My 10-year-old son is getting increasingly out of hand. He yells out his demands and gets infuriated when they are not met. If I reprimand him or put him into time out, he takes out his anger on his siblings and me. He speaks very disrespectfully and tends to be quite negative. His behavior is detrimentally affecting everyone in the house. I am out of ideas. I would appreciate any advice you can give me; I am at my wits end.
Mom at the end of her rope
There are times that we must deal with an angry child. The harder we try to inspire and guide, the more this child seems to pull away. As the gap between us grows, we find ourselves at a loss. We confront heavy silences, sudden outbursts, feeling estranged and a deep pain as harsh words are flung at us. Often we want to explode.
Here are 10 practical tips on how to deal with an angry child.
1. Don’t react to anger with anger.
We accomplish nothing by losing our temper, yelling, or giving emotional ultimatums. When we are out of control, we say things we don’t mean. Often we are left with regret. We certainly don’t solve the problem and, in fact, we may cause greater damage. Parents who yell encourage children to yell back louder or retreat into a shell.
2. Don’t slap or get physical.
Many times I receive questions from parents about hitting. Usually it goes something like this:
“My parents/in-laws/husband/wife/ says that what this kid needs is a good slap. That was the only thing that worked when we were growing up and it is the only thing that will set this child straight.”
Sorry, today this will just not fly. You will only be teaching your child to hit when he is frustrated or angered, you will also begin to notice that your children are using their hands against each other. Nothing was accomplished. Ask yourself how this child will handle his frustrations as a husband or father one day.
3. Don’t give in to nagging.
When a child sees that constant nagging forces you to retreat from your position, he learns exactly which button to push. He comes to understand that whining or refusing to take your ‘no’ as a final answer will yield results. Whenever he does not get his way he will go into tantrum mode until you surrender. It makes no difference if you are dealing with a toddler or a teen, as a parent you cannot be afraid to say ‘no’. Be consistent and stick to your decision.
4. Wait for calm to talk it out.
Our sages teach us that we should not approach a person in their moment of anger. Trying to reason with your child in the midst of his outburst will not cede the results you are seeking. Use minimal words and say, “When you are ready to speak calmly and respectfully, I am happy to listen.” Younger children can be told that they can sit in a ‘calm down space’ until the tantrum is over. There is no problem in saying to older children that they obviously need a breather and you are here when they are ready to speak. Our goal is to teach children to find a way to calm themselves in angry moments.
5. Discover the trigger.
It is a good idea to ask yourself, “What triggered this outburst in my child?” Children often explode because they are feeling embarrassed, left out, anxious, frustrated or hurt. They respond in anger because they feel helpless. Anger is an emotion; what is the source?
6. Create alternative solutions.
Instead of simply criticizing or disciplining the angry outburst, explore better responses together. In a calm moment – certainly not in the eye of the storm – ask your child for other options besides rage. Explain that he can be part of the solution and not the problem. But we need to provide the tools. You can role-play or discuss together how this can be handled better next time.
7. Focus on your own physical reaction.
When we start to pay attention, we recognize that our bodies give us warning signals before we reach the explosive territory of no return. If we take a step back we realize that our hearts are racing, we clench our jaws or fists. We breathe differently, narrow our eyes, and become enraged. As we grow more attuned to our body’s ‘red flags’ we can learn to step back at that crucial moment. This can be life transforming as we rid ourselves of angry, out of control reactions.
8. Allow children to experience failure and frustration.
Too many kids today do not know how to handle failure and disappointment. They crumble as they taste defeat. Thinking that they are helping, parents intervene from the earliest days so that their children can grow up happy and stress free.
"Won’t that be too difficult for him to deal with?"
"Won’t she be sad if that happens?"
But this is not real life. Instead of helping our children, we are hindering them. When children don’t know how to deal with a poor grade, loss of a game, school deadlines, or difficulties with friends, they grow frustrated and angry. These kids give up easily or wait for their parents to fix the situation.
We can only appreciate the thrill of success if we sweat, climb and sometimes fall. Everyone must deal with loss sometime. We cannot shield our children forever.
9. Communicate love.
Children who feel cared for feel secure and safe. Even if they are upset, they know deep inside that they are loved. No matter what happens in life this is one belief that will never be altered. Show your child that you love him by expressing interest in his ideas and interests. Try to join him at dinner time whenever possible. Put down your iPad and phone and really listen. Share your thoughts with him and talk about your day. Be involved in his activities instead of just dropping off and carpooling back and forth. Laugh, smile, and don’t take everything so seriously. Your child will enjoy your time together; your connection will grow and strengthen. Don’t wait for a gap to form and then wonder how you can bridge the divide.
10. Role model.
The first nine tips are meaningless if our children watch us lose control when we are confronted with frustration or disappointment. How we deal with our challenges is the greatest teaching moment of all.
A calm home is a happy home. Let’s help our children learn how to navigate life successfully and lose the anger.