All children have meltdowns or tantrums at times. While anger is a healthy, normal reaction to situations in life, it can lead to challenging behaviours that are difficult to manage as parents.
Anger may be triggered in children by a variety of things, such as:
- A threat to self-esteem or self-confidence, such as feeling less than others or being publicly humiliated
- Physiological, e.g. hungry, tired, in pain
- Stress/ anxiety, e.g. moving schools, upcoming stress or exams
When we experience anger, our fight or flight response is activated, leading our heart to beat faster to send blood to our muscles, and our breathing rate to increase to ensure adequate oxygenation. Such bodily changes may be experienced as overwhelming or seem scary or out of control to children.
Things parents can do to manage angry outbursts include:
- Acknowledge and accept the child’s feelings, for example, “I can see that you are angry that your sister changed the channel, you really wanted to watch SpongeBob SquarePants. That must not feel great”. This communicates that emotions are not dangerous and can be felt.
- Encourage the child to brainstorm other ways of expressing his feelings/ solving the problem that does not involve aggression.
- Build a toolkit with your child by discussing ways they can relax or keep calm, such as deep and slow breathing.
- Catch your child being good, and praise or reward them accordingly, for example, “I like how you shared your Lego with your brother.”
- Set the environment up to prevent outbursts, for example, have snacks or a toy available to prevent hunger or boredom that can lead to frustration/anger.
- Ensure consistent and fair consequences are in place, and stay calm so as to model appropriate behaviour.
If your child’s anger is persistent and affecting how they interact with family and friends, it is important to seek help from a trained mental health professional.
At Life and Mind Psychology, our Clinical Psychologists are skilled in helping children overcome difficult behaviours and helping them develop ways of coping with stressful situations. They can also provide you with much-needed skills to help you manage these challenging times.
If this resonates with you, or to find out more call us on (02) 9525 8443.