1. Do Not Engage in a Power Struggle: Children who are experiencing high levels of anger are in a fight or flight mode. By continuing to engage with the child you are only going to further ignite their anger. If nobody’s getting hurt and it is not a life-threatening situation or safety issue, it’s better to back off and give them distance to calm themselves.
2. Do Not React out of Pure Emotions: When your child is angry, instead of acting out of raw emotion which is what we most often do, try stepping out of the situation. By staying in the conversation and reacting with emotion, things only escalate more and more out of control. CHOOSE to WALK AWAY… take deep breaths, and try your best to stay objective and most importantly stay in control of yourself. Often times, it maybe necessary for you, the parent, to put yourself in “time out” in order for you to regain control of your own emotions in order to deal appropriately with your child. During a behavioral issue, meltdown, or anger fueled discussion, your job as the parent is to model the correct and appropriate ways to DEAL with the emotions at hand, not to mimic their behaviors.
3. Do Not Assume you know EVERYTHING: As parents we sometimes forget that our children are mini humans who have emotions. They have a right to be upset, disappointed, unhappy, and even down right mad. It is our job as parents that when these feelings occur we model, demonstrate, or share how the child can remain respectful while still exhibiting his/her emotions or viewpoints. When inappropriate behaviors occur, you address the behaviors, not the feelings. The child should be held accountable for his behaviors whether they are warranted or not. It is important to keep in mind that their anger is not the problem, the resulting behavior of the anger is the problem. Kids often have a very low tolerance for frustration and disappointment, and as parents we often add to their frustrations due to our lack of communication with them, our busy schedules, and everyday assumptions.
4. Do Not try to “Talk Sense” into them or “Reason” with them: An angry child or an angry adult for that matter is not thinking reasonably, therefore, they can’t be reasoned with. Most often when we are attempting to “reason” with someone, we are trying to convince them to see things our way. Some children, especially those with Oppositional Defiant Disorder are smart enough to turn the tables on you and try to convince you to their way of thinking, leaving the parent more angry, feeling more powerless, and more disrespected.
5. Do Not Make Rash Decisions or Give Over the Top Consequences when angry: It is always recommended, despite the issue, to wait until the situation has calmed before issuing ultimatums, threats, or consequences. When tempers are flaring and emotions are high, you run the risk of only causing further disruptions and problems than you are at fixing the issue. Most often after a moment of separation or silence, both parties can come to an agreement, compromise, or solution. It is recommended that after the air has settled and the child is calm, to say, “You were really angry earlier, Can you use your words to tell me what made you angry and why? Is there something you could have done differently? What should you do next time?” Then proceed with the consequences for the behavior you feel are appropriate. Bear in mind, that just because a child throws a tantrum, gets upset, or stomps off, they may have handled their anger in a perfect way. If a child gets upset and walks off or even stomps off, that is an appropriate way to handle anger, they didn’t hit, scream or become destructive. The disrespectful behavior shown should be addressed but the other behaviors should be praised. For instance, if your child stomps off muttering as she goes and slams her door without demonstrating her anger physically or irrationally, before going out for a walk to calm down… It is possible that although the disrespectful actions should be addressed, consequences may need to be forgone. While every family has different rules about what is allowed and what isn’t, you should have some latitude to allow your child to express his/her anger appropriately. Consequences should never be given for FEELINGS, only for inappropriate behavior.
If your children are older: Do Not miss a chance to talk with your child later: If your child is mature enough and it is appropriate, try sitting down with them and discuss with them the issues they are having. But you must be willing and ready to listen…REALLY LISTEN…don’t interrupt, don’t chastise, or correct. JUST LISTEN. Once they have opened up and are sharing, try asking them open-ended questions like, “Was there something you would have liked to have done differently?” What could they have done differently? What could you do to handle a situation like this in the future? Is there anything I can do that might be helpful to you? ”
Most often when older children throw tantrums or lose their cool, it is based on the lack of problem solving skills. They undoubtedly misplace their anger by screaming, breaking things, or calling people names. Unfortunately, problem solving skills do not come naturally- they come with guidance and practice. In order to help your child, begin guiding him/her in decision-making, problem solving activities, and by modeling correct behaviors in front of them.
6. Do Not Waffle, Do Not Waiver, Do Not Hesitate, Do Not Give In: Once you have made your decision regarding punishment, consequences, or retribution, do not get sucked in by guilt, remorse, or by their pity. This is the very reason you should adhere to number 5 (do not give consequences in the heat of the moment). Your actions should be well thought out in order for you to carry them out. IF your children sees that your bark is much worse than your bite, you will never have the upper hand in disciplining, no matter the age of your child.
7. Do Not Make Exceptions for your Child’s Behaviors: Although your child may have a disability, may have special needs, from a divorced home, or had a traumatic childhood or upbringing, it is not a reason to EXCUSE their behaviors. Many of these children do have behaviors that could be characteristic of their experiences, however, it should not be used as a crutch or a reason for inappropriate or unsuitable behavior. These behaviors can most often be treated with patience, endurance, and lots of hard work.
8. Do Not Ignore, Overlook, or Deny your Child’s Cry for Help: Most kids who have severe anger issues are in need of acceptance, problem solving skills, and social skills. Many times kids who suffer from extreme anger are lacking skills in other areas. Their behavior is commonly a cry for help. DO NOT IGNORE their cries. Get them the help they need. It may be counseling, it maybe conflict management, anger management, psychiatric care, social skills training, pharmaceuticals, play therapy or some other type of services. What ever it maybe do not allow the anger to continue to grow without being addressed. Sometimes the best thing we can do as a parent is to admit that things have gotten out of our control and need help. Seek out those who can be of assistance and can help you, your child, and your family.
9. Do Not Forget the End Results: As a parent, you always need to ask yourself what you’re aiming for with your children. Ask yourself what your counting on the end result to be. Hopefully like most parents, it is for your child to become a responsible, self-assured, and emotionally stable adult. As parents, one of our most important jobs is to show our children the appropriate, and healthy way to behave along with problem solving tools to get them there. Sometimes lessons don’t require a consequence, but more of an opportunity to talk and someone to help come up with ideas to better handle the same type of situation next time.
10. Do NOT Blame Yourself: As parents, and especially those of us who are mothers, we find it extremely difficult to not feel guilty for our child’s problems, regardless of what the problem maybe. We somehow find ways to blame ourselves for everything that might go wrong, although realizing that as the guardians and responsible parties for the life and upbringing of our child we are held responsible for their actions and behaviors to some degree. However, all we can do is the best we can do. Holding yourself hostage to guilt, remorse, or any other vile emotion will not help your child or your situation.