Anger management for kids IS an issue. How we handle our Anger is what you kids see as a ‘model’ for their anger management. And research shows that child behavior problems such as acting out and tantrums are indicators of how the child will react as an adult. Severe punishment (to point of abuse) and childhood exposure to abusive relationships between adults often preclude those kids participating in adult partner violence, known as Domestic Violence. Remember, Domestic Violence is NOT just physical contact - hitting, slapping, punching BUT also by law includes: Emotional; Verbal; Sexual and Financial abuse. Severely punishing a child by calling them horrendous down-putting names, ridiculing them, embarrassing them in front of friends, etc, presents a ‘role model’ for the child of how to deal with Anger. "Mom and dad did that so..." Recently a sports figure commented that his dad used physical violence on him, thus it was what his kid needed too. And this person also has been violent with his partner.
One study, noted that many children who had been consistently angry in childhood were more likely to be unsatisfied with life at age 30 and thus act out. Some of this is the narcissistic response, that "I had a rough time as a kid, therefore I deserve more now, and dammit, I’m gonna get it no matter what it takes." There are also indications that genetics play role in how children react. While Anger Reactions can be, and are mostly a learned behavior, a propensity toward an aggressive response augments their actions.
In my Groups and teaching at the University, I use an example, that is NOT meant to demean human beings and children, but I think serves a good example of genetics - somewhat supporting Freud’s idea of "Nature and Nurture" that make us up. I suggest to folks to think of a time when they went to see a mother dog and her pups. Momma and pappa are the same for all the pups, the DNA is the same for them, yet, as you visit with the pups, not only are there external differences in color, size, weight, BUT as you fuss over them, one might lick your finger, another might yawn, another might growl, one might be afraid of you, and another might bite you. Kittens are the same, one might purr, another bite, etc.
Well, children of the same parents whil also have some differences in their make up. You might have one child who is musically talented, can sing like a nightingale and carry a tune, and another child who can’t do any of those things, but is awesome in math!
So, yes, the best anger management tool and strategy for parents, is to remember for the children, you, as a parent, need to be a good role model; to familiarize yourself with anger management tips, strategies, and techniques that both help you to cope with the stresses of modern day living as well as enable the children to use you and learn from you anger management tools you use and share with your children.
Experts also suggest that to be most effective, anger management for children needs to be implemented before adolescence. Additionally, when a child learns to control his/her anger in pre-teen years, parents reap the benefit of a calmer environment during the child's adolescence and more peace and quiet at home! And when they are infants, some times we view an infant, in a rage, screaming to a point of going raspy, stiffening her body and thrashing around. It is hard to ignore and let them work it out.
But sometimes showing Unconditional Love can help. Being there as they emote, throwing their tantrum, and letting them be. Not saying a word; but when they are settled a bit, holding them, and not being judgmental. Just holding them close, letting them feel your strength and peace and love - even thought ‘love’ I probably NOT the biggest thing on your mind at that time, but this sometimes will calm them and allow them to be settle into a peaceful mode.
Parents have to help their children learn Anger Management, as mentioned before, by being a role model however it’s also important to realize children spend much time while growing up, learning about themselves and learning about the world around them. It’s a the time to let them know, in a non-judgmental way, at a time of peace not when you are in an argument with them, that anger is a natural, healthy emotion, they also need to learn that like other emotions - love, sadness, joy - anger needs to be expressed appropriately and at the right time. Erickson and Piaget in their child development charts suggest that at certain young ages, it is most appropriate for a parent to let the child know that we respect their right to be mad at us, angry at others etc. That they have a right to feelings and to identify them. But also a great time to help them recognize that their responses cannot hurt others - physically, mentally, emotionally.
The steps in helping your children learn to manage their anger are the same as the steps for adults. Give them anger management tips for soothing their anger, help them find strategies to stay calm, and teach them techniques for constructively expressing their anger. And help them identify their feelings and right to the anger. For instance, if 2 year old Tommy just broke 5 year old Stephanie’s toy and Steph wants to whack him silly - explain to her that she has the right be angry, the right to want to hit him, but that it is not a good and or healthy thing to do.
SOME SUGGESTED STEPS FOR THE KIDS!
Some steps we teach in our office in our classes for adults apply to the children too. Children need to learn and understand when angry feelings becomes ANGER. Alert them to the physical symptoms of mounting anger.
- Anger makes you breathe faster.
- Anger makes your face turn red.
- Anger makes your muscles tense and your skin feel tight.
Suggest some of the traditional things, which kids often really take too! And sometimes will ‘annoy’ mom/dad when the child sees mom or dad get mad, and then the child starts to become the ‘parent’ and list the tools to reduce anger which include but are not limited to:
- Help children calm down and refocus. Suggest they take a deep breath and count to ten. If you're still angry, count further or count backwards from 10 to one, or count to 100. Practice it with them.
- Give them alternatives to anger. Teach them that it is okay to ask for help with school work if needed, or in doing a project. If something is too hard, don't get angry; get help and/or assistance from a friend, a parent or teacher.
- Sometimes children can't put their anger into words. Drawing often helps. Give them some crayons and let them put it on paper asking them to draw a picture of why you're angry or even a picture of anger. Some are very creative and can do amazing drawings that give us clues.
- Show them how to work out their anger? Have a ‘fun, controlled’ pillow fight. Go with them to the park and run, or ride bikes with them. Have a jog and mini-race with them.
- And always, reward your child with your attention when they show control of their anger. Positive rewards!
And back to the role model issue, remind them you get angry, that everyone gets angry. That when someone says they NEVER get angry, explain to the children that that person does have feelings but is holding them in which can be a problem for them later. Letting your children know that you are human and susceptible to anger, too gives them some relief. Sometimes it helps to share some experience you had where you were angry.
In my Anger Management Groups, I tell many stores of my issues with anger over the years to prove I am human. At times I show my anger in group at someone who really gets my goat, and its both a good and bad example! But, I do show them how I can get angry and immediately reach an equilibrium and smile and move on. Children need to learn from you, and learn that no one is perfect but we are on a journey with some ups and downs. Tell them of how you were angry and anger management helped you successfully resolve the problem in a positive way.