This is part two in the Love Parenting series on Anger Management for Children. In part one we looked at working on ourselves. Going inwards and creating an atmosphere of calm. Finding more patience and meeting our own needs. You can watch/read part one here if you missed it.
In this section, we are going to look at the many reasons why our children might feel angry. When our children experience strong feelings of anger, it can be very scary for us as parents to witness. We don’t like to see our children so out of control and it can be terrifying for us to watch them feeling so furious when we can’t understand where that anger is coming from, what the cause is and what we can do to help them.
So I want to give you a list of some of the reasons why children may be angry and why they may be expressing that anger in such explosive ways.
Some of them are not what you would expect.
1. Fear. It isn’t always something that they are furious about. It is sometimes something they are terrified of, and that reaction looks very different from what you would expect to see from a frightened child.
When a child is afraid, their first reaction may be to lash out. And we as parents may not even be aware that our child is frightened, we may miss that trigger. It doesn’t have to be something huge that sets off fear in our child, and as such we often overlook how they may perceive a situation.
It could be as simple as having to stand up in front of a group of children to say her name. It could be being surrounded by people he doesn’t know or doesn’t feel safe with. It could be someone having said something which makes her feel uneasy and uncertain of what is about to happen.
And that unease can create a huge amount of tension within the child, which comes out in the form of anger.
2. Embarrassment. When a child is put on the spot and expected to perform, or someone says something personal about them, they feel that tension building inside themselves. We as adults know how awful it can feel to be humiliated and embarrassed. Now multiply that feeling by many times, because as a child these feelings are not only horrible but mixed in with a whole lot of confusion.
Embarrassment is a horrible feeling for anyone, but it is so much worse for our children. They cannot reason or understand it as we can, they cannot push it out of their minds and shrug it off. It affects them far deeper, and to their unhardened spirits, it can take a very little thing to hurt their feelings.
As that tension builds and they don’t know how to release it, once again we may see a huge eruption of anger as they try to free themselves of this horrible feeling.
3. Hunger, tiredness, thirst, moving house, a new sibling. All these normal childhood occurrences that we take in our stride can be huge for a child.
Basically anything, be it little or big can create tension and uncertainty, and tension and uncertainty in children often comes out as anger,
4. The child reflecting or absorbing the anger of surrounding people. It could be your own anger. It may be that you are calm and patient, but they are playing with other children who are experiencing their own anger issues and pushing their tension onto your child through no fault of their own.
Someone pushing them over, someone being unkind, someone taking a toy from them, or not letting them play in their group. Another adult, perhaps a relative or a friend saying something they are uncomfortable with or not treating them with the respect they are used to.
There is a never-ending list of triggers which may or may not affect your child and make them feel tense, resulting in anger.
It isn’t always obvious and in fact, we frequently need to search hard for the instigating trigger. And when we miss that fleeting comment or don’t see the discomfort in our child’s eyes as someone talks to them, we can be really taken by surprise when the first thing we see is our son or daughter shouting and lashing out, when just moments before you thought they were fine.
All of a sudden your sweet child is a raging flailing ball of fury and it is quite possible that our first instinct might be to tell them to calm down and explain themselves, to enable us to understand.
But of course, telling an angry person to, “calm down, there’s nothing to be angry about, please stop shouting,” just creates more anger. They want to be heard, they need to be understood, the last thing they need is to be told to calm down. They are using the only tool available to them to show you how uncomfortable they are with what’s happening.
It is really a massive cry for support and understanding.
When we insist that they calm down, we squash their release. Rather than getting it all out, it builds and it builds and it builds. They are so close to the edge that even the slightest trigger can be enough to set off an epic meltdown. Suddenly we are finding that our child is experiencing multiple episodes of undiluted rage and anger throughout the day. We find ourselves wondering what on earth is happening, why are they so volatile? Where did all this aggression come from?
And though we may start the day feeling patient and loving and ready for anything, as these episodes of anger mount up, we may find ourselves beginning to struggle. We don’t understand what is happening. We can’t seem to find a way to break this awful cycle.
And inevitably, eventually our patience runs dry and we snap and have our own angry meltdown. And guess what? When our child feels our anger directed towards him, he feels EVEN more tense. And yep, you guessed it. That tension once again gets released as an angry explosion of his own.
It sounds like an unwinnable situation, doesn’t it?
But do not despair.
We have looked at all the many reasons why your child may be feeling tense and displaying anger, and as you can see there are many.
As a parent, your first step should be to look closely and be mindful of what it is that triggers your child. It is very difficult for someone else to tell you why your child is angry because nobody knows your child like you do.
You are the expert on your child, you know the subtle signs they give when they are feeling upset or worried. Keep a diary of their behaviour and what has been going on in their life. Look for links. Try to pre-empt anger by avoiding situations you know are going to make them uncomfortable, or to talk to them as soon as you see something that may be a trigger to give them an opportunity to talk openly about their worries without leaving it to build inside them.
And if you miss it, and they have an angry outburst, wait until they have calmed down and then simply talk to them, openly and lovingly. Ask them about what happened and how it made them feel. You will find that if you remain open and ready to listen, they will learn to come to you, and you will begin to get an insight into the things that make them feel angry. From there, you can learn to tackle this anger together in a healthy way.
And in part three, our final segment to this series on anger management, that is exactly what we are going to discuss. What you can do if your child is very angry and flying off the handle regularly, how to help them manage their emotions and work through it together.
Look out for part three in your inbox this Friday.
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