Anger Management

April 28, 2008 – 8:52 pm

The problem of children not controlling their anger seems to be on the increase across all age groups and we are receiving more referrals for Counselling and Behaviour Therapy for this problem. But what can parents do to stop an occasional display of temper escalating into a regular event which causes conflict within the family and trouble at school?

Young children

Children around the age of two often have temper tantrums, which need calm and firm handling. Young children do not have the words to express their angry feelings and frustrations, so may resort to screaming and lashing out to make their point. Setting clear boundaries about acceptable behaviour can be explained to children from an early age.

Showing them alternatives

Acknowledging that your child is angry about something and teaching him/her other ways of “getting it out” can be a great help e.g. drawing and ripping it up afterwards, punching the pillow (ensure this is safe to do) and jumping up and down chanting “I am angry”. Regular physical activity or sport is a great way to use up a young child’s excess energy. Limit the time they are allowed to play computer games that encourage violent or combative behaviour.

Colours can help and hinder

If your child is going through an “angry phase”, avoid dressing them in red, orange or even vivid pink. These colours are very stimulating and energising and are likely to add fuel to the flames! We have all heard of people “seeing red” when they are angry. Try clothes in shades of blue for a calming influence. Babies, in particular, should be dressed in pastel colours not vivid shades.

They are what they eat

There is no doubt that what children eat and drink affects their mood generally and their performance at school. Avoid giving them any fizzy drinks that include caffeine, particularly coke, cola and the like. Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and is very bad news for children, particularly if they are having anger problems. Replace with unsweetened fruit juice mixed with water. Too many sweets and chocolates can also cause a sudden surge of uncontrollable energy followed by a slump.

Teenagers

Unresolved problems with anger management can become more severe in the teenage years, not least because the young person may be bigger and stronger than the parent in some cases. Hormones play an unhelpful role at this time, routinely causing mood swings. They may even revert back to the two-year-old phase and have tantrums because they are unable to express themselves.

Watch out for other signs

If problems with anger suddenly develop and do not diminish, this may be a sign of another problem. Although not the most likely causes of teenage anger problems, parents still need to keep a close eye out for signs of alcohol, substance or drug abuse. Both can cause sudden personality changes, including a predisposition to anger and violence. Other issues that can result in anger management problems include being bullied, bereavement, parental separation and divorce and other problems at school.

What can parents do?

Try to keep the communication channels open and encourage your teenager to talk about what is making them angry, ideally when they are in a calm frame of mind. If it is conflict about what they are expected do or not do at home, discuss what they are willing to agree to and explain the reasons behind the rules. Avoid simply “laying down the law” as this may encourage rebellion.

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