How do you deal with all that anger and rage? They seem to blow up out of nowhere. The main problem we have as parents is how to react calmly and not get drawn into the fight and start reacting in an angry, offended and threatening way ourselves. Here are the top 10 tips to help you deal with angry child outbursts.
1. Don’t freak out
“Freaking out on your child for freaking out is as hypocritical as it is ineffective. Slow down. Breathe. Then act like the adult you want them to become.” – L.R.Knost. This says it all really. You really do have to control yourself so that you can approach the problem later on. Reacting or overreacting just adds fuel to the fire.
2. Don’t challenge your child
Angry moments lead to high tension. The situation is electric. If you challenge your child or yell back, you are giving them another chance of attacking you. It is like feeding their anger habit. Not worth it!
3. Anger has to be dealt with
We have all been taught that anger is negative and that it is destructive. But anger is a real emotion for a child and it has to be dealt with. No use in brushing it under the carpet or hope it will not happen again. It will! The secret is to find ways to help the child to express his anger in more constructive ways and to channel it better. That is how we deal with it as adults – most of the time!
4. Anger has a cause
Something is causing all this anger and we have to investigate to find out what it is in a calmer moment. It may be connected with a defense mechanism to avoid painful emotions. There may be problems with self-esteem or loneliness.
Children are liable to suffer from angry outbursts when they are sad so it is worth finding out what is causing all this. If your efforts do not establish what the cause of all this anger might be, you may need to get professional help.
5. Talk about these episodes later when calmer
You could ask the child if he remembers when he was angry yesterday. We could ask if he or she knows why all that happened. Try to mention how other kids deal with these problems. The main aim is not to punish and repress these feelings. It should be to reach out, understand and teach.
6. Act as a model when things get rough
Let us imagine you have to separate two kids fighting violently over a toy or some game. You could always march into the room and demand silence and start a long tirade of recriminations, threats of punishments and even blaming.
The best thing to do is to act as a model so that you are setting a calm example and not descending to their level! You can do this by:
- Stating the rules about name calling and/or hitting calmly
- Find out what the problem is
- Ask the child to stop yelling and talk to you normally
- Tell them that they may have to have a timeout to calm down
- Tell them to count to ten
- Ask them to breathe slowly
The situation is now de-escalating and there is a semblance of self-control if you are fortunate.
7. Use channels of communication
Did you know that by actually listening to kids when they talk calmly and reasonably is actually one of the remedies for solving these problems? Kids need to be listened to and when they feel that somebody is actually interested in their problems, they tend to become calmer.
Empathizing with the child and saying that you know it is frustrating and maddening but that there are various ways s/he can react. You can also emphasize what the limits are such as no hitting, insulting and that certain behavior is just not acceptable.
8. Offer to help
Now that a reasonable conversation is taking place, offer to help the child resolve some issues. There may be an argument about a toy or some other conflict which is causing friction.
9. Make sure the rules are clear
No harm to restate the rules and what is acceptable behavior in your family. The kids know these and maybe you have them on a noticeboard but you may have to remind them before an angry outburst happens. They may include :
- no pushing
- no grabbing
- no name calling
- no hitting
- no door slamming
- no breaking things
- no throwing
- no swearing
Some families use behavior charts to keep track of good behavior, awarding stars and later treats when a certain number is reached. Try what works best with your own kids. There should always be some incentive for behaving well.
10. Talk about anger issues with young kids
One great way of doing this is to tell a story with the younger kids (6-9 years old). I have written a short story to help kids with anger issues and it can really help. Also, it takes the attention away from the child and puts it into a broader perspective, even if it is only about a tiger in the jungle having anger issues!