Dealing with an angry child

Responding to and dealing with children’s anger can be agonizing, draining, and stressful for parents, especially mothers.  Some ways to deal with an angry child could be:

  • Positive reinforcement when the child displays good behavior: Like when we rebuke the child for being rude and angry, we must also acknowledge when the child does well. Let the child know that his good behaviors and efforts are being noticed and appreciated by you. An empathetic and endearing parent will find countless opportunities during the day to make such comments as “I like it when you help me lay the table for dinner”, “I am so glad that you arranged your uniform and books for school tomorrow”; “I appreciate your keeping your shoes on the rack and cricket kit in its place”; “You were really patient while I was on the phone”. Little things add up to huge things.
  • Show acceptance of the feelings and actions stemming from it: Dismissing the child’s feelings can be counterproductive. The child could feel neglected to leave him frustrated and even angrier. Make statements like “I understand that this makes you angry, and let’s try to see if we can change the situation”, “Oh, I see that you are angry for not being allowed to play outside, but that’s because it’s dark out there”.
  • Stay calm and ignore some inappropriate behavior: Do not ignore the child, only the behavior. Just allowing some time to the child may ease his anger. Sometimes anger is used as a bargaining tactic and by ignoring the behavior is a strong communication in which the parent says that I am not giving in to your anger. By not getting the desired response from you the child’s anger loses its purpose and intensity.
  • Make room for physical activity: Allow the child time and opportunity for play and other forms of physical exercise both at home and at school. Enroll the child in activities like swimming, fencing, ballet etc, so that the child releases his extra energy into something constructive.
  • Be clear that anger may be tolerated but not aggression: An aggression child will grow to be an aggressive man. Convey to the child that aggression, such as hitting, pinching, throwing things, abusing etc is not acceptable and will have consequences. Set expectations right by staying true to your words. You may withdraw some allowances, cancel a night out with friends or cut TV time as a consequence of, not anger, but aggressive behavior.
  • Physical proximity and empathy: Young children often use anger to seek attention and are hence, calmed when the parent comes closer, initiates a physical touch and attempts to talk about the interest of the child. Sometimes all it takes to soothe an angry child is a hug or gentle embrace which the child reads as “I love you despite your being angry”, bringing to him a sense of security, love, and affection.
  • Play on their strengths: Encourage children to see their strengths and expand it to other dimensions of their life. Statements like “You are so awesome in Maths, but when you hit your sister when you get angry, being good at Maths loses its meaning” or “I was so happy when you helped me doing housework last week, but you saddened me equally, when you punched the pet”, helps the child build a positive self-image and develop emotional intelligence.
  • Time-out: Time out is a form of punishment, often used in severe cases of aggression and hostility. Though not recommended, it can help deal with older children, who are chronic offenders.
  • Establish the importance of NO: When the parent says a No, he/she must mean it. Giving into the child’s demands gives confusing signals to the child.Limits should be clearly explained and enforced. Children should be free to function within those limits.
  • Establish models of verbal expression: Children are quick learners. Aggression is a learned trait. When parents argue, abuse and remain hostile to each other, children pick up cues. The child must witness an environment where the parents talk, discuss and express verbally without using anger or aggression. Encourage the child to say what upsets him.
  • Ongoing support and interaction: Being busy parents we often forget to interact with the child without a reason or purpose or need. Over time this creates an unseen wedge between the parent and child. The child ceases to disclose, discuss and share happenings in his life. It is important that we take time out from our schedules to engage with the child on an ongoing basis to create a bond of trust and love.

As parents and teachers one of the most important lessons we can impart to our children is to help them develop respect for themselves and others, and for this, we must see children as worthy human beings and be sincere in dealing with them.

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