Everything You Need To Know About:
CHILD ANGER MANAGEMENT
Anger is a natural emotion experienced by all living creatures. When angered, animals, including humans, react and display certain behaviors. Although humans can use language to communicate feelings, needs, and desires, they often resort to actions and behaviors instead. Some of these angry reactions are inborn; however, children learn how to respond to emotions through their environment, as well. Children are taught how to cope with various feelings by observing their parents, teachers, and peers.
Anger can be a positive emotion because it tells us when something is wrong, or that we are in danger. Learning how and when to respond to the different feelings that coincide with anger are the valuable lessons we need to teach our children. The most important way to teach children to cope with their anger is by modeling appropriate behav¬iors, including communication. This is especially crucial for young children, who are learning how to associate words with their feelings.
Development of Anger Management
Children frequently display their anger inappropriately because they have not yet developed good coping strategies. Children cannot comprehend how actions or certain situations can provoke angry feelings. Something triggers a reaction in the child and they do not know how to deal with the flood of emotion. Young children are not yet intellectually advanced enough to label emotions correctly and to respond in a socially desired manner. Because their language isn’t fully developed they turn to physical actions, such as hitting, kicking, screaming, pushing, and biting, all of which are inborn responses.
Understanding the typical behaviors associated with each age is helpful to parents as their children mature. Although these developmental stages do not correspond to every child exactly (they do not take into account social/environmental factors or individual temperament, for example), they can be useful guide¬lines to follow.
A Two-Year-Old Child: Making decisions is a challenge for two-year-olds. They are curious and want answers to everything. "Why?" is the two-year-old's favorite question. During this stage of development there is limited, if any, sharing. At two and a half, children begin to display forceful and often belligerent emotions. They want everything, especially what they cannot have. Children in this developmental stage express strong feelings for what they desire and will do whatever it takes to accomplish their goal.
A Three-Year-Old Child: A child at this age starts to feel more independent and comfort¬able sharing with others. However, a three-year-old often feels scared in new environments and situations. As a result, he or she strives for control again. Their discomfort can be shown through aggressive behavior and displayed through verbal attacks, such as, "I hate you!"
A Four-Year-Old Child: At four years old, a child will act out in a variety of ways when provoked. Spitting, hitting, and even running away is common behavior when the child does not get what he or she wants. While they need boundaries, children enjoy pushing the limits at this age. Verbal aggressiveness and name-calling can increase.
A Five-Year-Old Child: Five-year-olds try to be "good" and to please their parents, but would rather stay within their comfort-zone than be exposed to new things. Children at this age still exhibit behaviors such as sulking and tantrums when they become angry and upset.
A Six-Year-Old Child: Six- year-old children have trouble making decisions and communicating what it is that they want. They strive for independence and grow competitive with peers, always wanting to be the first and the best. As a result, they feel a lot of anxiety. Six-year-olds also want to be the center of attention. They can be verbally and physically aggressive, and use phrases like: "Make me" or "No, I won’t do that." Bullying and teasing siblings or peers can appear at this stage in child development.
A Seven-Year-Old Child: The seven-year-old child tends to withdraw and look inward when things become difficult or they feel upset. Worry becomes a major preoccupation, and children at this age display concern with what is fair versus unfair. They begin to think about the environment in which they live and the world around them.
An Eight-Year-Old Child: Eight-year-olds are endlessly inquisitive; they want to know about everything that is happening around them. Children at this age still want their mother's attention and will rival with siblings to get it, thus creating jealousy and friction in the family dynamic. Eight-year-olds tend to be very sensitive and their feelings can easily be hurt.
A Nine-Year-Old Child: Nine-year-old children continue to seek independence. They do not want to be told what to do and often resent rules and boundaries. These children may rebel against their parents, or at least criticize or ignore them.
How Can a Parent Help?
Before you can help your children cope with their anger, you first must examine your own feelings of anger and the way in which you deal with these feelings. Children learn by watching their parents. It is crucial that parents be cognizant that their personal process of anger management is observed and will be imitated by their children. Furthermore, understanding the typical developmental behav¬iors of children assists parents in knowing which behaviors are uncommon and might need further investigation. Here are some things to try:
Positive reinforcement: Because children crave attention, positive reinforcement is a very effective tool for teaching children desired coping behaviors. Make your child's good behavior the focus rather than their bad behavior. Reward your child often with a small treat, prize, or special attention for every short period of time that your child acts appropriately. Be consistent because your child needs to clearly understand what is expected of them. School counselors or psychologists can offer assistance with creating a behavior plan to help manage a child’s anger.
Help children understand and express feelings: When tantrums become louder and actions become violent, tell the child that you will wait until they sit and use a calm voice. You can validate their anger by asking how you can help. Calmly saying something like, "I see that you are angry, what can I do to help you?" will let them know that you care how they are feeling. Children may not always get what they want, but you are teaching them that their feelings matter. You also show them that there are more acceptable ways to get what they want and accomplish their goals without aggressive behavior. Also, it is important to practice problem solving skills and techniques so your child is prepared to demonstrate positive, non-violent behavior when faced with conflict.
Relaxation and self talk: By the time your children enter school, positive self talk can help them soothe themselves and avoid an outburst. Self talk statements such as, “I can do this, just relax" or “Take a deep breath, I can handle it,” are useful ways for children to control their anger at times when it is critical that they calm down. Teach them relaxation techniques such as counting to ten, or taking several deep breaths when confronted by challenges or anger-provoking situations. Make sure that the self talk techniques you practice with your child are age-appropriate.
Parents play a significant role in their children’s behavior management. Parents who use positive approaches to help children deal with their anger and demonstrate effective coping techniques themselves will strengthen the child’s emotional development. Children will be sturdier and able to manage the difficult situations they face in the course of everyday life.
Some children, on the other hand, inappropriately display anger because they have not yet learned more suitable coping strategies. Others may become violently angry or display hazardous behaviors that are dangerous to themselves and others. If there is an increase in your child's anger, determine whether any significant changes have occurred in his or her life which might negatively affect your child. If he or she is displaying severely violent or dangerous behaviors, it is strongly recom¬mended that you seek additional assistance from a pediatrician or school counselor.