Anger is normal. We all get angry sometimes. But it is how we use and deal with anger that can create a positive or negative outcome. When anger gets too big, it can get out of control in an instant and come out in very hurtful and destructive ways.
When children (or adults) do not have the skills to control or diffuse anger, and use it in positive ways to acknowledge and solve problems, they can explode instantly.
Take note of these tips and strategies that can help children deal appropriately with anger, prevent explosions, learn to cool down and live happier lives.
- predict what causes your child’s anger
- prevent your child’s anger
- create empathy and give reassurance
- allow your children to cool down
- approach your child with support
- use a punishment-and-reward program
- hold kids accountable for something out of their control
- believe your child is manipulating you through explosion
- lecture your children during an explosion
- feel guilty when you focus more on your explosive child than on siblings
Angry outbursts can be predicted. Observe and try to figure out what triggers your child’s anger, so it can be prevented. Most times, there are just a few things that trigger a child’s anger.
When you know exactly what causes your child’s anger, you can prevent it. One option is to avoid the situation altogether, not actually attempting to solve the problem at that time.
Work on resolving the issue, so you are both ready to work out a realistic solution. This solution should address your child’s concerns and also your own–so you are both satisfied with the outcome.
In order to achieve a realistic and satisfying solution for both of you, have a conversation with your child. Although it might not be so simple to get the right conditions for this conversation to take place, it is possible.
Begin by creating empathy between you and your child. Reassure your child that you will stay calm and rational, and that he/she should follow suit. As you create empathy, help your child express his/her concerns. Your child’s concerns are important, so be sure to listen without judging.
Repeating your child’s concern back or simply reassuring him/her that you are listening can help create empathy because it shows you are actually taking his/her concerns seriously.
Don’t forget that a concern is a cause of worry, not a solution to that cause. This is important to keep in mind because children are likely to come out with solutions to their concerns. And you really need to know the actual cause of worry, even when it seems odd.
To get through a rational conversation with your child, you both need to focus on solving problems in collaboration. This means not judging or lecturing with “no…” or “you have to…”
There are different strategies for diffusing anger. Support and encourage kids in this endeavor. Strategies your child can use include:
- Seek a space to calm down. This might imply that your kids will leave the scene that triggers their anger. Allow this to happen. Ensure your children get the space they seek and need to calm down. Don’t follow your children unless you fear they might be in danger. And even in such cases, allow them space to calm down. Providing this valuable space in this precise moment means you don’t talk to your children or give angry looks and threats.
- Release angry energy through exercise. Exercises, such as running, riding a bike, jumping, dancing or punching an exercise bag are great energy releases.
- Take deep breaths and tense muscles. Your children may want to release their anger through deep, slow breaths, and tensing and releasing body muscles. Make sure you don’t give them funny looks. Allow your kids to chill and diffuse their anger.
- Verbalize what makes your child upset. If your child chooses to express what he/she is upset about, just listen and stay calm.
It is important that you are calm when you approach your child. Remember to be reassuring and understanding. When you are both rational and ready, you can have a conversation in which you both define the problem, take turns voicing your concerns about the problem, and propose possible solutions that take into consideration the concerns of both of you.
Be open to new and different solutions. Follow through and make sure you both do what the chosen solution requires. Live up to your word and teach your child to do the same.
Punishing or rewarding children for something that is out of their control does not work. It only makes children’s frustrations worse, since they don’t know how to handle the issue that triggers the unwanted explosions.
When children lack the skills to cope with something that makes them angry, it is likely an unwanted explosive reaction will happen. And with the reward-and-punishment program, kids get even more frustrated because they will not get the desired reward, plus they are punished from something (exploding) they didn’t even want to do.
In addition, these reward-and-punishment programs actually make adults more inflexible, which is a bad example for a child who must learn to be flexible.
A punishment-and-reward program will only increase children’s frustrations and will teach inflexibility by means of the parent’s example in applying it. All of this will result in more explosions and will worsen the relationship between parents and children.
When you are certain that your children are in control of their actions, and they have the information and skills they need to make thoughtful decisions, you should hold them accountable.
But when your children do not know how to control their actions, and when they do not know how to deal effectively with frustration and anger, they end up making the situation worse unintentionally. They make it more difficult for themselves and the people around them.
Instead, teach your children the skills they need to be in control and facilitate the required information for them to make the decisions they want. This way, you can provide the tools for your kids to take responsibility over their actions.
When you find your children are in control–and they consider your concerns, figure out solutions and explode less–you can be certain your children have taken control and responsibility over their actions.
In most cases, your children are not manipulating you through their explosive behaviors. For kids to be manipulative, they must have the skills required for this. These skills involve thinking and considering what is necessary to make something happen in the future. Good planning, organization, impulse control and knowing others’ reactions are skills required for manipulation.
Most explosive children are feeble in these skills. However, if you still believe your children are manipulating you, then they are not good at it because effective manipulation happens when you don’t even notice it is happening.
If your children need space to calm down, allow them this space. When you follow them around with angry looks and lectures, you are not providing them with needed space to cool down.
When you lecture during an explosion or when kids are calming down, you are obstructing the actions that kids need to recover control. This makes the situation worse, as you will get even angrier at your child for not paying attention and listening.
Additionally, you must be cool and in control of yourself. So be patient, wait and help create the right moment to address the problem. This moment occurs when you are both in control, so you can talk, listen and think through possible solutions that will make both of you happy. Remember not to judge or accuse your child when figuring out solutions because judging will just end your productive conversation.
Parents must focus their attention and efforts on their children differently, in accordance with each child’s needs. While it is common for siblings to complain about unequal treatment, remember that each child is different and has unique needs and expectations.
When one of your children is explosive, you need to pay more attention and use more of your time and effort to help your explosive child. So explain to your non-explosive children the reasons why their explosive sibling acts in that way. Tell them their sibling needs to learn how to be flexible and cope with frustration skills. Explain that it is difficult–but possible–to change. And ask them to help prevent their sibling’s explosions and create a nicer home environment.
This doesn’t change the fact that you are still investing more time and effort toward one of your children, and the others might be unhappy about this. But this is how things are, so don’t try to make your explosive child like the others. He or she needs your extra time and effort.
Remember that as a parent, you have different expectations for each child according to each child’s strengths and weaknesses. One sibling might need help in math, another may need help with friends, and another might need help with flexibility. Each child has different challenges to face, and you should have different expectations according to such challenges.
Being fair is not the same as being equal. You as a parent cannot be equal, but you can–and should–be fair.
Helping your children learn to control their explosive behaviors, and allowing them the space to cool down and regain control will allow both of you the ability to address each other’s concerns. This will enable you to figure out possible solutions that will make you both happy, get along better and smile more.
Remember that being fair is different from being equal. You cannot be equal to your children, but you should be fair. Dealing effectively with frustration and anger creates a happier child, a child that is well liked by peers, more successful academically and easier to live with.