CALMING YOUR ANGRY CHILD (2)
When a child has anger issues, it means he is terrified by his locked feelings under his anger (fear, hurt, grief, …) and does not know how to handle them. Your child feels then deeply vulnerable and uses anger as a defense. In reality, he cries for help. As a parent, your role is to help him learn how to recognize, accept, and express appropriately his uncomfortable and threatening feelings.
In my last blog, I gave a few tips about how handling your child’s anger. Here are a few more:
1. Restoring safety. When your child feels angry or upset, he actually needs to restore safety. Sending him away in his room will not help him as he does not know what to do with his scary feelings. Instead, stay with him and help him move through his feelings. It does not mean that you allow destructive actions. Set limits while acknowledging his anger “You can be mad as much as you need, but you don’t hit me/us. Use your words to tell me how angry you are.” If you child needs to express physically his anger, give him options such as punching a pillow or a bag.
2. Help your child understand his underlying emotions beneath anger. When your child is allowed to experience the whole range of feelings, he will not need anger to defend against his more vulnerable feelings. For instance, your child should experience grief when his toy gets broken, his hurt that his mother was unfair, his shame he did not know the answer when his teacher asked him, or his fear when his classmates threatened him. When all these feelings are accepted and validated by his parents, the child understands that all emotions are welcome and safe. Thus, he can feel his emotions safely, but not necessarily act on them.
3. Restore connection. Give your child the message that you understand him and that you are here to help him. Acknowledge it by saying it to him. For instance “You are so angry that your toy is broken.” Then, allow him to express his feeling “Everyone gets mad when something they like gets broken. I will stay with you until you feel better.” If your child is mad at you, acknowledge his feeling, but manage to stay close to him. “I hear that you want me to go away. I will step back a little bit, but I will not leave you alone with these big feelings. I will stay with you until you feel better. Let me know when it is the case.”
Obviously, it takes years of parental guidance for your child to learn these skills. Once you are able to help your child feels safe enough to express his anger and explore the feelings underneath, then your child will be able to increasingly move past his anger.
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.