Some mysteries are not that deep. If you and your partner are both placid, peaceful people who never get grumpy or raise their voice then, odds on, your children will handle their own anger well. But then there are the rest of us. My kids have seen me angry too often for me to be mystified where they get their tempers from. That might explain things but it doesn’t excuse me from my responsibility to try to help my children process their anger well.
Most little kids do not control their anger well – they can be aggressive and unpleasant. Learning to handle anger well is a long term goal. There is nothing you can do that will suddenly switch them over to being serene saints who express their displeasure pleasantly with words rather than explosively with their fists.
It would be wonderfully easy to do anger training if it were only a matter of punishment and rewards but it doesn’t work like that. And nor does encouraging your child to pound a pillow or punch a punching bag work very well. Ask yourself: whose face are they imagining they are smashing? It’s a bit scary when you think they might be rehearsing punching their sister or even you! They may experience a cathartic release from the exercise but doing something in your head makes it far easier to do it in reality.
It can be useful to turn strong feelings into activity – shooting hoops or bouncing on the trampoline or going for a run works well with older kids; with younger ones I found sending them off to wash their hands can be amazingly effective – maybe the cool water actually cools their emotions.
A good parenting motto is, “The time to deal with a problem is when it is not a problem”. The middle of an angry outburst is a rotten time for your child to hear your great wisdom. Wait until the heat goes – maybe when they are in bed that night – “Hey you were pretty mad this afternoon. Can you tell why you were feeling like that? What would be a better way of expressing that instead of yelling?” Steady coaching is the way to change angry kids. And good examples of mature anger control – our example! I wish this stuff was easier!
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