CALMING YOUR ANGRY CHILD (1)
Anger is a natural and basic emotion that needs to acknowledged and processed so that it does not get locked up inside. In order to help your child manage her anger constructively, she needs to live in a home where anger is handled in a healthy way.
So, here are a few tips to help your child handle her anger the proper way:
1. Allow your child to express all feelings. When anger is repressed, it becomes no longer under conscious control and it may pop up unregulated at any time when your child gets triggered. While actions need to be managed, emotions need to be allowed so that your child can accept them instead of repressing them. The acceptance of the emotion gives your child cognitive control over it, so she can start using words instead of using her limbs.
2. Stay calm. Yelling at an angry child will only reinforce what she is already feeling. Instead, your calm presence helps her feel safe and de-escalate her strong feelings. In response to a calm attitude, the frontal cortex, which is the “reasoning brain” will take over and your child can learn how to soothe herself.
3. Help your child redirect her anger. Your child needs to know that you understand why and how upset she is. So, support your child to express her anger physically in appropriate ways. Here are a few examples you may want to suggest: a pillow or a punching bag to beat up, stomping feet, drawing or writing on paper what she is angry about (for older kids), put on music and do an “angry dance”, shouting in a bag.
4. Teach your child how to become aware of her “warning signs”. If your child learns how to notice when she is getting annoyed and knows how to calm herself, she will have less angry outbursts. So, when she is little, learn her cues and take preventive action such as offering snuggling time. Point out to her whenever you notice your child getting triggered and say to her “I am noticing you are getting upset, let’s figure out how to handle how you feel.”
When you accept and empathize with your child’s emotions, she learns that all emotions are fine and can be felt, but not necessarily acted on. By contrast, if you don’t help your child feel safe enough, she will keep losing her temper because she does not have any other way to cope with what she feels inside.
WHY USE “I STATEMENTS” WITH YOUR CHILD ?
Everyone knows that words have power. So what difference do you make between saying to your teenager “Why are you never home on time?” versus “I feel worried when you come home consistently late without calling me.” In the first sentence, the words used might arouse the defenses of your teen while in the second sentence you state clearly how you feel about the issue. The “I statement” focuses on what you need and on what is going on with you. It does not blame the other person by saying what they should or should not do.
Benefits of using “I statements”:
1. Practicing and teaching boundaries. Healthy boundaries means that you own your own feelings and thoughts. Other people do not control your thoughts and feelings and you do not control their feelings and thoughts. It is a valuable lesson for your children who watch you role modeling appropriate behaviors.
2. It fosters positive communication and empathy. Sharing feelings and thoughts in an honest and open manner help parents and children get emotionally closer to one another.
3. It develops assertiveness. “I statements” allow you to be assertive without making accusations, which can often make your child defensive.
4. Increasing awareness. An “I statement” can help your child become aware of a problematic behavior and may force your child to take responsibility for his/her own thoughts and feelings instead of attributing them to someone else.
How to use I-statements:
a. Start by identifying how you feel: mad, sad, frustrated, upset,…
b. State the reason you feel this way or what happened that led you to these feelings.
c. Try to identify the reason your child’s actions led to these feelings for you.
d. Let your child know what you want instead.
I would like............................................
Example: Your toddler is playing loudly and thus may wake up his little sister. Using I statement may look like this:
I feel worried when I hear you play loudly because the noise may wake up your little sister and upset her. I would like you to play more quietly when the baby sleeps.
When using “I statements”, your child benefits from receiving a clear message that leaves little confusion about how you feel and what you expect from her.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.