Rules of Handling Intense Emotions like Anger

anger, regulating emotions, kids, handling anger

My Script for Anger

When my 5 year old son gets really angry, I remind him “It’s okay to be angry. Everyone gets angry. But, it’s NOT okay to hurt others or yourself.” Then as my son starts hitting the wall or trying to knock something over. I continue, “I can see you’re really mad, but it’s not okay to destroy the things around you.” He can get very angry at times, so I remember to stay calm and coach him through it. Every time is an opportunity to calmly help him recognize if the size of his reaction is appropriate for the size of the problem, which starts teaching him to regulate his emotions. It has been a journey so far, and I learn something new everyday.

Rule #1: Validation – It’s Okay to Feel Angry

Let your kids know it’s okay to feel angry. Tell them that anger is a normal feeling and that everyone gets angry, even you. Tell them that the way they feel is always normal and ok… everyone has feelings. Don’t tell them they are not feeling how they feel… thing is, they ARE feeling how they feel whether you want them to or not. So, better to talk to them about their anger or what they are feeling and teach them what to do with it so they can become more aware of themselves and their emotions. Bottom line is, anger is normal and they are experiencing something very real and intense.

Rule #2: Limits – Give Boundaries

Next, you need to set boundaries. Boundaries set limits on their behavior. See, emotions are acceptable, but not all behavior is. Tell them that they can not hurt others or yourself, and that they can not destroy the things around them. Learning to manage anger is a skill that you will help them with, just like riding a bike, and the boundaries are always the same for all people. Double check before moving on to #3 that your child understands his emotions are ok, but his behavior has very real limits.

Rule #3: Planning – Agree on Ways to Handle Anger

Discuss ideas for handling anger before your child is angry so they can use them when they do get angry. When angry, kids need words to express themselves. Give them different ideas of what to say when they are angry like I’m mad, that makes me angry, ah man that’s not what I wanted to happen, oh come on, etc. My son used to attack the kids who knocked over his lego towers, even if it was on accident. But, once he had the words to say what he was feeling, he stopped being so physically aggressive. I went on to teach him how to talk to the kids who were near about being careful with his structure and even ask moms who’s babies were wandering near to make sure they don’t knock it over. Once you know the triggers for your child’s anger, you can help bring their awareness to when they start to get angry and guide them to cool off before things escalate. I don’t always catch it that early though. What works best for my son in the moment is acknowledging his anger, empathizing, and then setting limits, and then problem solving. So, if he’s getting really angry, I might say, “I can see that you are really upset your tower fell, I would be upset too, but it’s not okay to hurt others… say how you feel, say, I’m so mad!” Then I might see him break down crying because of how sad he is it broke because of how hard he had worked on it. I wonder out loud, modeling problem solving, how we can fix it and then let him come up with the solution of rebuilding. Thing is, anger is usually the emotion we see, but there is often something under it… sad, scared, worried, frustrated, defeated, victimized, etc. If you get mad at your kid who is angry, you’ll never actually know why they are angry. As your kids get older, you’ll find by giving them tools to handle their emotions and talk about what is going on, they will learn effective problem solving.

 

Rule #4: Skills – Practice Handling Anger Ahead of Time

Your child will be more receptive to learning when they are calm and relaxed. This is the perfect time to practice handling anger with them in a fun way. I love to role play with my son. I find he does better the more we role play situations. It somehow allows him to process what he’s learning and commit it to long term memory. So, do some role play where each of you pretend to get angry and then try solutions, one at a time. Be sure to talk aloud when you are modeling, so they can hear your thought process. Next, extend the role play to recognizing the feelings/situations that lead up to the anger outburst and resolving them before they are overwhelming. Lastly, make up situations big and small and role play different reactions to match the size of the problems. A general rule of thumb… the more people needed to solve a problem, the bigger the problem. This way, you are both becoming skilled at identifying when anger is on it’s way and dissolving it, as well as, your child gains the skills needed to handle anger appropriately when it shows up.

Rule #5: Stay Calm

When my son gets really angry, I take some deep breathes myself to stay calm, and I wait to see if he needs gentle reminders about appropriate ways to handle his emotions. If I get really excited or upset, I find it makes his emotions stronger. Also, how you handle their anger is how they will handle situations when they are around others who are angry. No need for our kids to absorb others’ intense emotions… so let’s teach them to stay calm by staying calm ourselves. Also, by staying calm, we allow our kids a little space to solve handling emotions on their own. And, step in and guide your child as needed. Remember, intense emotions like anger can be really scary for a young child, so be their calm guide through it. You may find they need a bit more guidance at the beginning, but with your consistently calm support they will gain the skills they need to regulate themselves in intense situations.

Continued role play that include new and relevant situations will help keep your kids’ skills fresh and hone their ability to handle their anger. Also, talk to them about things that made you angry as they come up and how you dealt with it. All moments, even ones that make you angry can be opportunities in disguise. So allow yourself to feel angry, but then look for what the opportunity is too. Teaching your child this will teach resilience. My son was very upset his tower was knocked down, but then after talking to him about it after he calmed down, I asked if there was any way he would improve his last design. And, he got really excited about adding windows this next time. We enjoyed building it back together, with the update of windows.

Thank you for empowering your children to handle anger and other intense emotions in an appropriate way. You are making the world a better place.

Lots of Light,

Candice.

Talk to Your Kids About Their Anger

OH NO! It’s Anger!

angry, anger, kids, emotions

ANGER is a normal emotion.

Too often, kids are taught that it’s not okay to be angry. I overheard a babysitter telling my son not to be angry, but instead to be happy. I didn’t correct her at the time, because I didn’t have the tools I’m going to share on this site. But, when she’s back next, I will be sure to coach her on how to coach my son through his anger. Truth is, most people are afraid of anger and try to get away from it as fast as possible, because of how powerful it can be and what it can make people do. But that is the exact reason we need to focus on teaching kids the skills to recognize and handle their anger in appropriate ways.

Let’s Get Angry!

To begin, think of something that really makes you angry… I mean really angry. Now, imagine how you’d feel if someone said either of the following: 1) “Don’t be angry, be happy :-)” or 2) “Wow, I can see you’re really upset… I’d be upset too.” In the first sentence, being angry is not okay. But in the second sentence, anger is normal and even understood. You’re kids are having real feelings. Anger is very real. There is no question about it. So, don’t pretend it’s not there or try to redirect them away from it. Acknowledge their feelings, recognize they are angry. This is just a simple observation. “Wow, I can see you’re very upset.” This is the first step to teaching kids how to handle anger.

Anger and Older Kids

If your kids are older, you may find they go right into what happened to make them so angry. The fact that you are just there to listen will give them space to share what’s going on. You could add, “I get really angry sometimes too… would you like to share what happened?” They won’t feel challenged or judged. Remember, actively listening is one of the most powerful and effective methods to help your older kids handle their anger and solve their problems. But if your kids are younger, chances are you know why they are so mad, and they will need coaching to understand how they feel and what to do with their intense emotions.

Anger Can Be Dangerous

Intense emotions lead to many things. If you just look at adults… why do some become addicted to alcohol or drugs or smoking or food? Why are some adults impulsive and other abusive? It’s very obvious… they never learned good coping skills to handle their strong emotions. It’s your job as a parent to teach your child coping skills for their strong emotions… even anger!

If you teach a child that it’s not okay to be angry, they are going to think something is wrong with them. And, every time they feel angry, they are going to try to get away from it as quick as possible. So, when they become adults, what’s the fastest way to get rid of anger? Have a drink or two, a smoke or two, or just hit the nearest person! Empower your child with the ability to handle anger, instead of fearing anger. Talk to them about anger and about what makes you angry and how you handle it. Then, come up with solutions to how they can handle their anger appropriately. They might even have some ideas of how to “cool off”.  Remember to include the rules of intense emotions (coming soon).

Cool Off Mantra for Anger

Imagine if your child had the mantra, “ooo, I’m angry… but I know everyone gets angry at times… now I need to manage my anger… a few deep breaths… count to ten… take a walk…. get some fresh air… I am going to let my body and mind calm down…. I’ll be right back, I need a moment to cool off…  I’m fine, I just need some air… I know the anger will pass… I’m okay… this is normal…” etc. Just think if a child had years to practice this before getting into the real world and how prepared they would be to handle their anger when you are not around.

Talk about anger with your child and foster their emotional intelligence, self-control, self-confidence and self-mastery.

In Happiness,

Candice.