When did anger get such a bad rap? As the mom of an ‘angry child’ I’ve gotten quite defensive about just how OK it is to experience anger.
Consider this. How many times a day do you experience anger?
Do you get angry when you are late for school and nobody is getting their shoes on? How about if your husband leaves a dirty shirt on the floor (tell me it’s not just me)? Or what about when your car breaks down?
Those are all reasonable reasons to experience anger, and, that’s ok.
It’s OK to be Angry.
Emotions are normal and healthy. We all experience a wide range of them, maybe some more than others, but, feeling these emotions is normal.
The tricky part, is knowing what to do with them (or how to appropriately express them).
Label the feeling.
You can’t deal with an emotion if you can’t label it. It takes self-awareness, and even some coaching, for a child to truly understand the emotion they are experiencing, let alone to express it and label it.
Validate the emotion.
As parents, we have a great desire to fix or to make every situation better for our children. Often, it’s difficult just to be there for them and validate what they are experiencing, but it’s SO critical to their emotional development.
Validate Your Child’s Feelings: Validate your child’s emotions and feelings, even if you don’t agree.
Validation comes from understanding and labeling the way a child is feeling. It does not contain any judgement as to whether or not the child should be experiencing that emotion.
Anger is OK.
Anger is a perfectly acceptable and normal emotion to experience. Like mentioned above, we adults feel anger likely every day to some extent.
I challenged you above to think about situations in which you experience anger. To really put this into perspective, carry out this simple task. Record the amount of times in a given day you feel mad, likewise, record the amount of times your child seems to experience anger. The results might surprise you.
How to help your angry child.
So, we’ve established that feeling anger is OK. In fact, it’s normal and healthy to experience.
The question is, what do we do with that anger?
How do we react to this healthy emotion?
Hitting, throwing, yelling, slamming, kicking…these are all behaviors that can often stem from feeling angry. This is where we can really help the angry child.
First, validate and empathize with your child’s anger. Then, help them understand what to do with it.
Calming tools for an angry child.
Teaching calming tools as a reaction to feeling anger can be incredibly impactful. Download this free mini calming tools book for some ways to calm down that can be done anywhere.
Set up a calming space where your angry child can go to cool down. This can be treated as a time-in, or a place where your child can go to get some space from others while they work through some big emotions (here is a resource with free printable calm down tools to add).
Set limits. Let your child know that it is OK to be mad, but it is not ok to hurt others or things around us as a result.
Stress balls (check out this DIY) and fidget toys are excellent for kids who feel the need to use their hands when upset. Music or art can be soothing to many who need some time to zone out while their body calms down.
What won’t work.
Saying “calm down” to your angry child will likely exacerbate the feeling, rather than help achieve any calm.
Negate the feelings. Saying “oh it isn’t that big or a deal” or “don’t get mad” can also have negative effects. Remember, anger is ok.
It’s OK to Have an Angry Child.
Experiencing anger is normal and healthy. What we, or our children, do with that emotion is where we can go wrong. Expression and validation can help us begin to work through the emotion in a healthy way. This opens up the opportunity to discuss the issue and practice some calm down tools to help keep our bodies in check. Modeling, empathy, and using the right words can help the angry child feel that yes, anger really is OK.
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