How to teach child to control anger
By Annette Du Bois
As with any emotions there are different levels of anger your child will experience in their young life. Many episodes will relate directly to a circumstance or situation and range from mild annoyance to what I refer to as an ‘emotional explosion’.
You’ve likely experienced this from your child or teenager, it seems to come out of nowhere, complete out of character behaviour and many parents refer to it as a total meltdown. And again, can range from overpowering aggressive rage to uncontrollable sobs.
Most mild anger young people feel is normal, we’re ‘beings’ packed up with emotions and it’s understandable from time to time anger in all it’s forms is going to arise.
As I always advocate to children and teenagers, feeling and expressing any emotion is ok, just as long as it doesn’t control us, or make us act out of control
But what happens when the angry outbursts continue or just happen without warning? It can be equally upsetting for you as their parent, struggling to know what to do for the best. This type of anger is usually an indication something is going on that they don’t know how to handle, what to do or even how to communicate to you (or indeed themselves) about.
Challenges, situations, friends, pressures, anxieties and dissatisfaction can all appear as different emotions and likely there’s been a compounding effect that has caused the final outburst.
Just as much as we are not the sum-total of our emotions, nor are we our behaviours, the states that we sometimes find ourselves in. Of course, for child or adult, this is not an excuse to say, act or behave in any way they like, more an explanation that when the emotional state has got passed a certain point, the lack of control occurs.
I’ve coached kids and teens for many years about emotional resilience and the ability to manage feelings in any situation or challenge. The first step in controlling anger (or any emotion) is the recognition of Emotional Triggers, the small things that build to the explosion (or implosion of holding things in that manifests in physical conditions and mind-based issues such as anxiety and fear).
There are going to be challenges, people and situations your child may not be able to control, change or solve immediately. But they can take charge of how they feel in an instant.
Here are 4-simple steps to C.A.L.M the anger and help your child feel more in control of their emotional state.
C = Communication.
The response or reaction in any situation is based on the quality of communication (both internal to ourselves and external to others), including questions. Things like…
• How is this making me feel?
• What do I want the outcome of this situation to be?
• Who can help me get over this challenge?
• What must I do to control how I’m feeling?
A = Awareness.
Being aware and alert to emotional triggers and how we normally react is the next important part of managing the situation or feeling. Because our mind and body are closely connected, there is normally one or more physical signs in the process towards the full-blown emotion. In different emotional situations, encourage your child to recognise and name the physical signs at the start of feeling annoyed, frustrated, upset or disappointment that could result in anger such as…
• Tension (typically in hands but also shoulders raised up towards ears, etc)
• Temperature change (hot or cold or both simultaneously)
• Voice change (volume, pitch)
• Facial expressions
L = Let it Go.
Most of the tension and feelings surrounding a situation or person can be let go of. One of the greatest escalations of emotion into full-blown rage is the act of holding onto it. Typically, the mind plays out the situation over and over, the imagination goes into overdrive and the situation can seem bigger, worse or even get distorted.
Resisting the need to let things go or accepting it can be difficult, especially as the ego is fighting to keep it going. Accepting the situation is not about failing, giving up or anything to do with weakness. It’s actually a sign of strength and courage, to let go of the unnecessary and deal with the ‘real’ situation or emotion.
There’s a saying… ‘what we resist, persists’, so resisting the ability to let go of the emotion (not necessarily the situation) can be the very thing that keeps it going. With a calm mind and relaxed body, the most appropriate action can be decided (if it’s needed), or to move on without the residue of emotions hanging heavy around your child or the situation. This is an empowering process for children to build emotional resilience. Appropriate letting go techniques are…
• Write the emotion or situation on a piece of paper, talk it through with your child and then get them to tear-up and throw away – fully letting it go. Take a few deep breaths and replace it with an empowering word or phrase to focus on.
• Put a small amount of water in a bowl in the sink, stand with them as they talk through the situation or emotion they mentally place it in the bowl. Take a few deep breaths and then empty the water into the sink, fully letting go as the water disappears down the plughole.
M = Motion.
Motion creates positive emotion. Negative moods stop us moving and keep us stuck. So here are 3 things to help your child create positive emotion through movement…
1. Start by listening to my favourite Music
2. Then Move my body. Motion creates positive emotion
3. Choose my Mood. Yes today is great! Yes, I’m ok, YES I Can get through this.