I've done a series of posts talking about my five-year-old daughter and the uncontrollable rages she got herself into from a young age. We've had meltdowns in public and increasingly violent outbursts at home.
Now that things are more settled, I promised that I would write up some tips for helping your angry child that we found helpful to us*. Some of them were picked up as we went along, others I knew from when I was a Parenting Worker.
There I said it. This is the one thing that is supremely hard to do when a child is pushing all your buttons AND is kicking off in the middle of playgroup or a school friend's party, but is so, so important to at least work towards. Whether it is counting, walking away or just imagining that there's no one watching or judging, do whatever works for you to keep your cool when circumstances are .... I even used to rehearse the phrases that I would say to my daughter when she kicked off, that way I felt more prepared, and as a result, found it easier to keep my cool.
For example, in a firm but even tempered voice, "I can see from your behaviour that you are angry but it really is time to go home now"
Even if you repeat yourself through gritted teeth, it's better than bawling at them and escalating the situation further.
Stick to Your (proverbial) Guns Try not to back down when they step it up a gear. You may question yourself and think whether an issue as little as no more sweets is worth all the stress, but once you've said no it is important to be consistent. A number of times I would second guess myself and wonder whether I was making too big a deal of something and just give in, then I would regret it when the next tantrum would be even harder to manage as she expected me to give up. But...
Pick Your Battles This may seem to contradict the previous tip but having a child that is highly strung and can make an issue out of anything, and I mean anything, I soon learnt that I couldn't pull her up on everything as that would be miserable and exhausting for everyone. So she wanted to choose her own clothes and ended up with ridiculous outfits? We weren't going anywhere so it didn't matter. Dressing up clothes to the supermarket, why not? But kicking off when TV time was over, that would be something I'd tackle. Have a think about the things that you feel are important to face and those that can be ignored. This will be different for everyone I suspect.
Talk About Feelings
A great thing I learnt through work but something that initially feels silly is making a point of naming feelings.
"I feel ..... today, because...."
"That person on TV looks upset, why do think that is?"
By acknowledging all our feelings and helping children recognise both their feelings and the feelings of others are great at helping them experience their emotions more positively. Yes, this does sound like a bit of hippy /therapy nonsense but trust me, it works.
Also talking things through with your child after they have calmed down is great. Work out together what made them angry, if you can change it and how you can both deal with it better next time.
When Noo would lash out and hurt me it could be quite scary at times and really hard to know what to do. Once, she even chased me round the house trying to get at me! I have even shut myself in a room until she calmed down. What did work was trying to move her to somewhere safe to calm down, whether that was in her room or in the hall at the bottom of the stairs. I would firmly repeat that she should never hit/hurt mummy and remove myself from the situation. I have to admit that when she would lose it this way, she was hard to manage as she didn't respond to anything I'd say, but keeping both of you as safe as possible is the aim.
Find out the cause Try and work out what your child's triggers are. Do they kick off at a certain time of day? Are they tired or hungry? Is it a sense of injustice or just plain old not getting their own way. If you can see a pattern it will make it easier for you and your child to tackle and face. Have Quality 1-1 Time I cannot recommend this one enough. Noo craves this kind of attention and counts down the days to pre-arranged 'Mummy-Noo time' and 'Daddy-Noo Time' . Whether it is going to the park, going shopping, to the cinema, picnic, out for lunch, it doesn't matter as long as it's time together and something that they enjoy. The book 'Love Bombing' has great tips for this.
Noo's Top Tips For Children
- When you feel yourself getting angry start counting
- Walk away when you get cross, go to your room if you can and have time on your own to calm down
- When you feel angry or upset say you need some of your own time and find some where quiet
- Tell your mummy or daddy if you don't like something don't just shout at them
- Always say sorry when you hurt your family
- Try harder next time to stay calm
Books we recommend:
I have to admit I didn't use these all the time and there were occasions where I did just lose it with Noo and did all the things that you shouldn't. But, hey, we are all human and the important thing is not to give up trying. I think with a combination of these things, trying to be consistent and Noo getting older, we turned a corner. I will come back to this post and add things as I think of them so be sure to check back from time to time.
*all these tips are things that we found useful, every child is different and your parenting style may be different to mine so these may not work for you. I am in no way an expert, just sharing what we've picked up – I really hope that some are useful though!
Morgana is a twenty something mum to a 5 year old wanna be princess/fairy/musketeer & a cheeky toddler. She's also partial to a bit of vintage styling & thrifty living.
Blogs at: But Why Mummy Why?
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