Your child is yelling, slamming doors and having an all-out tantrum … but can he trust you with his anger? Punishing the behaviors associated with anger might be a quick fix, but without instruction your child will lose out. National anger management trainer Bob Bowen warns that children who never learn proper ways to express their frustration will eventually find their own, often inappropriate, methods.
"At 7 years old she may be yelling or pulling someone's hair, but by age 16 she will have developed 15 other incorrect ways to say 'I'm frustrated.' She has to find her own path because, as parents, we haven't given her the correct one."
The road to teaching proper "anger behavior" can be extremely bumpy when parents are sucked into the heat of the moment. Parents need first to handle their own emotions.
"When a child sees a parent managing his own frustration and anger, he will learn by example," Bowen says. "How a parent responds to his child's anger is how the parent teaches."
Teaching discipline instead of punishing the child equips him with anger management tools that can be used the rest of his life. Here are eight things you can do to help your child learn how to express his anger positively.
Eight Great Anger Busters
- Model anger management. "Mommy is feeling very angry right now, so I'm going to take time to be alone and get some self-control.
- Show respect. Don't participate by calling names or getting physical.
- Give them words to express their anger. "I know you are disappointed, or sad or frustrated."
- Identify with their pain. "I remember when I didn't get to go to a party…"
- Set positive limits. Instead of saying, "Don't you throw that doll," say, "After you put the doll on the table, we can go have snack."
- Redirect energy bursts that often come with anger. Encourage positive outlets like running, jumping, blowing into a horn or painting.
- Avoid power struggles with your child. They're always lose-lose situations. If your goal is to control, you will teach him to control others.
- Provide a cooling-off period by reading a book together or going on a walk. Then calmly discuss what happened and make a plan for next time.