Most children inappropriately display anger because they are not mature enough to understand how situations trigger angry feelings. Young children are not intellectually able to label their emotions and do not have good coping skills. Therefore, they lash out with aggression and hurtful words.
So what is a parent to do about a child who has trouble with anger management?
- First, it is helpful for a parent to become familiar with what is normal behavior for a child’s developmental stage. Two year olds will throw tantrums, three year olds may hit or kick, and older children will lash out verbally. While none of these behaviors are acceptable, it is beneficial to know what to expect and then prepare and implement a successful plan of action.
- Second, remember every child is different. Just as children are different in appearance, they are also very different emotionally. Some children are naturally more sensitive to triggers in their environment than others. Each child can learn appropriate ways to handle angry feelings within the confines of their developmental capabilities.
- Know your child’s developmental capabilities: Call PAL and request developmental information for your child’s age.
- Praise positive behavior: Children strive for attention in whatever form it comes-even negative attention. So be on the lookout for the positive things your child does and give your attention to those.
- Give less attention to negative behaviors: While we cannot always ignore our children’s misbehavior, try not to place undo attention on it. Deal with the tantrum, aggression, and/or talking back quickly and with as little fanfare as possible.
- Watch for signs that your child is getting frustrated: Learn to recognize the cues that come before your child erupts. Once you learn them, point them out to the child. He can begin to recognize his own cues then choose appropriate responses. If your child is too young to reason you can intervene before frustration escalates into anger.
- Teach your child how to step back: One of the healthiest responses to anger is to step back long enough to rethink the situation, calm down and determine what to do next. Also, teach them how to use self-talk. Try things like counting to ten, taking deep breaths, and saying to themselves, “I’m ok, just stay calm’’ and “I can handle this.”
- Talk it out: Encourage your child to talk with you about what they are feeling. It eases the burden of having to deal with fears and strong emotions alone. Remind them that anger is a natural emotion but that hurting themselves or others is unacceptable.
- Monitor the Media: Research has proven that watching too much violence can increase aggressive reactions.
- Be Consistent and Firm: Design a plan of action to deal with angry outbursts and stick to it. Remember, being firm doesn’t mean acting out with physical violence or yelling!
- Help your child to see how others feel: One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to instill a sense of empathy in your children. Talk about how their actions affect those around them and help them understand how they might feel in the same situation.