In Part 1 of this article you learned some anger management tips that can help your child manage anger. The suggestions provided in Part 1 were proactive and preventative measures parents can use to assist their children with overcoming this destructive behavior. Here in Part 2, you will learn child anger management interventions which can help you handle situations where your child has lost control and is engaged in an anger episode.
Thought Stopping - Recently, I had a parent tell me about a situation where their 15 year old son became very angry about some consequences they had imposed. He lost control and was yelling at the parent about how it “wasn’t fair” and was thrashing about in his bedroom. The parent told me how they had talked to their son several weeks earlier about the concept of “self-talk” and “thought stopping” (consciously telling oneself to stop thinking a certain way to interrupt self-defeating behaviors). During this tirade the parent stood outside the door and told him to listen to what he was saying to himself in his head. They asked him how his self-talk was fueling the way he was feeling and behaving at that moment in time? They reported that it got quiet in his room. He later emerged from his room and was able to speak to them in a reasonable tone and they were able to clarify what he had misunderstood. They believe that getting him to stop and consider the things that he was saying to himself allowed him the opportunity to take control of his thoughts and deescalate his emotions.
Physical Relocation – If a younger child throws a temper tantrum you may not have control over how they are behaving but you can control where they behave that way. Many parents have success by placing or directing the child to another location in the home to get their behavior under control. They do this while informing the child of the conditions by which they will be allowed to return to their presence. It may sound something like, “Logan the way you are behaving right now is unacceptable. You need to take yourself down to your room right now. Please come back when you get it under control and we can talk about this in a quiet calm manner.”
With a resistive older child you may need to remove yourself from the situation if things are getting too heated. This will give you time to collect your thoughts and allow the child time to calm down. Return as often as needed to assess the situation and determine if they have regained control. You could ask, “Are you ready to talk calmly?” When ready, listen to understand their perspective regarding the situation, gently correct any thinking errors they may have and apologize for anything you may have done which inflamed the situation. Then teach them what they could do the next time they feel they are starting to lose control. For example, “Instead of throwing your book and yelling at me the next time you get upset, try telling me you are angry and ask if you can go to your room until you are ready to talk about it.”
Connecting and Contact – Some children respond well to touch, eye contact and soothing statements like, “it’s okay”, “settle down” or “it’s going to be alright”. It has been referred to as “time-in” as compared to “time-out” where children are sent away from the parent. When emotionally distraught these children feel safe and secure when the adult pulls them in and models calmness and self-control. Children who need this kind of assistance will regain control of their emotions much more quickly when you hold them close than if you were to send them to their room to try and regain control on their own.
Set Limits – I have told many parents that I have seen far better results when parents spend less time telling their children what to do and more time telling them what they themselves are going/willing to do. This comes from the fact that we really have little control over others but who we do have control over is ourselves. An example of this is telling a child the conditions under which you will be willing to hear what they have to say. Such as, “I will be happy to listen to you when your voice is quiet and calm” or “I will start cooking dinner when you guys can get it under control and stop fighting.” As you can see this can be effective with a lot of parenting situations.
Logical Consequences – When necessary and appropriate impose logical consequences and tie them back to the inappropriate behavior. For example, Logan learns that his mother is going to go shopping and he wants to go with her. However, the last time he went with her he caused a scene and knocked over a display when his mother told him she would not buy some markers that he wanted. When he tells her that he wants to go she says to him in a matter of fact way, “remember the last time we went to the store and you threw a fit and knocked over that display? Well, I want to enjoy shopping today so you won’t be going but I bet dad can find something for you to do while I am gone. See you soon.” You can see how she tied the consequence (not being allowed to go shopping with her) back to the poor behavior (throwing a fit the last time they went shopping together). For the child this would feel much different than if she had grounded him from the Wii for a week for the incident.
If after you have tried these anger management tips your child still struggles with managing their anger, it may be time to seek the help of a professional counselor. A trained counselor will be able to gain a better understanding of what is influencing your child’s ability to manage their anger and intervene at a much deeper level. Remember, if at any time your child is destroying property or you feel they are a danger to themselves or others you should contact the authorities in order to protect yourself and your child.