Flaring emotions

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Emotions bounce around all the time in most homes. A sob here, some angry words there – it’s all very normal. But then, occasionally, the emotions go through the roof! Screaming, wild eyes, intense anger – and sometimes some very scared parents wondering what on earth has got into their child!

Most of you know where the anger is coming from – it’s genetic, shaking down out of the other parent’s family tree, you’re sure of it. Regardless of where the seeds have come from, they are sprouting up in your own lovely child and, since gene therapy isn’t an option yet, you need some super-parent skills to cope.

First, don’t match decibels. If they yell, and you yell – nobody is listening, except the neighbours. Don’t match their mood either. If your toddler gets angry and grumpy and then you get angry too – congratulations, you’ve just taken your example from a two year old. Be the big person and model calm, even if on the inside, you feel like throwing a bigger tantrum than they are. Your calmness will help them calm down. A thing to remember at this point is the issue is not the issue. The issue is their emotion that needs to be dealt with now – the broken toy or not being able to have a lolly will be addressed later.

Next, accept their feelings – even if you cannot accept the reasons behind them or the things they are wanting to do with their emotion. Echo it back to them. “You sound really upset. Do you want to cool off next to me or stand by me while I work over here?”

Yes, you do talk about the actual problem that sorted it, but not while the emotions are up – the reasonable bits of their brain are switched off during a high powered howl or tantrum. When they’ve calmed down, that’s when you can coach them on some problem solving.

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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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