One of the most common things parents talk with me about is how to manage their children’s anger. Picture this! Something doesn’t go quite the way your child wanted. All of a sudden there is an explosive outburst, they start yelling, screaming, hitting or throwing things or simply storm off and slam a door. You have an inkling of what’s going on but you’re not 100% sure. You wait it out, tiptoeing around the house, not wanting to ‘set them off’ feeling a bit resentful about how anxious you are in your own home. Alternatively, when your buttons have been well and truly pushed, you counteract their yelling and screaming with some yelling and screaming of your own. When everything and everyone has finally calmed down you are so grateful for the peace and quiet you really don’t want to talk about what actually happened in case it ‘sets them off’ again.
Where is this anger coming from?
Did you know that while anger is a normal human emotion it is also considered to be a secondary emotion? It’s very rare for anger to just come out of nowhere. Usually, another emotion, perhaps anxiety, disappointment or frustration, is beneath the surface. A common way I explain it to children is to use the analogy of an iceberg. Every child I’ve used this analogy with has understood that we only see the tip of the iceberg, that most of the iceberg is hiding below the surface of the water. It is like this with anger too. On the surface we see the anger – the yelling, screaming, hitting and throwing things. But underneath the anger are a whole lot of other complex feelings going on.
How can you help?
Helping children understand their emotions and talk about their emotions is called emotion coaching. By reflecting back to children how they might be feeling we help increase their understanding of how their feelings impact their behaviour. They learn alternative ways to deal with strong feelings like disappointment and frustration. Through emotion coaching we can help children to regulate their emotions, and emotional responses, leading to a more calm and happy family life.
If you would like to find out more about helping your child with their emotions please get in touch by clicking the link below.