How To Help Your Child Deal With Anger

How To Help Your Child Deal With Anger

by Dr Emma Gray - 4th November, 2014

In the first part of this blog we look at what not to do when helping your child to deal with anger and how to teach them to reduce their anger to a more tolerable level.

1. What not to do

Anger is a strong (often overwhelming) emotion, so however inconvenient, embarrassing or frustrating it is when your child gets angry, never tell them to ‘stop it’, never tell them that they are being naughty. Your child is feeling something very real, they may be both consumed and confused by it, your job as a parent is to help them with this. Dismissing how they feel or punishing them may provide a short term solution (i.e. they may learn to swallow their anger) but longer term, responding in this way will undermine your child’s self esteem and confidence resulting in problems with emotion regulation that ultimately leading to anxiety, depression and of course anger.

2. Calm down

Managing our emotions is a skill, and due to its potentially explosive nature, managing anger is a skill that needs a lot of practice. The first step in helping your child to manage their anger is to teach them to bring their anger down to a level where they can think clearly and make good decisions regarding a course of action. Practice the schedule below with your child every time they become anger:

· Acknowledge that they are feeling angry and that it is time to go through your ‘calm down routine’ so that you can sort out the problem

· Get your child to rate how angry they feel on a scale of 1-10 (for younger children draw a scale and use cartoon characters to represent the different levels of anger e.g. incredible hulk)

· Count to 10

· Take an in breath that lasts for the count of 3

· Take an out breath that lasts for the count of 3

· Count backwards from 10 to 1

· Take an in breath that lasts for the count of 3

· Take an out breath that lasts for the count of 3

· Check your child’s anger rating and repeat the routine if necessary.

In the second part of this blog we looked at understanding why your child is angry, helping them to solve the problem that their anger is alerting them to and then maximising the quality of their learning experience.

3. Understand

All emotions, including anger, are understandable if you consider the context, and the starting point in understanding the reason that your child is angry is to remember that anger serves the function of alerting up to perceive mistreatment. Once your child’s anger has reached a level where they can think with you about what it is that has made them feel so angry, sit with them quietly and try to work out the source of their perceived mistreatment.

This will show the child that their feelings are important and should be attended to. This knowledge will future proof their mental health as they will learn that our emotions, when responded to appropriately, help us to navigate through life.

4. Problem solve

Once you and your child have identified the reason that they are feeling angry help them to put together a plan of action to deal with the perceived mistreatment bearing in mind that you are trying to teach your child to respond to their anger assertively, ensuring that their needs are met without ignoring those of others.

This will build self esteem, confidence and self worth and help them to avoid future anxiety, depression and anger problems (including aggression and passive aggression). Once the plan of action has been put in to practice, talk to your child about how it went and whether in the future the plan could be improved.

5. Praise

Finally to reinforce all that they have learned praise them for working with you to understand their feelings and for finding a good way forward.

If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our Child Counselling, Family Counselling and Counselling for Parents Pages helpful.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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