You are on page 1of 2

Ways to Help the Angry Child While no person or no family can be anger-proof there are ways you can

help your child get a handle on anger. 1. Help your child have inner peace Research has shown, and our experience supports the observation, that connected children and their parents get angry with each other less. The connected child, growing up with a sense of well- being, has peaceful modeling. He will get angry , but he learns to handle the anger in such a way that it does not take over his personality. Connected parents know their children well, so they are less likel y to create situations that provoke them and their children to anger. Attached p arents know they don't have to be harsh to be in control. The unconnected child operates from inner turmoil. Down deep this child feels so mething important is missing in his self and he is angry about it. (This feeling may continue into adulthood.) This void is likely to reveal itself as anger tow ard himself and parents, placing everyone at risk for becoming an angry family. 2. Don't let your child stuff anger Encourage your child to recognize when he is angry, starting with the toddler. B e an attentive listener, helping your child work through feelings. Given a willi ng audience that shows empathy rather than judgment, children will often talk th emselves out of their snits. Our eight-year-old, Matthew, insisted on watching a certain TV program. I disagreed, and he became angry. Matt felt that he absolut ely had to watch the program. I felt that the program content was harmful to his growing self and to family harmony. I listened attentively and nonjudgmentally while Matt pleaded his case. After he had made his appeal, I made mine. With cal m authority, I made my own points, while conveying to Matt that I understood but did not agree with his viewpoint. I asked him probing questions, such as: "What about the program is so important to you?" "Could you think of an activity that is more fun than watching this program?" "Matt, do you understand why I don't w ant you to watch it?" "Are you just bored? If so, I have an idea..." Gradually M att realized that this program was not worth getting so worked up about. As the dialogue continued, his eyes dried and his reddened face relaxed. I'm sure his p ulse rate was coming down, too. We ended this encounter with a chuckle about how he had let such a stupid program upset him. We went out and played catch instea d. 3. Look beneath the "bad" kid The habitually misbehaving child is usually an angry child. If your child seems "bad" all the time or you "don't know what else to do" or your child seems withd rawn, search beneath the surface for something that is angering your child. In c ounseling parents of these children, I have found two causes: Either there is a lot of family anger mother and/or father is on edge all the time and the child i ncorporates these feelings as part of himself; or the child feels angry because his sense of well- being is threatened. Helping children who misbehave repeatedl y or seem "bad" more than "good" usually begins with a total family overhaul. Ta ke inventory of the influences in your child's life. What builds up his self-est eem? What tears it down? What needs are not being met? What inner anxiety is at the root of the anger? Anger is only the tip of the iceberg, and it warns of nee ds to be dealt with beneath the surface. Inner anger often causes a child to withdraw. In a struggle to ward off attacks on a shaky self-image, this child puts on a protective shell. On the surface he may seem calm, but underneath a tight lid is a pressure cooker of emotions needi ng to be channeled or recognized. To keep the lid on, the child withdraws, avoid ing interaction that might set him off. This is why we advise getting behind the eyes and into the mind of your child things may look different from that perspe ctive. It's devastating for a child to feel that she is a "bad kid." Unless that feelin g is reversed, the child grows up acting the part. To get the "bad" feeling out of your child, intervene with a reassuring "You're not bad, you're just young, a nd young people sometimes do foolish things. But Daddy is going to help you stop doing them so you will grow up feeling like you are the nice person I know you

are." This sends a message to your child that you care enough to find the good c hild beneath the bad behavior. 4. Laughter the best medicine for anger Humor diffuses anger and keeps trivial upsets from escalating. Our kids love spa ghetti the messier the sauce, the more they love it. Once at dinner we left the older kids in charge of the two- and five-year-old, who were dawdling over their messy meal. As often happens in large families, the oldest child delegated resp onsibility to the next oldest and so on down the line: "You watch the kids " Laure n and Stephen were ultimately left unsupervised, and a spaghetti frenzy ensued. When we discovered the stringy mess we scolded the older kids for allowing it to happen. While we yelled at them, they yelled at each other. Lauren and Stephen peered up at their angry elders, sauce covering their cheeks and foreheads and s paghetti in their hair. We all began to laugh, and worked together, in good spir its, to clean up the kids and the mess. Now when we delegate authority, we're mo re careful to be sure the appropriate-aged child really is on duty. 5. Model appropriate expressions of anger Anger that is expressed inappropriately blocks your ability to discipline wisely . For example, your four-year-old does something stupid. She covers the dog with spaghetti sauce, and the dog bounds off into the living room leaving orange-red paw prints on the white carpeting. This is not the time to blow your top. The m ore aggravating the deed, the more you need a clear head to evaluate your option s in handling the misbehavior. Each situation is different, and you must be able to think straight to choose the reaction that best fits the action. Being in a state of rage clouds your thinking. Your unthinking expressions of anger cause t he situation to escalate. You hit the dog (which causes him to run through more rooms leaving more sauce behind); you spank the child and send him to his room ( which leaves you, still seething, to clean up the mess alone). By the time the e pisode is over everyone feels abused. An approach less draining on everyone requ ires a level head and a dose of humor: quickly grab the dog and head for the bat h tub, calling for your child to come along (in the most cheerful voice possible ) to help de-sauce the dog and then the rug. Your child learns how you handle a crisis and how much work it is to clean up a mess. A temper tantrum from you can 't undo the childish mess, it can only add to it.