Tips for Teaching Children Anger Control

Tips for Teaching Children Anger Control

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

All of us exhibit some "signs" just as we begin to get angry. Identify the anger signs in your child. For example, you may detect a certain "look in the eye," the tone of voice or the tightness in the body. Help your child to observe these signs right at the onset of anger.

Once children can identify the early signs of their anger, they can also learn to diffuse it by such methods as walking away or taking full and vigorous breaths.

Train your child to respond to your "signal" like your hand motion to stay calm. Give that signal as soon as your child starts "stewing" about something.

If your child is too young for such self-control techniques, use distraction as soon as you notice the child exhibiting an anger sign. A distraction, in order to be effective, has to be of interest to the child. For example suggest to your child, "Let's ride a bike" or, "Let's play ball."

Teach your children to talk about how they feel. Give them a language to express their feelings. For example, ask them how they feel. If they are too angry to talk or don't have the vocabulary to express their feelings, ask about the feelings relevant to the specific situation. Examples: "Do you feel embarrassed?" "Humiliated?" "Let down?" or, "Is your pride hurt?"

When your child expresses the feeling behind his or her anger, such as embarrassment or humiliation, suggest some other ways to look at the same event that might not be embarrassing or humiliating.

The thought, "It's not fair," is a big anger arouser for many children. If that is the case, ask them, "Do you feel you are treated unfairly?" When your child answers the question, listen and don't rush to negate his or her feelings.

If the child refuses to be distracted or engaged in dialoguing about his or her anger and starts yelling, stomping or breaking an object, impose appropriate consequences. It's better to have these consequences in place to serve as a guideline. That means that you have discussed them with your children beforehand and written them out for future reference.

Armed with a list of consequences which preferably consist of withdrawing privileges or charging the child a "penalty," parents should encourage their children to choose such alternatives as doing something else, walking away, or talking about the anger rather than acting out of anger.

How about your own anger in response to your child's anger? You can set an example of anger control for your child. No teaching technique is as effective as a parent "modeling" for the child with his or her own example.

One thing that makes many parents angry is to see their own child challenging their authority and defying them. Sometimes, it may appear so, but that may not be the intention of the child. For example, a child may be too unhappy to be told "No.' because he or she wants it so badly. Of course, you shouldn't give in to the wishes of the child, but try to understand what might really be the intention of your child.

Some children get upset when they know they made a mistake. Instead of admitting their mistake, they act out in anger to deflect the attention off them. If you realize that that might be the case, it's helpful to say to your child, "Everyone makes mistakes. I am okay with it. Don't feel so bad about it."

Children, who in anger lash out at others, should be often reminded of such consequences as going to the Principal's office, being detained and losing privileges at home.

If the anger outbursts occur in relation to the siblings and you didn't observe the whole interaction from the very beginning, it's better to impose penalty on both siblings.

Some children get angry because they don't have appropriate peer-interaction skills. For example, some children don't know how to join in a conversation or a game. They abruptly try to get in. When resisted or rejected by peers, they explode. Teaching appropriate social skills can go a long way to avoid such negative encounters.

We can establish a culture that reduces anger and teaches tolerance. For example, we can set a personal example for children that "big people" do apologize and it's graceful to loose and try again.

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Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 


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