Dad tips for helping your child when they are feeling angry!
These words, and many more, describe the behaviour of an angry child when life goes against them. Words explode out of their mouths. Insults and manipulative statements pour out in a tirade against humanity. All decency is forgotten in the midst of the tantrum. Emotional control completely disappears in the middle of the meltdown. How can you, the respectable, under-control parent, defuse this anger and help your child feel better, act better and live better? Before I say anything about these three steps, let me say one really important thing first:
You have time. Unless life is really going to end today, you have time to help your child shape their emotions and reactions into something healthier and more constructive. Don’t give up!
Many parents see the anger in their children when they are young. If your five-year-old boy or your seven-year-old girls lashes out in rage at people around them, don’t panic. You have time to be the waves reshaping the rocky shore of their angry responses.
Step One: Slow Everyone Down
When the eruption happens, everything can speed up. You talk faster to match your child’s tirade. They move more in an attempt to do something with their agitation. Everyone hears, reacts and speaks without really thinking. The situation escalates very fast.
Slow down. You can control your reactions, so control yourself. Be slow to answer while you think of a response. Try to calm your body. By that, I mean try to avoid waving your hands around, pacing the floor or whatever else you do to express your agitation.
One of our responses to angry outbursts is to become angry. Maybe this is due to adrenaline. We might experience the typical ‘fight or flight’ response. Just slow down.
How can you slow down?
Try to breathe on purpose. Count your breaths in and count your breaths out.
Listen without responding. After your child talks (or screams), just affirm what they have said and think about your response.
Step Two: Move Everyone Around
Once the anger starts coming out, people tend to move around. Your child might stomp up the stairs, get in your face or even hit people or things. You might respond by pacing the floor, getting in their face or smacking them. Movement in a fight can grow more and more agitated. Step two is all about intentionally calming people down through movement.
What can you do? Here are some simple things to try:
Change rooms. If the argument kicked off upstairs, then go downstairs. If everyone is shouting in the kitchen, then go into the living room. Invite your child to follow you by saying something like, “Wow! This is important and I want to listen to you. Let’s go into the living room and have a chat.”
Sit down. People find it really hard to be angry and not move around. Sit yourself down and invite your child to sit down. Not only does this have a calming effect but it also indicates your willingness to stay engaged with them.
Get next to them, not in front of them. If you can change rooms and sit down, then raise your game one level higher by sitting next to them. Try to take away the feeling of being in their face by sitting down beside them.
Moving everyone around is a great way to slow the conflict down and indicate your level of engagement. These simple tips will help you gain a bit of control over what is happening.
Step Three: Look Behind the Anger
Anger is not a primary emotion. Anger comes second. Always.
When we feel angry, we have felt something else first. Maybe we were embarrassed by what someone said to us. Our embarrassment made us feel insecure and so we puffed up and lashed out as a way of hiding our insecurity. Maybe we were frustrated because we could not get what we wanted. In our frustration, we turned to anger as an attempt to manipulate the world around us in order to get what we wanted. Whatever the source, anger is a secondary emotion.
Try to help your child understand what they felt before they felt angry. What was happening? What was said to them? What were they expecting that did not happen? A child’s ability to look into themselves this way grows with age. A five-year-old might not be able to do very much of this but a ten-year-old should be able to reason it out.
Understanding the real reason behind the anger is the key to defusing the anger.
If you follow these steps, then you will be sitting down somewhere with your child while they tell you how they are feeling about life. This is huge! Whatever they say, it is up to you to help them find a better response. You can help them accept what is happening with a better attitude or you can help them make changes.
What do you do with your kids when they get mad?
What suggestions could you give other parents?
Josh Cordray is an American living in the UK. He and his wife Elspeth have been married for more than fourteen years.
They have six children named John, Micah, Shoshana, Barnabas, Isaac and Luke.
Josh's day job is working for a church in Taunton, Somerset.