All of us, including our children, experience anger in some form or another throughout our day. As adults we are usually able to perceive what is making us angry and prevent ourselves from acting out on our anger, though not always. Children have not yet developed the ability to self-regulate and they are often unable to understand what is making them angry or how to deal with that anger in a safe, constructive way. In order to help our children with anger we need to teach them how to manage their anger constructively. Dr. Laura Markham, creator of Aha!Parenting.com, offers a quick view of what “constructive” handling of anger looks like for a child. This includes :
- controlling aggressive impulses
- acknowledging the anger, as well as the more threatening feelings under the anger
- constructive problem solving
With this goal in mind, here are some tips for parents to help kids learn how to constructively manage their anger.
- First off we need to start with ourselves and model the behavior we would like our children to emulate. If we are calm ,our children will feel safe and be more able to regulate their angry or scary feelings. It is often easier said than done to ask our children to calm down when they are angry so it is helpful to have some specific tools for our children to use to manage their anger in the moment. Markham has provided The Cheat Sheet of what to do in the moment , such as, “Use your Pause Button to calm yourself or Put on music and do an angry dance.”
- Listen to your child and acknowledge how they are feeling, whether you agree or not.
- Try a “time in” instead of a “time out”. In order for our children to feel safe and calm it is more helpful for them to have a calm parent nearby rather than to be alone with angry and scary feelings.
- Helping your child to learn how to be comfortable with their emotions and empathetic to others is important in learning how to constuctively handle anger. This is referred to as Emotional Intelligence. A few ways to teach EI to your child include acknowledging her perspective, accepting her emotions, and listening to her feelings.
For more tips on helping your child with anger we invite you to check out Dr. Laura Markham’s article from Aha!Parenting.com, 10 Tips To Help Your Child With Anger.
There are times when a child may need more than our help as a parent to deal with anger that may be coming from fear, grief or anxiety and they could benefit from professional help. A few of the signs to look for include; frequent explosive outbursts, inability to control aggressive impulses and hits people past the age of six, being preoccupied with revenge, or frequently hurting herself or others physically.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center if you have any concerns regarding your child’s anger.