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Five Tips for Dealing with Anger in Children

All things are difficult before they are easy - Thomas Fuller

If you’re a parent you might be feeling a bit confused by the conflicting information you’ve been hearing in the news recently.

Last week in the UK, was all about learning, rules and discipline, and a list of 10 skills a child must have by the age of four was been issued in an OFSTED report (1) into early years education. Two key skills are;

Understanding the word ‘no’ and the boundaries it sets for behaviour.

Understanding the word ‘stop’ and that such a phrase might be used to prevent danger.

This week, however, you might have been reading about ‘yes parenting,’ sometimes called ‘positive or peaceful parenting’. You may have read about Bea Marshall who is ‘the mother who never says no to her children.’ (2)

Yes parenting

Saying yes is great. It certainly dodges the fall outs, but what happens when you want them to have toast and cereal for breakfast and they want ice cream?

What do you do when you go through the checkout and they grab a couple of handfuls of pick and mix sweets on the way out?

What do you do when it’s 10 o’clock at night and they want to stay up and watch TV?

Chances are if you say no and try to set boundaries, there could be an argument.

Signs of anger in children

Having brought up my own children and seen them start to have children of their own, I certainly recognise when anger is about to erupt.

The wild eyes, breath holding, red in the face, the arched back, stamping feet and clenched fists.

At these times your little angels can give a fair impression of little monsters.

The problem is you want them to develop independence. You want them to have strong characters and be able to make decisions. But on the other hand when you say no it has to mean no, doesn’t it?

There are times when you can say yes to children. It doesn’t always have to be a battle field. And it’s always a good idea to listen to them. You can head off an out and out meltdown simply by asking the right questions and offering some choices.

Most of the time, we instinctively get the balance right. But, if you find your having to deal with anger in children a lot of the time, you might need to brush up your communication skills or try a different way.

Try these tips for a more peaceful home

1. Be kind to yourself and them!

It’s all about patience really and recognising that we are all human and we are not perfect.

In fact there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Aiming at perfection or total control will guarantee failure and is unhealthy anyway.

If you develop an attitude of kindness, it can really take the heat out of a situation. With kindness, the war zone disappears and there is automatically less hostility, less ‘you against them’ and more ‘us.’

2. Don’t be stupid

The trouble with anger is it makes a stupid. If you’ve ever seen angry people arguing, it’s all very black-and-white. ‘I’m right and you’re wrong.’ Anger, or any big emotion disables rational thought.

So take time to ‘think before you react’ and teach your children to do the same thing. It’s a life skill.

Simply slowing down your breathing and counting to 10, 20, 30 or however long it takes before say or do anything you regret, buys time.

With smaller children you can teach them to blow on their thumbs. A sure way to calm down emotional heat is to gently cool your thumbs down (it’s actually the long out breath that helps).

Or get them to blow on all 10 fingers, gently blowing them out like candles on a birthday cake. By the time they’ve got 10, things should have calmed right down.

3. Take time out

As they say ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ If you are with your kids 24/7 without a break, it’s going to get tough.

Do them, and you, a favour and make sure you’re leading a balanced life with friends, hobbies, interests, activities and time away from each other.

Good childcare is essential. Create a network of people you trust. Help each other out with child minding.

Then everyone gets a break.

4. Learn to drift off into the future

Gain perspective by travelling forward in time, say 20 years ahead. Your irritating kids are now fully grown adults, perhaps with children of their own.

Do you want them to look back on their childhood as a time of conflict and arguments? Time travelling in this way makes sure you keep things in perspective. Learn to take the long view and there will be a lot less conflict in all of your life, not just with the children.

5. Find out more about how kids’ brains develop.

Knowledge is power.

There is no one agreed instruction manual on parenting but one thing we do now know is that the human brain isn’t fully emotionally wired up until the age of 30. Some people never get there!

The two brain hemispheres simply don’t talk to each other in children.

That’s why they act out and need to connect to your brain to help with what we professionals call ‘affect regulation’ which simply means ‘managing emotions’

They are a long way from developing the kind of emotional intelligence that you have as their parent. You do have emotional intelligence, don’t you?

So when you feel like packing their bags and getting them to leave home extra early, get creative around the ways you can deal with anger in children.

And your home will be the peaceful haven you deserve.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.