Parenting children with mood disorders

Teach Your Angry Kid To Calm Down

Like most humans, kids get angry, except for when young children get angry, they don’t always know the right way to let off steam. Thus, leaving you with a heated child who’s having a wicked temper tantrum. How do you get your kid to express his or her anger in a positive way? Try teaching your kid these six strategies to blow a gasket without raising an actual ruckus.

When to Teach These Techniques

Before we get into some great tips for getting kids to control those little horns they have hidden in their head, here are a few things to think about……..

Tell them when they’re calm: Don’t teach your children these tricks when they’re already mad. Tell them after they’ve blown a gasket or when you’re simply talking to your little one about feelings, which you should do often. Emotional intelligence is important!

Demonstrate the tricks yourself: Ready to lose your cool? Your kid is watching. Bust out a technique or two to show your kid you can control your temper too. Remember, kids learn by what we do more than what we say.

Remind, remind, remind: If your child gets mad, forgets to use the tools, and then calms down, grab your kiddo while he/she is mellow to remind him/her of the tricks that could have used instead of losing control. Eventually they will become second nature.

The Tricks

  1. Countdown to Calm Down: It’s really tough to not let that impulse to scream or yell take over when you’re angry but if you teach your little one to count down when in the heat of a meltdown it might give your kiddo some time to calm a little before making a bad choice. Countdown so you can calm down . . . it’s easy to remember and kind of catchy!
  1. Ask For a Hug: If your kiddo is ready to blow his/her top off, tell him/her that when angry it’s OK to ask for a hug. A hug makes kids feel better even if they are not going to their way or is upset with parents. Give squeezes and let the tears flow.  While no parent wants their child to cry, usually the tears are a sign of getting out all those yucky feelings your kiddo is struggling to deal with and soon enough, there’s peace in the “homeland” again.
  1. Quiet Activity: Was it right for your child to hit you, throw something, or say fresh words? Nope, but trying to discipline your child in the moment the fire is raging is an exercise in futility. Instead when your child is getting angry or already starting to throw the punches so to speak, direct him or her to a quiet activity like reading a book or doing a puzzle. Approach your child a few minutes later to discuss what had happened. Encouraging your child to do a quiet activity before a tantrum happens can help nip a developing problem in its bud.
  1. Sing a Little Song: When your child is fuming, encourage him to sing a little song or whistle a tune. It’s hard to be pissed if you’re singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake.
  1. Squeeze Something: When you’re mad, sometimes you feel like wringing someone’s neck. Instead of encouraging choking someone, give your kid a doll or stress ball to squeeze or offer a pillow to punch. Every now and then we all have a little pent-up fuel that needs to be released. At least this way no one is harmed!
  1. Talk to Me: Encourage your child to verbalize his/her anger with “I statements” like “I feel angry when you won’t let me do X,” or “I feel angry when X won’t play with me,” etc. Verbalizing the emotion is healthy!

For Parents

Even as a psychologist I have tough moments with my kiddo. Here are a few things I keep in mind when dealing with my kiddo when she’s fuming:

  1. I offer empathy to how she is feeling. She may be mad I am not giving her candy before dinner, but I empathize with how she feels. This doesn’t mean I will then give in but that I acknowledge how she feels.
  2. Consequences must be realistic and carried through. There have been times in which I hear myself rattle off words and after think, there’s no way I will stick with that consequence. I strive to always give a realistic consequence that I can carry out!
  3. Stepping away is sometimes a necessity . . . for parents! When a kid is lashing out it’s not fun. Stepping away for your own timeout is acceptable for your sanity.

We all get angry or “stewed” from time to time. Teaching our kids how to handle their ugly angry side is part of our job. Emotions don’t come with a handbook! Good luck!

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