Saturday, 10 May 2014

Helping Your Child to Manage Anger

It's not only adults that have anger management issues. I've seen my own kids burst out in anger to match the worst of my temper tantrums, and that's saying something, me being a tad hot blooded. This can lead to a host of mixed emotions, none of which are pleasant.

When your child looks you in the eye with defiance and then throws a fit, an immediate thought of retaliation crosses the mind quite naturally, but we all know that doesn't end well don't we?

So how do you manage things in the heat of the moment? What's the right approach? Well in all honesty, there is no one magic formula. But a couple of time proven tips could lead to more a calmer resolution in a more quicker time frame and possibly, with some luck, a more cooler temperament for both of you.

Not perfect by a long shot, nor will I ever be, but I do like to think that I am now somewhat better than I was ten fifteen years ago when I had newly dipped my feet into the perilous waters of parenthood.

In Children........

Sometimes small children as young as two will lash out in an attempt to scratch you or worse, your neighbor's kid with whom you painstakingly worked out a play date schedule. Recalling some unpleasant judgmental looks right now. It could be anything, taking away a toy, not giving a sweet or not giving them your undivided attention. Some children take it in stride and really couldn't care less and simple move on. Some children can't let it go. I've noticed that even in siblings, the personality traits vary significantly ( my twins are quite different in temperaments). Here are some things you can try the next time your toddler throws shows signs of anger and resentment:

1. Try giving them a firm hug with soothing words. This seems to calm most children down. And remove the child from the scene of the crime.
2. In case the above doesn't work, let them be for a few minutes and after the initial feelings have subsided somewhat, talk soothingly to the child by telling him you understand his woes. Even if they can't talk, they can understand surprisingly well.
3. Diverting the attention is always a good tactic, as long as it is not bribery. Kids catch on pretty fast. They may make it a habit if they think they can get away with scoring a lollipop each time they get fussy. Perhaps take them to another room and engage in a fun activity like story time or bath time.
4. Sometimes children just flare up for no apparent reason, because there is some other underlying cause like an illness, or hunger or lack of sleep. These basic things play a hefty role in the behavior of your tot.

Young school going kids:
This category has an endless list of how children express their anger but lashing out with mean words or pushing, shoving, biting, hair pulling, snatching seem to be the go to express methods. But I find that hurt is often quite obvious behind the anger. It doesn't take a whole lot to understand what's going on in their young minds. Still, negative behavior should not be tolerated since this could lead to more serious issues later in life. Just today my 5 year old tossed his plate across the table when he was done, this was quite unlike him, and instinct took over- I told him off sternly. He just looked at me blankly for a minute and then proceeded to make hand prints with his food soiled hands on the floor I had just mopped. Then he turned around and told me that he had made a mess on the floor, knowing full well that I would be displeased. And yet he proceeded to engage in this act anyway. I could have again acted on instinct and go all ballistic and give him a time out...ah time outs, we'll get to that in a minute. Instead I carried on as if nothing had happened and proceeded to clean up completely ignoring him not wanting to give him the response he was expecting.
Later when he was calm, I took in my lap and had a gentle heart to heart telling him that I was sorry for my actions and that I realized that when he tossed his plate he did not expect it to make such a bang and that he didn't mean it, but that I did not appreciate what he had done after either. Took all of 5 minutes. But he understood and went off happily about his merry way. Moral:

1. Stay calm, it's hard as hell, but do it.
2. Do not give the response they are expecting.
3. Take up the matter in a positive environment at a later time when the child is happy. Discuss feelings and explain gently that it will be okay and ask your child how else he could resolve the matter without getting all flustered.
4. Firmly state that negative behavior like the ones mentioned above are not allowed. I have been using key words like "not allowed" and "choking hazard" from a very early age. It sort of gets imprinted.
5. Let's face it, you have to be the role model, losing it with family and friends, road rage, disrespect and discourtesy, speaking angrily and loudly, speaking with a condescending tone all the time will also get imprinted and therefore become a part of the child's personality.
6. Excessive use of time-outs will be counter productive simply because the essence will be lost due to over use. There is a whole debate on sending the kids to sit in the corner or their room for a time till they 'realize' their mistake. Though it is loads better than striking your child, but it is still a stern punishment. A better way is to simply take away a benefit like the weekly trip to the ice cream joint, or no cartoons for a time- something that will make the child stop and think if his negative behavior is really worth it to him or her having to part with something they like and enjoy albeit temporarily.
7. As soon as your child starts yelling or getting angry, remind them they are about to become aggressive and engage in a ritual that can potentially calm the child down before he really goes hyper, like a chant, or counting down from 10 or even breathing or drinking water. It does not work over night, but with persistence it can become a valuable life tool.

Please drop your comments below on how you manage to control bouts of anger and fits with your kids.


  1. Thank you Rahima! That was a really interesting post.

  2. V wel written. I second u.. its realy helpful.

  3. I manage my 6 yrs old kid's anger by giving him attention n recalling his positive behavior in past. That really boosts up his all positive energy.

    1. That's a wonderful thing to do. Thanks for the tip.