“Do not teach your children never to be angry. Teach them how to be angry.” Wise words from theologian and author, Lyman Abbott (1835-1922)
How do we as parents support our child’s difficult feelings of anger while also taking care of ourselves? Author, mom, and parenting coach, Barbara Joy, has some great tips!
- Validate and help your child name their feelings: “I can see how angry you are. Would you like to tell me about it? Or, “You’re angry because …” Reflect what you think your child is feeling.
- Help to set boundaries around inappropriate expressions of anger, and explain appropriate ways that your child can direct his/her anger: “You can draw me an angry picture. You can hit the pillow. Use your words to tell me what you’re feeling or what you want. You can go outside and scream.”
- Make your expectations clear ahead of time to help prevent big reactions.
- Model appropriate ways of expressing anger and watch your own reaction to your child’s anger.
- Be consistent in following through on limits or rules regardless of how your child expresses anger. Otherwise, your child may learn that angry outbursts or disrespectful language helps them to get what they want.
- Talk about what happened after both of you have cooled down. Talk about your feelings. Talk about the behavior you want to see.
- Become aware of situations that trigger your child’s anger. Long periods of sitting, running too many errands, or not getting a much needed nap can often trigger tantrum situations for young children. Feelings such as hurt, disappointment, and frustration can trigger angry reactions at all ages. Learn to predict trigger times and have a plan in place.
- Create routines for reducing your child’s stress: Quiet time and a healthy snack after school or when you first get home. One-on-one time on a daily basis. Warm water play for toddlers around dinnertime. Reading or sharing fun activities that you both enjoy.
- Use encouraging statements such as, “I appreciate your picking up your toys even though you wanted to go out and play,” or “I know how hard it must have been for you to miss your time with friends to do what I asked you to do.”
- Notice and respond to your child’s behavior when he/she handles frustration or disappointment well.
- Take time out for yourself frequently to manage your own stress. Take care of yourself!
Barbara Joy is an adoptive mom, parenting coach, and author of Moms to Moms: Parenting Wisdom from Moms in Recovery and Easy Does It, Mom: Parenting in Recovery.