Why ignoring or sending your angry child to his / her room might not be the solution.
This is because to the child...
- No one wants to listen and no one is willing to help.
- Anger is bad and when I am angry, I am a bad person.
- I am responsible for my anger as no one else knows how to help me.
- When I am angry, I need to keep those feelings inside me.
These might ultimately lead to youngsters being rebellious and having anger management issues that might persist into adulthood.
What parents should do...
- Do not let emotions take over : Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that this is no emergency.
- Listen & try to understand: When your child feels understood, they will feel calmer.
- Take their point of view : Be compassionate, say things like : “I'm sorry this is so hard...You're saying I never understand you... that must feel so
terrible and lonely." Once they feel heard, the truth will shift.
- Do not get affected by personal attacks or rudeness : Your child is simply showing how upset he / she is. In fact he / she may be hurt and scared. Let your child understand that there is no need to raise voices to get heard.
- Set limits to keep everyone safe : "You can be mad, but hitting is not okay. You can stomp to show me you are mad.” If your child hits you, move away but try to stay close. Make him / her feel guilty by telling him / her not to hurt their loved ones.
- When in a full meltdown, empathise and reassure : Do not try to teach,
reason or explain when your child is with adrenaline. Just acknowledge how upset he / she is: "You are so upset about this...I'm sorry it's so hard."
- Remind yourself that tantrums are nature's way of helping immature brains (child) let off steam.
- AFTER your child has calmed down, you can talk : Most young children WANT to hear the story of how they got mad and cried, as long as it's a story, not a lecture. It helps them understand themselves, and makes them feel heard.
Dr Shawn Ee.
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Registered Psychologist (AHPRA; Australia)