Helping Our Kids Handle Anger
Anger is an intense emotion so how do you help kids with it? If you struggle with it too does that mean you can't teach them? Absolutely NOT! There are several things you can do!
Acknowledge Your Anger First
For some of you this is the hardest part. Acknowledging your own anger can be embarrassing but if your reactions have gotten of of hand (and your kids probably know it) then addressing this opens the door.
As a parent, you have major influence over your kids - especially when they're little. Modeling accountability shows them that you're not superhuman and it's okay to make mistakes.
Initiate a conversation to acknowledge your anger first. It can go something like this.
When I get angry I tend to _______. (be honest and just name it) I regret that and want to practice handling our anger better. How does that sound?
If you want your child's behavior to change, it starts with you.
By admitting your anger you set the example for them to follow. Remember they want to be like you so use it for good! If you're not quite ready for that, next time you overreact, just say OOPS! For more tip on this read my blog When You Or Someone You Love Gets Angry.
Model Healthy Anger
Imagine how powerful it would have been for your parents to acknowledge their anger! Your whole outlook on conflict would likely have changed. Accountability invites forgiveness because you're owning your stuff rather than blaming others for how you feel.
You are the most powerful role model your kids have. This doesn't mean you have to be perfect. Start by using tools like I messages (stating how you feel not changing them) and time-outs when you get upset. They'll want to copy you so why not use that to your advantage?
Anger is a normal!
Give kids a clear message that anger is a normal, healthy emotion - for everyone. They have a right to feel angry because it's normal. Children often get taught the opposite - that anger isn't nice or necessary. Encourage them to deal with their feelings directly. Stuffing or ignoring them them hurts their emotional intelligence. Give them permission to express it. If that scares you a little, keep reading. You're not alone!
Your job is to model appropriate anger. In order to do that, you need to understand your anger first. What does it look like in your body? How can you tell when you first start to feel it? These are important questions you can talk openly with your child.
Share your early signs of anger whether it's rapid heart rate, sweating, irritability, and set the example. Ask them to share their signs. Talk about what anger looks like for each person. No judgment. Talking openly about this encourages them to learn about their strengths and weaknesses. If you'd like to more help read What Anger Is Trying To Tell You.
Once kids know what their anger looks like, create a game plan with them. If you don't have one for yourself make it a family activity. These are some great tools to teach your kids.
Tips for Kids and Anger:
- Recognize the early signs of anger - increased heart rate, shaking, feeling annoyed, anxious, clenching your jaw, sweaty palms.
- Encourage them to express it verbally "I feel angry because ... "
- Get moving! Strenuous exercise helps get the anger out in a safe way.
- Show them how to stand up for themselves assertively by using I messages.
- I feel _____ when you ______ (describe the behavior, no judging).
- Listen to fun music and dance it out!
- Give the child an empty box to hit with a safe object like a plastic bat.
- Encourage them to take a time out.
- Model these behaviors yourself.
- Have a family discussion about ways to handle anger.
- If your anger has been hurtful, use it as a teaching moment. Kids love to see us learn and admit that we are not perfect!
You might not be proud of how you've handled anger in the past. Don't beat yourself up. Admitting that you need help models healthy behavior for your kids. Talking openly about this encourages them to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses.
Read my blog on Managing Anger with Time Out.
If you need more support, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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