I'm parenting an angry child. How can I improve the situation?
Parenting an angry child is like walking through a minefield. You never know when a wrong step will set off an explosion. An angry child essentially holds the entire family hostage. There is always the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing and then having to endure the ensuing wrath.
The first step to improving the situation is to understand what anger is. In The Angry Child, Dr. Tim Murphy defines anger as, "a powerful response, triggered by another negative emotion, that results in an attack of variable intensity that is not always appropriate." Anger can be the result of physical or emotional pain, frustration, powerlessness, stress, etc. Anger can also be a symptom of a more serious medical problem such as depression, ADHD, or bi-polar disorder. It is important to know your child and find out the root of the anger. Is it marital problems between his parents that is troubling him? What about school? Is he being bullied or getting poor grades? Parents must remain alert and engaged, taking whatever measures are required to deal with a child's anger.
According to Dr. Murphy, anger has four stages:
The Build-Up is where tension begins to mount and nerves begin to fray. At this stage the plan is to avoid an outburst.
The Spark is the actual trigger for the angry outburst. It may be something as simple as a sibling walking into the room and saying, "Hello."
Then there is The Explosion itself, which may be verbal, physical, or both.
When the outburst has subsided, there is The Aftermath. This is the time for possible discussion and resolution.
To keep things calm and peaceful around the house, try to build and nurture family bonds. Spend some family time together each week, possibly after weekend worship services or have a Friday night game night. Be careful about the entertainment your child engages in. Studies have shown that viewing violent movies or playing violent video games make children respond more angrily and violently. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.
Focus on just him. Let him know that he is special and that you like to be around him when he is behaving peacefully. Encourage your child to keep a journal to help organize and review his thoughts and feelings.
Model desired behaviors for your child. Let him see you responding appropriately in your own daily situations. Show him that a person can remain calm in spite of a frustrating or painful experience.
Most of all, an angry child needs his parents' support. He needs to be shown he is loved unconditionally and then shown how to appropriately deal with his anger. Unless it is dealt with now, it will only get worse as he gets older.
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