Do You Have an Angry Child? Here are 7 Things NOT to Do!
Anger in children can grow into much more destructive behaviors as they become adults. If the cause of the anger isn’t dealt with and the reactions they receive from their family over their outbursts are counterproductive, this pattern could be a factor that leads your teen into using drugs or alcohol or other destructive behaviors as a means to “soothe” or cope with these feelings. As parents, dealing with your child or teen’s anger in an effective way is crucial to their well-being. Handling your own reaction is the first step in helping your child or teen process their feelings. Read on for an excerpt of things NOT to do when your child is angry. If you or your child need help dealing with emotions and anger behavior issues, visit the elite team at The Addictions Coach or call 1.800.706.0318. We can help.
Angry Kids: 7 Things Not to Do When Your Child is Angry
Stop and think for a moment: When your child or teen is in the throes of a tantrum or an all-out rage, what is your initial reaction? Do you get angry yourself and start yelling, do you freeze and say nothing, or do you become frightened and give in? Maybe your answer is even, “All of the above, depending on the day!” You are not alone. Dealing with childhood anger and explosive rage is one of the toughest things we are faced with as parents. Not only is it hard to do effectively, it’s exhausting and can easily make you feel defeated, even if you don’t lose your cool.
You can’t in any way control the way your child feels about things—all you can do is give him consequences and hold him accountable for his behavior.
Don’t react out of emotion. When your child is angry, rather than reacting out of emotion, which will escalate things, do whatever you need to do to step out of the situation. Walk away, take some deep breaths, and try your best to stay objective and in control. Take a time-out if you need one (and if your child is old enough for you to leave the area). Use some phrases to remind yourself, “I’m going to respond to this logically instead of emotionally. I’m going to stay on topic. I’m not going to get off track.” You might also remind yourself, “One step at a time. None of this is going to happen overnight.” Part of our job as parents is to model how to handle emotions appropriately. (Easier said than done, we know!) When you’re upset, your job is to show him good ways to deal with the emotions at hand.
Don’t jump to conclusions about your child’s anger. Your child may not be wrong for feeling upset. There may be some justification for his anger, even if the behavior is not justified. When parents tell us they’re upset with their child for being angry, we say, “Is it not okay for him to ever just be disappointed and unhappy and mad? Because everyone feels that way sometimes.” Remember that people can be justifiably disappointed and may present that in an angry way. If your child can’t be respectful in explaining his viewpoint, then you’ll need to leave him alone until he calms down. You can say, “I understand you feel angry; I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then leave it alone until he’s cooled off. If it turns into a temper tantrum where he’s saying foul things, breaking objects or hurting others, then that’s when you want to address the behavior. You can’t in any way control the way your child feels about things—all you can do is give him consequences and hold him accountable for his behavior. Getting mad at your child for being mad will only escalate the situation.
Understand that it’s normal for kids to get angry. We all get angry. In actuality, it’s not anger that’s the problem, it’s the resulting behavior. Kids have notoriously low frustration tolerances. Just because your child is angry doesn’t mean it has to turn into an unrecoverable situation. Don’t expect your child to always be happy with you or like you or your decisions. Accept that it goes along with the territory that sometimes they’re going to be angry with you—and that’s okay.
Don’t try to reason with an angry child. Avoid trying to hold a rational conversation with your angry child; it’s not going to work. If she’s disappointed about something and you try to reason her out of it, it’s probably only going to make things more heated. Don’t try in the moment to get your child to see it your way because you don’t want her to be mad at you. When you jump in and try to make her see it your way, it really isn’t helpful. And you’re going to come away from that more frustrated yourself, especially with ODD kids. They’re not going to have any of it and will turn the tables and try to rationalize with you in order to get their way. Instead, just give everyone a cooling off period. You can say, “I can see that you’re really upset; we can each take a timeout and get back to this later.”
Don’t give consequences or making threats in the heat of the moment. Along these same lines, wait until everything has calmed down before you give consequences to your child. If you try to punish her when emotions are running high, chances are you will cause further eruptions. You might come back later and say, “You were really angry. I’m wondering if there was one part of how that went that you wish was different. What could you do differently next time?”
You might also think about whether or not consequences are really necessary after a tantrum. Sometimes, parents will give consequences to kids just for blowing up. We’ve had kids come in to a therapy session and tell us that they’ve lost all of their privileges because they’ve had a tantrum. Let’s say a teen girl slams the door and mutters something under her breath on the way out before going for a walk. When you look at it objectively, a child who’s working on her anger has actually handled it fairly well—going for a walk to cool down. In this situation, you might decide to forego consequences. While every family has different rules about what is allowed and what isn’t, there should be some latitude to allow your child to express anger appropriately. Again, don’t give consequences for feelings, give them for inappropriate behavior.
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