Coping with an angry child can be very frustrating, and it often seems like a never-ending problem. As a parent, you can expect to see many angry outbursts along the way, from the time your child is a toddler right through the teen years.
One important thing to remember, and to stress to your child, is that anger is OK. We all feel angry from time to time. What matters, however, is the way we deal with that anger.
There are many ways parents can help children learn to control their anger.
• Help your child recognize the warning signs of anger and find ways to calm down. For some kids, doing something physical like running around the yard or hitting a pillow can get rid of the tension. Others may find playing with play dough or drawing relaxes them. Going to a quiet place and taking deep breaths might help. At a time when your child is feeling good, talk with him about what he can do when he is angry.
• Help your child communicate her feelings by using this statement: "I feel…when…because…" For example, "I feel angry when Emily takes my toys because she might break them." Or "I feel angry when kids make fun of me because it is embarrassing." By focusing on the reason behind the anger, she can understand why she is feeling this way.
• Help your child problem-solve. When your child is starting to get frustrated, first help him decide what the problem is. Then, work together to think of some possible solutions to the problem. For example, suppose your child is angry because he doesn’t want to do his homework. He might suggest that he can listen to music quietly while does his homework, or that he waits to do it later in the evening, or that he has a snack first. A young child will need a lot of guidance in problem-solving, but by the time he is older, he will be able to work out many solutions on his own.
• Most importantly, remember that your children watch and learn from you. The way you handle your anger will influence them greatly. Follow the above steps yourself when you are feeling angry.
We can’t prevent our children from feeling angry, but we can give them tools to cope with their anger in a positive way. By learning to recognize anger and the feeling behind it, children can develop their own strategies for working through difficult times and getting along with others.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 5, 2012