Parents have a tough time dealing with anger in children simply because we did not learn how to deal with anger as children. Our parents did not know how to deal, and so, we don't know how to deal. Or, what worked for our parents doesn't seem to work in today's society.
In order to help our children know how to manage anger we must get in touch with what it was like to be an angry child. I'm not referring to "getting in touch with your inner child" unless that helps you. I am referring to taking a few moments to remember what it was actually like, for you, as a child, to be angry.
Did you feel your anger physically? Headaches, stomach aches, cold flashes, hot flashes, dry mouth, tears, numbness, tingling fingers, are all symptoms of anger.
How did your express your anger? Yelling, sarcasm, cynicism, rapid speech, overeating, arguing, hitting, revengeful fantasies, isolation and withdrawal, stealing, are all ways people express their anger.
As I stated in Part 1, children do not naturally know how to deal with anger. Anger is a natural emotion but anger controls must be taught and modeled to children. And if parents did not learn them as children, they must learn them know.
Here are four steps to manage for you and your child's anger:
1. Identify the underlying cause. Don't overfocus on the symptoms. Look at what is causing the situation. What stressors are occurring in your life? Who is involved in the situation? What other feelings are you experiencing? Are you overly tired, hungry, scared, lonely, bored, or nervous? Much of our anger stems from other sources and is almost always tied into other stressors.
2. Decide how to behave. This is best done ahead of time. Anger cuts off our rational thinking skills and makes coming up with healthy ways to act, in the moment, too difficult. Take a time-out to cool down. Use "I" message vs. "You" messages to decrease defensiveness. Do something physical, such as walking, jogging, or playing a sport. Count to ten or backwards from one hundred.
3. Talk directly with the person involved. Pick a good time to talk to the other person. Look at the person you are talking to. Use a calm and natural voice. Use "I" messages. Alternate listening with talking. Reflect the viewpoint or feelings of the other person to build cooperation. Don't interrupt. If you are too angry, practice with a friend before communicating. Be persistent. If you do not get what you want or need the first time, wait and try again later.
4. Get help. If steps 1, 2, and 3 do not produce the results you want, find someone to help you negotiate, manage, or mediate the angry situation. For your child, find a qualified child therapist to work with you and your child.
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