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All kids can throw up a bit of unpleasant, angry behaviour but sometimes it becomes too much of a pattern. A psychologist friend sits with these angry kids and draws a cartoon picture of them. And then he draws and angry version next to it. “This is you, Tom – and this one over here is Temper Tom”. They then talk about Temper Tom (or Angry Aiden or Ragey Ryan or Nightmare Noah). They talk about Temper Tom, what makes him turn up and what he does , about how he causes problems and gets them in trouble.

What this psychologist is doing is giving the child a perspective, helping them to see the difficult behaviours that are causing problems. Because he is drawing it as a different person, the child can start to think about their behaviour without feeling shame or defensiveness. He will then talk about what he can do to ‘fight’ Temper Tom – he recognises his angry, aggressive behaviours as an enemy and it takes energy to get on top of it. Some of greatest benefit from this therapy comes when he subsequently asks the child, “Can you think of a time when you were able to beat Temper Tom?” The child usually can think of a time, and remember what they said to themselves. They start to realise, “I can change!” and that is a wonderful discovery.

This is a very effective therapy used by psychologists, but it’s something simple enough for parents to try as well. Separate out the behaviour from the child, and then see yourself as an ally with the child to help change that behaviour. It will help both you and your child realise that, even though there can be really bad behaviour at times, there really is a good kid in there.

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John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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