At one point in my life, I was a parenting pro. Then I had kids and quickly realized all the books and magazine articles I read didn’t quite prepare me for an angry child (or child in an all-out rage). Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. In those situations, a parent typically reacts in a few different ways. Either, they react the same by getting angry themselves and yell back, freeze up and say nothing, or become intimated and give in. All of which are exhausting and none of which are helpful in teaching appropriate ways to manage their temper. Parenting is tough and responding to anger/rage is one of the toughest things we encounter as parents.
Two things to understand about anger. First, it is always a secondary emotion. There’s typically another unpleasant feeling hiding beneath the anger that has first affected your child. It’ll be extremely helpful if you can pause in the moment and remember that. The other is that anger serves a purpose – it tells us something is wrong. Similar to a runny nose when you have a cold. Alright, enough with the fluff, below are some tips on keeping sane when your kid goes berserk.
- Give them space
If it’s not a life-threatening situation and no one is getting hurt give them space to be angry. I’m not suggesting giving them a room to destroy, but a safe area they are reminded to go to and cool down.
- Give yourself some space
If you feel yourself wanting to get in their face or get loud yourself then it’s ok for us parents to walk away and take some deep breaths. This may be necessary for you to stay objective and in control.
- Ask questions
Your kid’s anger may be justifiable, so don’t assume they’re automatically wrong for feeling upset. We can’t control how our kids feel, but we can hold them accountable for their behavior. Simply getting angry because your kid is angry will escalate the situation.
- Refrain from reasoning
There is no reasoning with raging adults, so I’m not sure why we think it’ll work with kids. When anyone is flooded with emotion, the ability to reason flies out the window. Here’s a great statement to use in the moment, “I can see that you’re really upset; we can each take a timeout and get back to this later.”
- Rethink consequences
Wait until everything has calmed down before giving consequences. This allows parents not to rush to judgment or punish when emotions are running high, because this may cause more eruptions. Doing this also helps parents consider whether or not consequences are necessary. It’s important to reserve consequences for inappropriate behavior and not feelings.
- Listen well
This helps during the anger and even better afterward. Asking open-ended questions about what made them so angry and what they could do different next time to handle it better can be helpful. These open-ended questions work better for older kids.
- Remember the end goal
Healthy, appropriate ways to express anger are essential tools to learn. By creating space, establishing calm areas, listening well, rethinking consequences, and asking questions we are modeling appropriate behavior during anger. As the saying goes, “More is caught than taught.” The end goal during these tough years is to mold emotionally healthy adults who are able to establish positive, healthy re