October 25, 2019 5:53:18 pm
Anger is a normal human emotion. Recent studies have shown that even babies, as young as two months old, have been known to display symptoms of anger when their needs have not been met. As a baby turns into a toddler and develops a sense of ‘self’, his anger gets expressed in the form of frustration, defiance or temper tantrums. The ‘terrible twos’ phase that most toddlers go through is them asserting their independence and indicating their frustration and anger for not getting their way.
As they get older, the anger may manifest itself into hitting, spitting, kicking or biting. And while it may be very cute when a one-year-old attempts to hit us, if we don’t step in and correct our child, we are unconsciously indicating that it is okay to hit someone if we are angry. If left unchecked, this type of behaviour can affect our child’s social skills and relationships as he grows. So, what can we do as parents?
As with everything else in parenting, the earlier you start the better. Spend a little time observing your child and watch how he reacts to situations where he doesn’t get his way. Does he throw a tantrum? Does he shout? Does he fling things across the room? Does he hit out at the person standing nearest to him? Introspect on how you deal with the situation. Do you give into his demands immediately? Do you take the time to explain why you are not allowing him to do what he wants? Do you encourage him to communicate what he wants?
Talk about it
If your child frequently displays symptoms of anger, talk to him about it. Explain the difference between the feeling and the behaviour. It is okay to feel angry. However, how you display that anger is being questioned. It is okay to say ” I’m angry with you.” It’s not okay to push someone or hit someone because you are angry with them. Explain that all of us feel angry from time to time. It’s important for them to understand that anger is a normal emotion. Saying “Don’t be angry” doesn’t solve the situation. It only buries the emotion without acknowledging it. By allowing them to recognise and acknowledge how they are feeling, you provide them with a safe outlet to express themselves. Talk to them over and over again, under different situations and circumstances. Children need constant reinforcement before it becomes a way of life.
Set an example
Model the behaviour that you would like your child to follow. If we shout at our children when we’re angry, they are likely to do the same. The same rules need to apply to both adult and child. If you want them to talk to you respectfully, you need to do the same. Our children are constantly watching us. They need to see us express anger in healthy, appropriate ways. If a car overtakes you on the road in a dangerous manner, it’s okay to say “I’m angry with the driver for driving so rashly. He’s endangering himself and us.” It’s not okay to speed up behind the car while blowing your horn incessantly and rolling down the window just to abuse him in the local language. While not burdening them with your issues, its okay to express that sometimes adults get frustrated too. If you do happen to lose your temper, talk about it. Don’t brush it under the carpet. Acknowledge that you could have handled the situation differently and that we are all a work in progress. Discuss what you could have done differently. “I’m sorry that I shouted at you. I should have walked away and come back when I was calmer.”
Restrict aggressive shows
Children also model behaviour that they are exposed to. A friend’s son used to watch the seemingly innocuous ‘Tom and Jerry’ shows when he was three years old. But at that age, children are unable to distinguish between reality and fiction. Every time, Tom hit Jerry on the head, everybody laughed. And Jerry just got up and walked away. In reality, if you hit someone on the head with a bat, you are going to get badly hurt. After she stopped making him watch the show, she saw a marked improvement in how he reacted in conflict situations. Television shows that model aggressive or violent behaviour will impact the way your child conducts himself. Keep a check on the kind of shows that your child watches.
Follow a family code
Discuss and implement clear rules for the family on what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Some families are okay with loud, vociferous arguing as long as there is no hitting involved. For others, raising voices is deemed to be aggressive. Discuss as a whole family and agree on a code of conduct for expressing anger.
Show them how to cope
Provide your child with coping strategies. It’s not enough to say “Don’t hit.” Teach them what they can do instead. Options include walking away until they are calm enough to have a conversation or encouraging them to use their words to communicate what they want. Encourage them to take long, deep breaths to calm themselves down. As they get older, journal writing also helps to acknowledge and express feelings.
If you notice your child successfully managing his anger, acknowledge it. Positive reinforcement works wonders with children. Show them that you notice when they try to improve their behaviour. Often, we only draw attention to their negative behaviour rather than focusing on what they’re doing right. Managing one’s anger isn’t an easy task. It’s a constant work in progress. By starting early and providing your child with anger management tools, you are teaching him life skills that will enable him to carve his way through life in a healthy manner.
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