Anger is a natural part of being alive. It is an emotional response that can be triggered by a variety of different situations. In some cases, anger is a symptom of fear, isolation, frustration, or even hunger. Many people struggle to manage anger, but it is especially challenging for children.
Most kids are just learning to identify and understand their feelings, making it tough to express those feelings in constructive ways. If your child is struggling with anger, it is likely a normal phase in his emotional development. There are several things you can do to ease the emotions expressed during a bout of anger and to help your child better cope when these feelings arise.
Very young children often benefit from redirection when feeling angry. When a child is unable to verbally communicate how he is feeling, it can be tough for parents to manage the behavior that ensues. Tantrums are often an expression of anger in young children. Redirection is one of the most effective strategies for helping a young child diffuse a tantrum.
Do not use redirection as a punishment or a reward. Encourage your child to focus his or her attention on something else before feelings of anger escalate into a full-blown tantrum.
Talk about the Issue
Once your child is able to use words to express his feelings, it becomes much easier to deal with anger. Despite having words to use as tools, anger can still be a complicated issue. Your child needs to know that anger is natural and that nothing is wrong, but that it is important for him to express the feelings constructively.
It can also help to discuss why the feelings of anger arose. Many times anger is a symptom of another deeper feeling and if a child can identify this emotion, it might be easier to solve the problem.
Develop Coping Strategies
As your child learns to identify triggers for anger and other emotions, he needs tools to help him prevent his anger from growing out of control. One coping strategy offered by La Leche League International, an organization that encourages breastfeeding and teaches mothers about child development, is the “3+10” strategy.
Tell your child that as he starts to feel anger that could lead to a loss of control, take three deep breathes and then count to 10. You can practice this strategy with your child so he is familiar with the actions when the time comes to use it in response to anger.
Set a Good Example
One of the best ways to help your child manage anger is to do so yourself. If you are an angry person and you lose control of your emotions, he will model your behavior. Think about how you react when you are feeling angry and be honest with yourself about your actions. Try using the 3+10 strategy the next time you feel angry and be a good role model for your child.
Finally, if you have tried everything else and your child is still struggling with anger, it might be time to consider professional counseling. Sometimes children face challenges that require professional support. It is better to seek counseling earl++y than to wait until your child is drowning in emotional issues.