expressed but rather bottled up or sucked in. What this does is, when a child can no longer take it, it eventually spills over into physical violence or hurtful verbal abuse, which so often backfires on the angry person. What we should teach them is – you can get angry or frustrated, but don’t sin in anger. It is important for children to express their anger but more importantly we can help them learn that anger can be expressed in ways that does not have to harm anyone including themselves.

This reminded me of when I went to pick up my children and while at the bus stop a group of children came to wait for the bus as well. While there, one was eating and another snatched the food from him. The food ended up on the ground. The owner of the food was so angry he pounced on the other boy and started punching him, dragged him with his bag on the floor until some men came to separate them. The angry boy told his friend – you know i have anger issues so don’t annoy me again. These kids can’t be more than 12-13years old.

Never, ever, never, ever encourage your children to bottle up their anger. If they are angry for 5 minutes, let them be. But when it gets longer than that help them snap out of it sharpish. If they are not taught how to deal with their anger, they end up going outside to break peoples heads.

Charity they say starts from home.

1. Help them understand why they are angry by asking questions till they identify what it is. For my son, the anger was not the fact that he didnt get caprisonne, but that i stood by my words not to give to him. He learned the hard way that you can’t always get what you want when you want it. Lessons are hard even for adults not to talk of children but he was taught that with negative actions come consequences. In other cases, it may be someone who made them angry by making jest of them, playing rough or taking their toys. Help them understand the triggers. Its easier to deal with it that way.

2. Teach them how to identify that they are angry – boiling, kicking things, throwing things, slamming doors – these are all anger signs. Also, teach them to name their anger. ‘I just feel like slamming the door’, ‘i just want to kick that pillow’. Helping them to name their actions of what they feel like doing will help them let the steam out instead. It also gives them the opportunity to communicate about how they feel. For teenagers, give them more time before you talk to them about it but make them understand that some behaviors are not acceptable.

3. Teach them other ways to get over the anger. For my boys a little distraction helps. Get them outside to do some activities or sports. Usually after this, they are better able to explain why they felt angry. Use what ever works for you. As a girl, i preferred to write my feelings down. You just need to understand your child and find out the best way to get them to relax and ‘spill the beans.’

For all this to work effectively, you as their parents need to be their role model. How do you handle your anger when your partner upsets you? Do you take time to listen to each other, talk things through or find healthy physical ways to let off steam when you feel yourself getting to boiling point? You cant teach what you have not practiced.

I tell my children that there is nothing so bad that we can’t talk about it but that there are behaviours that are not acceptable. Talk about it. Don’t bottle it, don’t sweep it under the carpet. Let it all out and you will be fine.

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