Published: 12/10/2014 - Updated: 12/31/2017
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
If you have a small child at home that gets angry at everything, that is intolerant to frustration and is frequently in a bad mood, then you definitely need to follow these tips. It’s quite likely that your child senses a lack of boundaries, or feels insecure and confused.
Anger is one of the emotions that causes the most imbalance within the body whenever it is frequently and intensely experienced. Anger tenses the body, the heart rate increases, blood circulates faster, nerves get worn down, bile is activated and accumulates, causing the liver to deteriorate, among other things. And yet, anger isn’t anything “bad”. Saying “don’t get angry” to a child doesn’t solve anything. A lot of the adults around now have been taught that anger was bad and that they should avoid it because it wasn’t good to get angry. It was an emotion that needed to be controlled, and even denied, or perhaps even smothered. We were never really taught what it was, and what to do with this emotion that comes about so suddenly.
Therefore, parents a lot of times don’t know what exactly to do with anger, if they should control and prevent it or get choked up about it. And because we don’t know scientifically to which point it is healthy to express it or not, it is difficult for us to teach our children or youth, who frequently become confused and rebel against what they shouldn’t do with anger.
But luckily we can learn from our anger, and we can guide children positively when they get angry or rebel, and even when they are violent. Even we, the adults, can learn from anger.
How to understand and guide anger in children
Children become angry when the feel frustrated by something that they can’t do or when something doesn’t meet their expectations, or when something doesn’t please them. And just like adults, children try to get away with what they want, and to get what they want, and sometimes anger can be a good resource to get it.
One first step for helping them in this is to consider that anger is neither good nor bad, it is just an expression of frustration when expectations are not met. So you must avoid saying “don’t get angry”, “don’t shout”, “don’t hit”. It’s best to make the child conscious of what he or she is feeling. In order to do this, you need to point out to them whenever they aren’t angry, that anger is an emotion that can be felt, but that whenever you feel it, you need to let it out in some place that doesn’t affect others or themselves.
The easiest thing to do would be to buy them a small stuffed doll or a special pillow so that they know that they can hit it or release their anger whenever they feel it. That way you are are teaching them that each person is responsible for his/her anger, and that people really aren’t at blame for their anger. We need to resolve anger and then, reconcile things outwardly.
Secondly, do not be intimidated by kicking, fits, or the child’s anger. If they feel like they can intimidate you, then they have won the battle. A child that feels like he or she intimidates his or her parents or authority whenever they give into the child’s fits or if the parents themselves are angry. If a father becomes angry, shouts and hit, then he has lost control and is teaching the child that others are responsible for what one feels. Anger is actually a weakness, and the child is good at understanding this. So the parent must be firm, never harsh, only firm. Firmness consists of having in mind what you are going to to, and follow through with the child even though the child becomes chaotic. The father must show that he has control of the situations.
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Whenever your child is angry, you must avoid speaking. You could explain to him to talk when he is calmer. You must not hit or yell at the child when he is angry. You need to calmly tell them, in a peaceful voice, what you, the parent, thinks or is considering. If the child becomes any angrier, then you shouldn’t respond until he or she calms down.
Children that get angry a lot are generally those that lack defined boundaries. That’s why you must teach children limits; going to bed at a certain time, having a mealtime schedule, avoid compensating them for good grades or whenever they “behave well”, as this only corrupts them.
Another way of helping them is by cultivating empathy with them. Whenever they’re violent with a sibling, a friend, etc., you need to take them to their room so they can let their anger out, and then after it passes, ask them questions to help them see the consequences of their actions. Do not judge them as good or bad. For example, it’s good to say to them “What do you think your little brother felt when you hit him? How do you think your mom felt when you yelled at her that way?”, etc. That way your children will become aware and will learn about what they are doing.
Sports is another key for letting them learn to let out and direct their energy. If a child is constantly closed up, watching TV or living a very sedentary life, they will be more disposed to getting angry. Karate, basketball and team sports are wonderful for teaching children how to live healthfully with other and to understand themselves emotionally.
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You must remember that violence is a radical way of placing limits. If a child is violent, it’s because they don’t know how to place limits. That’s why you need to teach them limits by means of communication. In order to do so you need to make sure that the child feels confident, because if they aren’t confident then they will try to protect themselves more intensely.
For a child to feel confident, you need to nourish this base from early childhood. That’s why it is important for them to relate with children early on; playing, borrowing things, and sharing what they have are easily learned attitudes from childhood.
Communication always helps children to feel more confident. It’s important to talk to them about what makes them angry, and then help the child find solutions for it. Play with questions and answers until you find an agreeable and successful solution with others.
And lastly, you should watch your child’s diet. It is important that you make them conscious of the basic role that diet has in regards to emotions. A poorly nourished child, or one that consumes a lot of white sugar or junk food, will be more prone to getting angry. If a child does not eat a quality and balanced diet, at a proper time and in sufficient amounts, their nervous system undergoes alterations. That’s why you need to take care with diet quality, especially avoiding sweets and junk food, or excessive candy. They are terrible for health and cause emotional discomfort in children.
The best sweets for children are fruit, cereal bars, vegetable salads, etc. These sweets are also nutritive and help balance the nervous system. They also do not deteriorate teeth. You should avoid boxed cereals sold in supermarkets, and packaged or fried foods. Give them fresh fruit juices and enough water every day, a minimum of 6 glass of fresh water a day.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 12/31/2017
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