If you’re a parent, it is a certainty that you have had to deal with an angry child. Often, we end up in shouting matches with our kids, or we freeze up, not knowing what to do when an angry outburst occurs.
Anger is a normal emotion in kids and adults alike. But how we express and deal with our feelings of anger is the difference between living in relative peace and feeling like we are at our wits’ end
Don’t Yell at or Challenge Your Child During an Angry Outburst
Many times parents deal with angry outbursts by challenging their kids and yelling back. But this will just increase your feeling of being out of control. The best thing you can do is remain calm in a crisis.
Work on communication skills
Don’t jump to conclusions. Learn to express what you want appropriately. Stop and listen to what others are saying. Learn active listening skills (mirroring ensures you are hearing others correctly) and think before speaking. Avoid the temptation to get defensive. Ask questions so you know what others are trying to say. Avoid name calling. Keep cool.
Talk about the source of the anger. In children, frustration and disappointment often bring on angry outbursts. Look for the underlying concern. The source may be a skill not mastered or a difficulty in school.
Pay Attention to Your Reactions
It’s important to watch your reactions, both physical and mental. Your senses will tell you “Yikes, I’m in the presence of somebody who is very upset.” You’ll feel your heart start beating faster because your adrenaline will be heightened. Even though it’s difficult, the trick is to act against that in some way and try to stay calm.
Encourage your child to see things from another point of view. Even young children can understand when someone else feels sad or angry. If they don’t want to talk about their feelings, try inserting a favorite character from a book into the story. Ask questions to prompt your child to see another side of the issue and relate it to the situation at hand. How would the characters feel and react?
Remind them to forgive themselves and others. Even good people sometimes behave badly. Losing your temper once doesn’t mean you can’t change. Children especially need to believe that they will not be forever judged for their actions.
Be generous with hugs and praise
Physical contact can help defuse a challenging situation. A well-timed hug can ward off feelings of jealousy or frustration that can lead to anger. A gentle touch on an arm can help calm escalating nerves.
Remember to praise your child for their attempts, not just their achievements. Sometimes people fail, and there is much to be learned when things go wrong. Remind your kids of their strengths and what they have accomplished thus far. Pointing out your own failures can help your children see that they can move forward and try again.
Be a good role model
Be aware of your own anger. Studies show that parental emotions influence their children. If you think you don’t exhibit anger often, pay attention to how many times you yell or otherwise show anger (maybe keep a journal), noting what triggers it and how you react (yelling, punching the wall, hitting the steering wheel).
While anger is a normal part of life, it is sometimes indicative of a more serious issue. When anger falls outside developmental norms—for example, if a teacher reports your child’s anger is out of control, or if it’s impacting your child’s and possibly your family’s life—it is time to seek help.
Several developmental and mental health issues can contribute to emotional outbursts. A professional evaluation can help diagnose and find the proper approach for your child.