Does your child's alarm clock turn a wake-up call into moody battle? Does your teen drop all his clothes on the floor, so you can't walk through his room? Or, do you feel like your teen is freezing you out with a steady glare in his eyes?
How do you help your child or teen begin to understand anger and well, have a relationship with it?
8 Parenting Tips: Helping Your Angry Child and Teen
It's hard to cope with anger once it has grown into a hurricane with a tornado of powerful energy. How can parents respond without fighting back, so kids can think and reason while they simmer?
1. Become a Witness, Not a Participant
Slo-o-w Down. Never, no never, tell an angry person to calm down. It's so irritating to hear! It's so hard not to react immediately to provocations, but if you step back, observe, and become a witness instead of a participant, it's amazing how you'll see your child simmer down, too.
2. Find a Way to Introduce Language with a Metaphor
If you've been able to step back and witness, you may find the time to discover a metaphor that describes a way to discuss angry feelings: a stormy day, a wild tornado, a minefield of clothes, a cloudy mood. Use language that your child can connect to that describes anger without feeling criticized. When anger is called "the wave" or "the storm," it gives you and your child a way to talk about it without judgment.
3. Extend an Invitation to Your Child to Become Self-Observant.
In a quiet moment, hang out with your child without an agenda. Let him or her know that anger is like a wave that rises, peaks, and falls. Ask her if she ever noticed that she can tell when the wave is coming before the peak. Invite her to become tuned in to when this is happening and tell you if she wants, "Mommy, I'm feeling like the wave is going to peak. Help!"
4. Educate but Don't Preach.
Anger often lurks below the surface before the explosion. Encourage your child to think back, moment by moment, as to what led it to surface. This way the unseen becomes seen. The unknown becomes knowable.
5. Use Your Feelings.
Parents can become attentive to how they feel while the anger is churning in their child. Without reacting, monitor your own emotions as a clue to what your child's emotions might be like. You and your child are separate individuals, but tuning into your feelings can guide you when you try to help your child understand hers.
6. Words Tame Emotions When There is No Blame.
Let your child know how ready you are to listen to his thoughts without any blame. Instead of rushing in with solutions, just be a sounding board.
7. Listening Reduces the Feeling of Being Alone with Angry Feelings
Once your child feels you are on his or her side, they may be ready to see how anger has been turned outwards or inwards. Sometimes anger turned outwards-- into the messy room--the slammed door--the flung backpack-- is to prevent the feelings from turning inward into a feeling of gloom or rejection. Discuss these possibilities without judgment.
8. How Can Anger be a Benefit?
• Anger isn't bad or damaging when it becomes the key to understanding yourself or solving problems. Help your child discern the difference between anger that hurts and anger that leads to insight.
• Anger is a feeling that offers a message and can build parent-child bonds
• Anger tips us off that something needs to be understood and addressed.
• Anger can clear the air when it is comprehensible and mobilizes problem solving.
Greet your child's anger. Don't fight it. Join your youngster and listen wisely.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst with a new book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.
This article was first posted on Laurie's blog, Parental Intelligence.