Anger, or the emotional state of annoyance, displeasure or frustration, is a normal human emotion. It is worth noting that anger is different to aggression, which is where feeling angry results in violent behaviour, with intention to inflict harm or damage on a person or object.
There are a large number of signs of an angry child, and they may differ from one child to the next. Some of the most common signs of anger in children include:
– losing control of their emotions and expressing so using a loud voice or negative body language
– regularly getting into disagreements with other people e.g. when required to share
– throwing, breaking or damaging items when they feel frustrated
Helping your child manage their anger can be distressing, confusing and draining for us as parents. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to help your child manage their anger, including the following:
1. Set An Example For Your Kids
Our kids learn more by watching us than we could possibly imagine. If you shout or scream at your children when you are angry as a parent, your child is likely to mirror that behaviour when they feel angry.
Staying calm when you feel angry may not only help you to cope with a tough situation, but it can also help your child to feel safe and to learn that reacting angrily instantly without thinking (referred to an ‘angry outburst’) is not always necessary. Setting an example as to how best to handle any disagreements or difficult situations is the best starting point for you as a parent when working to help your child control their anger.
2. Teach Your Child To Recognise, Acknowledge and Understand Their Feelings Of Anger
It is good for our children to understand it is OK to feel angry from time to time. What’s most important is that kids learn it is OK to feel angry, but to act aggressively or destructively (such as throwing toys) is a different story. Taking the time to sit down together and listen to your child when they feel angry and why is very important (whether you agree with their view or not). The more you discuss their emotions with them, the less likely their anger will build up and cause them to have an angry outburst at a later stage. By understanding their feelings, children are more likely to manage their anger constructively (otherwise referred to as ‘emotional intelligence’).
3. Work With Your Child To Understand Their Warning Signs
Often when a child has an angry outburst, there were warning signs throughout the day (/week/month) that this situation was about to eventuate. For example, a young child who has missed their required nap for the day may feel grumpy and react angrily to a disagreement in the evening because they are more tired than normal.
An outburst of anger may be able to be avoided by teaching your child to learn their warning signs, and how to calm themselves when they begin to feel bothered.
4. Teach Your Child Problem-Solving Skills
Teaching your child problem-solving skills both when they are calm, and when they are angry (where appropriate) can be a great tool for reducing the need for them to have an angry outburst in future.
For example, when your child feels angry you could:
– Ask your child: “What do you think you can do to find a resolution to this problem?”
– Give your child three different solutions to a problem, then ask them: “Which solution do you think is best, option one, two or three?”
When your child is calm, for example, you may wish to ask them:
– “What are three ways you can better handle <insert situation or problem here> when it happens?”
By strengthening their problem-solving skills, your child will be better equipped to rationally consider their options when they feel their anger warning signs arise, as well as be able to constructively address their anger when it occurs.
5. Teach Your Child To Engage In A Positive Activity When They Feel Angry
The best time to teach your child to engage in a positive activity when they feel angry is obviously not right in the middle of an angry outburst. Instead, when your child is feeling calm, take the time to sit down together and help them to write their own list of practical positive activities they can do when they feel angry. These activities may include:
– talking it through with mum or dad, or someone close to them
– a relaxing breathing exercise
– reading their favourite book
– doing some drawing or colouring in (a great meditative activity to distract the mind)
– going for a calm outdoor stroll with you or running off some steam at the local playground (safely)
– putting on their favourite music and dancing away their anger
– for toddlers, a big hug from mum or dad can work wonders
6. Show Empathy And Ensure Your Child Feels Safe And Supported
Not only is it healthy to acknowledge your child’s anger when they feel it, but it is just as important to empathise with them and for them to know that you understand them and will support them if they need it. Give them permission to feel angry and empathise with their situation as best you can – after all, we all feel angry from time to time.
Even if they push back or make clear the fact they want you to “go away”, reinforce that you will give them some space but are available for them whenever they need you.
By spending regular ‘bonding time’ together, you can strengthen the bond between yourself and your child, which will encourage them to look to you for support when they need it.
7. Set Boundaries For Acceptable Behaviour And Praise Good Behaviour When It Occurs
It is vital as a parent to instil in our children what is and is not acceptable behaviour from our children when they are angry. For example, we must set rules regarding no hitting another person, no throwing items such as toys, and no breaking, damaging or destroying property. It is important our children understand it is OK to feel anger (i.e. experience the emotion), but it is not OK to act aggressively on it. You may wish to establish any consequences you feel are appropriate for unacceptable behaviour.
When your child manages their anger in a calm and controlled way, praise this behaviour and thereby you will reinforce it for future difficult situations.
The above things may be very helpful for you in trying to help your angry child manage their anger, however, they may not be enough. It is worthwhile encouraging your child to see a professional therapist with you, who can help them work through their feelings of anger and develop ways to manage their emotions. Contact Brain Wellness Spa today and get the help and support you and your child need to manage your child’s anger.