Most young children have trouble controlling their temper. Put yourself in their shoes. They are tiny independent thinkers who have little control over their surroundings. They eat when food is provided, have no say in when or where they can live or go to school, etc. They do not have the maturity yet to understand that they must choose what is good for them over what they want. No wonder they get so furious. Anger management is not something that comes naturally to them.
However, as they grow older, children start learning how to control their temper. By five or six, young children are not throwing tantrums like they were when they were two. However, there are still children who have trouble controlling their tempers. That is quite normal.
Here are tips on how you can teach your child to manage his/her anger:
- If your child appears to be so upset that he/she might hurt someone or something, then immediately move your child physically out of the area.
- Keep calm. Often when a child is out of control, he/she is looking to you for support. They need someone to bring them back to the shore after they have been swept off by a flood of emotion. Make sure you talk calmly, slowly and firmly.
- Teach them to distract themselves. Ask yourself how you control your own temper. Do you take a deep breath, do you walk away, do you distract yourself with something else? Teach your child these skills. If you, yourself, have trouble with anger, then practice some way to control your temper and model that behaviour with them. For example, if Riya is upset with her child, she turns away for a moment and announces that she is really angry and needs a minute to calm down. This way, Riya’s children know that when they get angry next time, they can take a moment’s break before responding.
- Give them words to express their feelings. Often anger and aggression come from not being able to express themselves. Teach them the vocabulary they need to express their anger. Give them words like “frustrated”, “irritated”, “tired”, “annoyed”, etc in your own language. Encourage them to speak about their feelings and what makes them feel this way. And when they share their feelings, do not deny them. Accept them and show them that their feelings are valid.
- Give them love and attention. Children who get habitually angry, either get too much or too little from their parents. As parents, we should give our children our love and attention, but not our anxieties or distractions. Be calm and love your child. Make sure you spend a little time everyday giving your child all your attention. However, do not give into all your child’s notions and desires. Similarly, do not deny your child too many of his/her notions and desires. Keep a balanced attitude. Bond with your child so that he/she knows that you have their back.
Anger is a natural and normal emotion. To raise emotionally healthy children, we need to teach them how to process and express this difficult feeling.