WHEN ANGER COMES TO TOWN

WHEN ANGER COMES TO TOWN

Picture an old, quiet western town. The townsfolk are busy with their daily affairs. The stagecoach is loading up. Ranchers are loading supplies into their wagons. It looks like a scene right out of Bonanza.

And then someone cries out, “The McCoys are coming!” (My apologies if your last name is McCoy, it’s the only western sounding name I could think of). All of a sudden the entire atmosphere changes. People start scurrying off the street back to the safety of their homes. Store owners close their curtains and warily peek through.

This is what it can feel like when anger comes to town in your home. If you have a child who gets angry and throws a fit when the slightest circumstance doesn’t go his way, you can start to feel like you are walking on eggshells, trying to set reasonable limits without triggering another shouting match.

I have talked to many parents where anger was a too frequent and not at all welcome visitor to their family. While there can be a variety of reasons for this and appropriate responses will vary to some degree based on your child’s age, let me give you a couple ideas for how to keep anger from disturbing the peace in your family:

1) Set a good example. If your child struggles with anger control, the last thing he needs is mom or dad losing their cool as well. The first thing he needs is an example of how to be frustrated the right way. This means showing him that a person can be frustrated and stay in control at the same time.

2) Talk about it. During a calm time, talk with your child about what makes him angry. Start by listening to him and try to see things from his perspective.

3) Help your child find a better solution. Once you have listened to your child’s point of view, then you can help him think of good ideas for how to handle the situations he finds frustrating. You can have him make a list of good and bad ideas and see which he thinks will be most helpful.

4) Remember the respect-privilege connection. While there are times when a warning or a productive discussion are appropriate responses to disrespectful behavior, significant or repeated disrespectful behavior should be followed by a suitable negative consequence, such as a Time-Out or privilege loss, or both. Your child needs to understand that privileges are not automatic. In short, respectful behavior turns privileges on, disrespectful behavior turns them off.

5) Get help if needed. If your child is not responding to your effort to help him make better choices, you can always consult with a qualified therapist to help you get things back on the right track.

Anger may come to town now and then, but luckily, there is a sheriff who knows what to do (that would be you!). Help your kids learn how to work through their angry feelings the right way and you’ll have a much more peaceful town.

What gets your kids angry?

What ideas have you found helpful for responding to your child’s anger?

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