Seeing your child angry can be upsetting. In the moment, we often react with anger which confuses the child and adds to the distress. Understanding anger and learning to address it positively can help. Teach your child that anger is a normal emotion and doesn’t mean they are ‘bad’.
If your child’s anger regularly erupts into aggressive outbursts, learning how to recognise triggers and implementing healthy coping strategies can help diffuse the situation, and opens the door to better communication and improved relationships.
Don’t Label Your Child
Labelling your child as ‘bad’ for being angry will make them feel as if there is something wrong with them. They may start to believe that they are bad, and start to act that way. They may feel less confident about themselves. It’s important to separate the child from the angry behaviour. Let your child see that it is the behaviour that’s the problem and not them. By stressing this, your child will more readily respond and learn to change unwanted behaviour, especially if they are regularly praised for making even small changes.
Manage Your Response
When you see your child behaving aggressively, you may feel angry. However, if you respond with anger, your child may follow suit and a full-blown confrontation might ensue. Your child will learn that this behaviour is okay, because Mum or Dad does it. You may even frighten your child to the extent that they hide their anger, and therefore they don’t learn how to deal with emotions healthily. Instead, they learn to bury their emotions which often leads to long-term distress.
Listen To Your Child
When a child ‘acts out’ there is usually a reason behind the behaviour and shouting at them will only make the situation worse. Instead, listen to your child and acknowledge their feelings. If you do this calmly, it takes away the sense of fear, reassuring them that there will be no recriminations means your child will feel more inclined to tell you why they feel angry. Together, you can explore what triggered the anger and if there is a valid reason behind it. By listening, your child will feel important and that their thoughts matter. Talking openly and calmly can help your child to understand that being angry at something is normal, but that ‘acting out’ is an unwanted and inappropriate behaviour.
Develop New Parenting Skills
Perhaps neither you nor your spouse has learned how to deal with anger during your upbringing. Shouting, yelling and even physical and mental abuse may be regular occurrences in your household. Unfortunately, if your child witnesses this, they may internalise feelings of anger and fear, which may well erupt into rage and aggression as a way of expressing their feelings. You may not know how to handle your child’s aggression, or may even be afraid of your child. In these circumstances, it’s important you and your spouse are on the same page. There is little point in you being calm and your spouse venting anger (or vice versa) when your child is displaying aggressive behaviour. Nor is it helpful if one or both of you is inconsistent in dealing with your child’s angry episodes. Developing smart parenting skills to encourage positive behaviour can help you and your child to communicate more openly and help to create a respectful, happier home.
Join a Parenting Support Group
Joining a support group doesn’t mean you’re a weak or ‘bad’ parent; it just means you want to do what’s best for your child and your family. Support groups allow you to see that you’re not alone and that your child’s anger is not unique; that other parents have similar experiences. Parents learn healthy anger management techniques from each other and without judgement. A parenting support network can provide valuable emotional and practical support as you learn to adopt and implement positive behavioural strategies.
Seek Professional Help
You or/and your child may benefit from seeing a child psychologist. They can work with you and your child to help them to manage their anger. They will also help and support you to implement new, positive strategies to improve your child’s behaviour and your relationship.
Anger is a difficult emotion for a child to experience and they may be frightened by it. That’s why it’s important to teach your child that anger is normal and that they can control it with help and practise. By implementing healthy strategies to support your child, you will be teaching them life skills essential for their well-being and development into adulthood.