The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Anger Management for Children

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anger Management for Children

If you've seen the movie, Anger Management, you know that adults sometimes behave in unusual ways to provide anger management therapy.  However, when the angry person in need of management is a child, the therapy takes on a different approach.  Angry children tend to grow up into angry adults, abusive to spouses, and dissatisfied with their lives.  Early intervention can help these children live long, successful, healthy lives.  Here are some suggestions you can do at home to help an angry child.  When all else fails, however, you need to seek professional assistance:
  1. When a child throws a temper tantrum, remove objects from the area so she doesn't hurt herself, and then walk away.  Say, "Come see  me when you're ready to talk calmly."  Sometimes this is one of the hardest things to do - walk away from a screaming child.  The natual tendency is to scream right back, or as my mother liked to say, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to really cry about."  (That tactic never worked, by the way!)  If the temper tantrum occurs in a public place like the mall or grocery store, there's nothing wrong with walking out with the crying child, getting into the car, and driving home.  Chances are, he or she will still be crying when you get home.  Simply bring her inside, sit her someplace safe, and repeat the message above about coming to see you when she calms down.  The worst thing you can do is buy into the tantrum by trying to placate her at the store ("Calm down and I'll get you an ice cream."  WHAT?  Positive reinforcement for negative behavior?  Not on my shift!)
  2. Provide a positive role model for your children.  If you and your spouse have an argument, try to do it in an adult manner, or at least out of earshot of the children.  If you or your spouse has a true anger management problem, professional help is indicated to prevent a breakdown of the family.
  3. Show children that they have alternatives to getting angry: breathing deeply, exercising, and rethinking the problem are all socially acceptable alternatives to yelling and hitting during anger.
  4. Speaking of socially acceptable outlets for anger, show your child that you can write about the problem, then destroy the paper, which is a power catharsis and defuser for an anger trigger.
  5. Help your child to understand that everyone gets angry; it's the method they choose to respond to that anger that determines whether there will be a productive outcome or a meltdown of communication. 
  6. Children should know that they can't change everything to suit themselves, which is the usual triggger for most children's anger.  Help them to see that they can accept a trigger situation by rethinking the source of the problem. 
  7. Most importantly, when a child gets angry, he or she should know that you'll be there to support him through the difficult times, rather than making those times even more difficult.  Respond to your child's body language.  If he looks like he needs a hug to calm down, then hug him. However, if he looks like he needs to be alone for a while, then respect that as well. 
Happy parenting!

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