Has your child lost their temper? Does your child yell or scream or want to hit something? Everyone gets angry and when kids are treated unfairly, they try to stand up for themselves by reacting in anger. It is important to teach children what to do and not to do when they are angry. Children have a lot of emotions. Anger is one emotion they feel. It is ok to get angry sometimes but it needs to be released in appropriate ways. Keeping a child’s temper in check can be challenging but
if you show positive ways to control anger, than your child will also learn this and implement effective strategies to control their anger. Parents can learn to not feed into their children’s emotional outbursts. Parents can teach their children to find a place where they can cool off when they are angry.
Here are some techniques that can help a child to manage their emotional outbursts:
1) Teach your child to remove themselves from the situation: Tell your child that being angry is like standing in front of a vacuum cleaner. By placing the hose of the vacuum on their hand they feel it powerfully trying to suck their hand in. But what if they did not want to be sucked into the vacuum cleaner? You have two choices: to either turn the vacuum off or to move out of the way. Explain that anger is like a giant vacuum cleaner and to get out of anger’s way is to remove yourself and take a break. Tell them that by taking a break they can walk away from the scene of their anger. By taking a break they can go to their room, think more clearly about the situation, read a book, listen to music, draw, etc. These activities can help tame their anger.
2) Think cool thoughts: Explain to the child that when we are angry, the first thoughts we think about are HOT thoughts such as “That is not fair,” “I hate that,” or “I never get my way.” These thoughts may happen automatically and we continue to start thinking about and talking to ourselves about being mad. HOT thoughts feed anger, making it grow. By taking a break, it helps you to calm down and to think about COOL thoughts which will help you to feel better. Cool thoughts include statements like “Getting angry is not going to help,” “This is not worth getting angry about,” or “I’ll survive.” You can’t help the hot thoughts that pop into your head, but you can decide not to keep these thoughts by moving away from them and replacing them with cool thoughts.
3) Relaxation techniques: Explain to the child that when they feel angry it is important to do some relaxation techniques that will help in reducing their anger. Deep slow breathing helps to slow down their heart rate making them feel better inside. The best way to practice this is to close their mouth and take a good full breath in through their nose and count to 3 in their head. To breath out, keep their mouth closed and let the air back out through their nose. As they breath out, count slowly to 4. Stretching, visualization, and progressive relaxation are other techniques that may help.
4) Implement a point system: This may work to motivate desired behavior. They will earn a point every time they show appropriate ways to control their anger. The child needs certain number of points in order to earn a reward that you both agree on. One way to implement a reward system is to find a long piece of yarn or string and put in a place where the child will be going to take a break. Each time they step away from the anger, they can tie a knot in the string. When they have reached 10 knots, celebrate and do the activity that you agreed on ahead of time what the 10 knot celebration might be. If rewards do not work, you may need to take privileges away.
5) Solve the Problem: By thinking cool thoughts, doing some relaxation techniques, and removing themselves from the situation can help them to think clearly about how to deal with their anger. You can teach your child to work out a problem by asserting themselves calmly and clearly. The next step is to think about what they want by accepting something different from what they originally wanted. Teach them to brainstorm possible solutions for a problem and to compromise. You can also teach your child to just move on, or deciding not to keep thinking about or working on the problem. It means shrugging their shoulders and to move on to the next thing. To move on means to let go of the problem. It does not mean that they give up or they give in. In some situations, it is the smartest thing to do because they are deciding not to waste time or energy fighting against something that does not matter.
6) Identify and communicate their wants and needs. Validate their feelings and try to communicate what you think your child may be feeling. Teach them to cope when they cannot get what they want and to brainstorm solutions.
7) Recognize Sparks: A spark is something that sets off a reaction. An anger spark is something that leads to hot thoughts and angry feelings. It is important to teach your child what their sparks are because you can help them keep certain sparks from happening. As a parent, you can also identify certain sparks and try to find ways to prevent them from happening. An example might be giving your child a 10 minute warning that they need to clean up before bed time so they don’t feel interrupted so often when they are playing a board game with their sister.
We all get angry sometimes including children. As adults, we may find it difficult to control ourselves from inappropriately releasing our anger. It is important that we model appropriate anger management techniques to children in order for them to learn what is acceptable. It is not fair to yell at children when they show inappropriate ways of expressing their anger, especially when they have witnessed their parent yell and throw things out of anger. Learning, implementing and practicing anger management techniques is essential not only for the child, but for the parents as well.