Everyone lets anger get the better of them every now and then – adults and children alike. Anger can be constructive, healthy even, if channelled in the right way. Well, that’s the catch – children (especially toddlers) don’t know how to channel their anger in the right way.
It’s your responsibility to make sure your child learns how to deal with their anger from an early age and take control of their emotions. While you can’t always prevent your child from getting angry, you can certainly reduce the chances of it happening and help them get through it when it does.
After all, who else is your child supposed to look towards when they’re most vulnerable?
Anger is usually just the visible reaction to many other emotions boiling beneath the surface such as fear, hurt or disappointment. You’ll have to try and figure out which of these is affecting your child before you try and deal with their anger.
While there’s no fool-proof method of calming down an angry child, we’re sure the following tips will help you get there eventually.
Wait For Them to Calm Down
Do not try and reason with your child when they’re having an outburst. This will only make them more averse to what you’re trying to say. It may be tempting to argue with them and make them see sense but this will serve little purpose when they’re angry.
It would be wiser to wait for your child to calm down first then invite them to have a heart-to-heart. When you do sit down and talk it out, make sure you try and understand what triggered their anger in the first place.
Was it frustration? Was it lack of attention? Was their anger simply a reaction to something you’ve said or done?
Helping them understand the underlying causes behind their anger will inculcate the habit of reflection within your child and elicit milder reactions from them the next time they’re angry or upset.
Evaluate Your Own Behaviour
More often than not, children dealing with anger or anxiety issues come from homes where these emotions flow freely from their parents. Your words and actions at home can leave a deep psychological impact on your child and determine their behaviour in the outside world as well.
This includes how you and your spouse behave with each other as well and not just with you child. If you’re constantly nagging each other or having arguments, your child will inevitably pick up those vibes and grow tense or irritable.
In case your fights at home become too intense or frequent, there’s a good chance your child will develop anxiety from a tender age as well.
It doesn’t matter if they can’t really understand what you’re arguing about or why you’re doing it; they’ll pick up on your attitude and mirror it. Besides, if you’re angry or tense all the time you’ll inevitably take out some of that on your child as well.
A child coming from a peaceful and loving environment will display more signs of emotional maturity than one who doesn’t. They would have better control of their emotions and learn to master them from an early age.
Be There For Your Child
When your child is angry or upset, it may seem like a good idea to give them a time out and ask them to calm down by themselves. This works on adults, not children. Children are too young to understand or appreciate the concept of personal space and are very emotionally dependent on their parents.
Asking them to stay alone when they’re angry may actually make it worse since they don’t really know how to deal with their emotions. This would lead to the negative emotions festering within your child till they learn to supress them. This is not a healthy way for them to deal with their anger at all.
Leaving them to calm down by themselves can also make them feel lonely and abandoned. They could eventually start to resent you if this happens often enough. Instead, be there for them and help them calm down when they’re very upset.
You don’t even have to say or do anything in particular, just be present and wait for them to regain composure. This will reassure them that you’re not going anywhere if their behaviour is less-than-perfect and boost their confidence in your affection.
If you practice this often enough, your child will eventually learn better self-control and teach themselves to calm down on their own with your by their side.
Tame Their Anger
It’s very, very important to teach your child that even though it’s perfectly normal to get angry or upset, it’s not normal to display destructive behaviour every time they do. For instance, if your child is pestering you for a toy at the supermarket and begins to tear down the display rack when you refuse, you’ll have to put your foot down.
This goes for violent aggression as well. If you let your child get away with raising their hand on you when they’re upset or strike back when they do, you’re only letting them know that it’s okay for them to express their anger that way.
This will likely stick with them and they may grow up to use physical violence as a form of expression later in life as well.
Instead, teach them to channel their anger into something productive, like art or physical exercise. If you instil this habit in them at a very young age, they’ll be well equipped to deal with teenage angst later on as well.
Evaluate Their External Environment
The key to understanding your child’s behavior especially if they have frequent outbursts is to evaluate what external factors which could be causing them. If you’re certain that there’s nothing at home that could be promoting such behavior, ask yourself if it’s something at their play school or school instead.
For instance, maybe your child is having learning difficulties and is not able to keep up with their coursework or isn’t getting along with his/her classmates. You’d be surprised at how many children have difficulty learning how to read and how frustrating this can be for them.
Since they wouldn’t know how to deal with their emotions and express their difficulties to you clearly, they’ll end up taking out the anger on you or their siblings instead. If this is indeed the case, don’t belittle your child or make them feel stupid for not learning how to read and don’t allow their siblings/friends to do so either.
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If it’s not related to learning difficulties, visit their school/playschool and find out if they’re being bullied by another student or teacher and get to the bottom of it. Your child may be too afraid to ask you for help if they’re being bullied so it would be best if you picked up on their behavior and investigated for yourself.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Them
You should punish your child if their anger takes on ugly forms but you should never mete out severe punishments. This will only add to your child’s frustration and resentment as it feeds into the negative emotions you’re going through.
Remember, most children are stubborn and extremely sensitive so goading or provoking them into more aggressive behavior is always a bad idea. They’ll only model your loss of emotional control if you give them overly harsh punishments in your anger.
When you’re threatening your child with severe punishments in the midst of their anger, they’ll only get angrier and quite possibly throw it back in your face when they calm down and start to brood over their punishment. This will only prolong their bad attitude and ill will towards you.
We’d recommend you decide on punishments well in advance to avoid making that decision when you’re angry yourself. Make sure these punishments are reasonable and teach your child a lesson.
Also, remember: a punishment should never involve any sort of physical violence or you risk damaging your child forever.
All in all, dealing with an angry child is no cake walk. You won’t only be dealing with what your child is going through in their moments of anger but what came before and what will come after those as well.
This will take a lot of patience and understanding on your part and it’ll be as much of a learning process for you as it will be for them.
No parent can possibly be equipped with all the information they’ll need to deal with their child and all their moods and emotions. You can do your bit with reading up and familiarising yourself with your child’s behavioural patterns to assess the best way to deal with them.
After all, who knows your child better than you do?