Dealing with Your Child’s Anger
One of the most common issue I frequently see in my practice are children diagnosed with ADHD who also happen to have significant anger issues. Just as adults, children can get angry for a variety of reasons. The question is how do you deal with it as a parent. Becoming angry due to certain frustrations is a normal and a perfectly acceptable reaction to emotional distress. It is important that you as a parent communicate to your child that they are safe to express their feelings. However, it is even more important that you teach your child how to manage this negative emotion so that it has the least detrimental effect on their well-being and others around them. The goal is for the children to understand that they will get angry at times, but that they need to learn how to handle the anger in such a way that it does not take over their personality.
It is equally as important to understand that in children, anger can be triggered by any situation that creates a feeling of helplessness, such as embarrassment, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, fear, and hurt. Thus, it is crucial for you as a parent to try to figure out the source and/or a trigger of your child’s anger so you can better understand their frustration and provide them with the support they need. This would include questions such as, how they feel, what happened, and/or what went wrong. Be an attentive listener. Showing empathy rather than judgment will produce feelings of trust and safety in your child and will often help them talk themselves out of their frustration.
Make sure you always differentiate between anger and aggression. Feeling angry is appropriate as long as this emotion does not escalate into aggression. Being aggressive toward others or themselves is not acceptable under any conditions.
Below are some helpful strategies and interventions that I share with the parents in my practice and that they find to be helpful in controlling children’s emotions and behaviors:
Teach your child to recognize when he is frustrated or angry, as well as alternative actions that he can take. Male certain he understands that anger and frustration are acceptable if his behavior is appropriate (i.e., it is okay to be mad, but it is not okay to hit another person.)
Reward your child for positive behavior as often as possible in order to reinforce appropriate behavior.
Intervene early in your child’s behavior problems before they escalate.
Provide as caring, positive, and supportive an atmosphere as possible. For example, you might make a point of daily saying something positive, such as “I like being with you,” or “I like the way you are working on this project.”
Your child could be given jobs or areas of responsibility that make her feel important and needed in the home. The task should be clearly stated and its completion rewarded with immediate verbal phrase. It is important that your child view the “jobs” as genuine involvement, not as punishment.
As parents, you should help your child recognize his successes or to verbalize his accomplishments.
Emphasis could be placed on your child’s successes by having her keep a daily record of her successes or accomplishments and discussing the results with her each day or by having her graph the daily results to reinforce her progress.
Finally, your best assets for helping your child meet the challenges of ADHD-type symptoms and anger issues, are your positive attitude and common sense. When you are calm and focused, you are more likely to be able to connect with your child, helping him/her to be calm and focused as well. Think about all the positive qualities your child has and believe that he/she can learn, change, mature, and succeed.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I see many parents in my practice that are very much overwhelmed with their child’s angry and oppositional behavior and simply need a little more parenting help. Please don’t hesitate to contact me here.
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With well wishes,