Friday, April 16, 2010

Tame the temper within your child


Anger management needs to start from an early age, and the best role model is you
I’ll be the first to admit that since having a child, I’ve sometimes turned into the “angry mummy”.
When you’re faced with one parenting challenge after the next, and a good dose of sleep deprivation, it’s hardly surprising that many mothers are feeling the pressure and occasionally crack.
I always feel guilt if my daughter sees me with my cranky face on, and worry about how it will affect her upbringing.
But just as children need to learn to share their toys, show compassion for others, kindness and good manners, it’s also important that they learn how to control their emotions including the bad ones.
As I type, my daughter is throwing a tantrum. Only a few minutes ago, she was playing happily with her Barbie dolls, but is now screaming at them because, she says: “I can’t get her shoes on.”
These little fits of rage are common these days as she has become quite independent yet faces daily frustrations when she cannot do everything she wants to do.
Anger is a natural emotion, but problems occur when anger leads to inappropriate actions or behaviour.

The goal of teaching children how to manage their anger, and not let their anger manage them, is to reduce excessive reactions when angry and to develop skills to redirect their behaviour.
Studies have shown that child behaviour problems can cause further problems in adult life. For example, children who are exposed to abusive adult relationships are more likely to behave in a similar way when they are older. 
Another study uncovered that children who had been consistently angry in childhood were more likely to be unsatisfied with life at age 30.
If a child learns to control his/her anger in pre-teen years, parents will reap the benefit of a calmer environment during adolescence.
The best anger management strategy for your kids is to be a good role model.
If you know how to keep your anger under control and know how to cope with day-to-day stresses, then these are tools to share with your children.
The steps in helping your children learn to manage their anger are the same for parents.
Help your child understand how anger makes them feel in a physical sense, ie. they breathe faster, turn red, their muscles tense and their facial expression changes.
Talk about what makes them angry and what might be the consequences of their actions when dealing with anger. 
Teach them to calm down and refocus. 
Give them practical skills such as count to 10, take a deep breath, hug someone, work off their anger with a pillow fight, kick a ball in the backyard or take them for a walk or a bike ride (don’t let them go alone). 
I once got my daughter to run up and down the hallway as fast as she could, and after a minute or two, she was smiling again, because we had turned it into a race.
Be empathetic by placing yourself in their shoes. Otherwise you are likely to say or do things that may work against helping your children deal with their anger.
Reward them when they control their anger.
If you notice a situation becoming difficult or frustrating for your child, prepare a plan of action in advance and be consistent.
For example, if your child throws tantrums in the supermarket, tell them in advance they are allowed one item for good behaviour.
Preventing angry outbursts is not easy, but examples like this one give your child clear and realistic expectations.
Discipline your child in a way that lessons the anger. If you shout at them as a response to your child’s anger, then you are reinforcing the very behaviour you want to stop.
Try and stay calm and display self-control, while giving them logical consequences to their behaviour.
It’s important to note that suppressing anger is not a solution, as this can lead to passive-aggressive behaviour and can fuel cynical or hostile behaviour.
Finally, show your children unconditional love and spend lots of one-on-one time with them.
If you accept your child just they way they are, show them lots of love and support, they are less likely to get angry because they are enjoying a positive relationship.
Keep in mind that learning to control anger takes time, just like tying a shoelace or riding a bike.
While children should be allowed to express their emotions of anger without judging, evaluating or instructing them to feel differently, parents should train them in self-control.
If they discover how to regulate and control their impulses, tolerate others and their frustrations, and redirect their urge to lash out, they can manage their feelings in a non-aggressive way.
While I’m sure there are times I need to get my anger under control, I am also a lot more aware that I’m her role model, and if I practice what I preach (and help put Barbie’s shoes on), then a happier family we will be.
  • For more information, check out www.angriesout.com which has some excellent and practical information for young children, teens, parents and teachers.


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