A Letter to Parents – Children with Anger Problems
Author: Lynne Namka, Ed. D.
I’m getting so many letters from baffled parents with angry children. Some of the parents have a background of abuse from childhood. Others have a child with an anger prone temperament. Other angry children have a history of sexual abuse the parents may not know about. Some children have a combination of these three factors. If your child has a change in behavior for the worse, ask him or her if someone has touched their private parts or has hurt them in any way.
I call these kids who are different from your ordinary type of discipline kids the Industrial Strength Kids. They require Industrial Strength Parenting. Even more than the ordinary garden variety type of child, Industrial Strength Kids need to learn the skills talking about feelings instead of acting them out, containing their anger, handling criticism and being able to see things from other people s eyes.
So after you read this letter, sit down with your (older) child and read the parts of it to him or her that could be understood. Then work together in making a plan to address the various aspects of what I describe.
Children who talk about their feelings decrease their anger. As they grow up, they are less likely to turn to alcohol or drugs or join gangs. One of the MOST IMPORTANT skills for children with anger to learn is to talk about their feelings instead of acting them out in anger outbursts. Children who talk out their hurts and disappointments have an outlet for their stress.
Some other skills that can be taught and reinforced are taking turns, listening to others, inhibiting behaviors that threaten others, following directions, stopping sarcasm and egging others on. Some of the higher level skills are resolving conflict, listening with empathy when pain and hurt are described, giving support and encouragement and creative problem solving.
Social skills are easy to teach. Children can learn the positive values of treating each other with respect and taking responsibility for their own behavior. The steps to teaching social skills are similar to teaching academic subjects except that play and group activities and discussion plays a stronger role.
- Identify the skill that needs to be learned
- Introduce the skill through discussion and modeling of the desired response
- Give the rule and alternatives to the rule
- Cue the child what to say and do regarding the new skill
- Have the child cue himself through self talk
- Provide practice of the skill through modeling, games, puppet and doll play, and role playing
- Reinforce the new skill during practice
- Teach the child to reinforce himself using self talk for using the skill (Feel good about using the skill!)
- Provide opportunities for generalization and reinforcement of the skill in daily play
You can get a list of specific skills for anger management on my web page called Positive Anger Skills listed under FOR GROWNUPS.
Social skills training gives children a bigger bag of tricks from which to choose. Children can learn techniques to deal with threat and their anger. The habitually angry child can change his perceptual distortions of seeing hostility and threat when there is none. He can learn to master the skills of stating feelings and staying centered during other people’s outbursts of anger and refrain from lashing out at others. Focusing on choices will give him the time to move into logical problem solving. Self-angering thoughts can be challenged and interrupted to inhibit impulsive behavior.
Social competence requires that we learn to feel our emotions, talk about them and make responsible behavior choices that are respectful of others and ourselves. When children learn to feel and talk their feelings, then they can learn to trust others.
If you are not a natural teacher for your own children, find someone who can help them learn necessary social skills of anger management such as a counselor or a college student majoring in education or psychology. My curriculums give all activities to teach anger management skills.
Anger problems in children need to be nipped in the bud so you don’t have tremendous problems during the teen years. You are going to need some help. I strongly recommend that parents take parenting class in the early years and one later on when their oldest child turns twelve (there are a whole set of skills in raising a teen anger!) You can find out about classes by calling your local mental health center or local school counselor. Or look in the paper. You’ll get tremendous support from other parents who are having the same problems you are. You will feel so much better about yourself as a parent!
Keep violent TV and movies to a minimum. Children who watch The Simpsons and South Park will model disrespectful behavior.
Channel your child into one of the martial arts which teaches self discipline and respect for others.
Keep up with the latest trends in anger management. Being the parent of an angry child is a year by year challenge. Sometimes day by day.
Teach your children these lessons which emphasize respect and responsibility and live them yourself. If you are an angry person yourself, your child will act as you do. You will have to address your own anger if you expect your child to change.
Twelve Hugs a Day for all Family Members. You may substitute touches, smiles, compliments and affectionate gestures for the these hugs, but get a balance between these four categories of positive expression. Give twelve positive strokes after a blow out with someone you care about to do damage repair on the relationship. Making up after an argument is a necessary skill to keep a relationship thriving.
Model Good Use of Your Own Mads. Address your own anger when it comes up. Learn safe, appropriate ways to handle it. Talk your angry feelings out loud in your child s presence. Model your getting angry and then taking a Time Out to cool down by announcing to your child what you are doing. Emphasize that your family is becoming a Talk Your Feelings Family!ý
‘Mean What You Say And Say What You Mean,’ said Lucy of the Peanuts cartoon. When you make a commitment, keep it. When you say only what you will follow through on, your children will learn that you mean business. If you say it, do it. Move your body not your mouth for discipline and insist that your child minds by your following though. If you aren’t going to follow through forget about saying it.
Respect Who You Are, Do Not Emphasize on What You Do. Balance effort, success and a sense of being who you are. Yes, effort is necessary to succeed in life. But children need to know that they are more than their latest performance. If self esteem is only tied to effort ( I am valuable due to my achievement) , the child is only as good as his latest project. He will learn to devalue his values and his own self and place too much emphasis on projects. Teach the balance between ‘To be.’ and ‘To Do.’
Learn from Your Mistakes. Errors are for learning, not for beating yourself up. Learn to problem solve after failing and you will have a sure-fire formula for success. Self esteem grows when mistakes are used to examine your life and do it different next time. Stretch and grow from your mistakes and you will have a sure-fire formula for success. You are as mature as you are able to own your errors and get a plan to correct them.
No Sniveling. No whining. No excuses. Take responsibility for your goof ups. Taking responsibility is real power, personal power. That is true POWER!
Don’t Expect To Get Favors in Life. Do Expect That You Will Have To Work Hard For What You Get. Work hard and good experiences will come your way. Entitlement as a way of expecting the world to take care of you rarely works. Expecting to get your way all the time will turn you into a miserable person.
Follow Your Dreams. You May Not Always Get Them But the Journey Will Take You To Some Exciting Places. You will discover new dreams along the way to enrich your life. Dreams keep us alive. They won t all work out, but they can give positive energy to enhance daily living.
Stay Open To Your Inner Voice. You can develop a deep sense of wisdom with in you, by listening to your conscience and your Higher Power. There is a part of you that knows what the right thing is to do in any given situation. Listen to it and you will become a person of integrity.
Use The One Minute Praising and Reprimand Methods
Use these two positive discipline ideas from The One Minute Mother and The One Minute Father by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Get one of these books for your reference library!
Praise Your Child Immediately. Catch Your Child Being Good And Tell His World About It!
- Tell him what he did right. Be very specific.
- Tell him how you feel about what he did and how it effects the family in a positive way. ( I feel pleased, elated, great, etc. that you get your homework done all on your own. You do your job just like I do mine and that’s what families are about. We support each other and let each other know about a job well done.)
- Stop and pause for a minute to let your child feel how good you feel.
- Encourage him to do more of the same good efforts.
- Shake hands, give a high five, shoulder pat or hug.
- Lynne s version: I’d add: Teach your child to praise himself. “Tell yourself to pat yourself on the back. Tell yourself ‘Good job!’ Notice how good you feel when you get your work done.” If your child learns to internalize the positive parent voice when he does something well, he will not be dependent on outside praise.
To Put Limits On Your Anger Outbreaks Use The One Minute Reprimand
- Tell your child beforehand that you are going to let him know in no uncertain terms how he is doing.
- Reprimand your child immediately. Tell him specifically what he did wrong in ONE SENTENCE!
- Tell him how disappointed, upset, sad, frustrated, angry (choose one emotion only)
- Stop and let it sink in. Allow a half moment of uncomfortable silence where he gets how you feel.
- Shake hands, or touch him in a way that lets him know that you are on his side despite your upset feelings.
- Remind him how much you value him, what a cool person he is, etc.
- Reaffirm that you think well of him, but not his performance. (You area a great kid who messed up!)
- Remind him that you realize he will make a better choice next time.
- Let it go. No lectures. No more. Just stop. Realize when the reprimand is over, it’s over.
- Leave with you believing in him and his ability to make good choices next time. (Smiling, not moralizing.)
Recommended Books About Anger
- The Mad Family Gets Their Mads Out (my book). This book teaches children how to express their feelings.
- The Challenging Child, by Stan Greenspan
- Parenting The Strong Willed Child by Rex Forehand
- The Strong Willed Child by James Dobson.
- PURRFECT Parenting by Beverly Guhl and Don Fontenelle
The Indigo Children by Lee Carroll and Jan Tober has some intriguing ideas for working with the type of child who marches to his own drum and thinks differently. They require a different type of discipline and education. The book makes the point that today s children are so instilled in technology that they think differently than the generations that came before. The constant use of computers from an early age has changed them into left brain thinkers with their right brains underdeveloped.
Indigo Children come into the world with a sense of royalty and a feeling of deserving to be here. They have good sense of self, but question unjust authority. They get frustrated with ritualized systems that are designed to meet the needs of others. They do not respond to discipline techniques which involve guilt and force. They require reasoning and being given a chance to work out their own solutions to misbehavior. Some have a high level of energy. They are very bright and often have better, higher level ideas to work out problems. They challenge ridiculous adult behavior. These children need discipline techniques which emphasize respect and responsibility.
For ideas on parenting the Indigo Child, explore these books:
- Back in Control–How to Get Your Children to Behave by Gregory Bodenhamer
- Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay
- Rasing Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinda
- The Life That You Were Born to Live by Dan Millman
- Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell
- Helping Your Hyperactive ADD Child by John Taylor
- The A. D. D. Book by William Spears and Lynda Thompson
Learn about anger management for your own life. If you have a temper, get some help through therapy or an anger management class. Children absorb what they see and hear. Model appropriate use of anger for your child.
Keep reading my pages on anger management until it really sinks in. Keep going back to the website as I will be adding updates.
Peace and blessings to your family,