Q: [School Ages] What can I do to effectively approach my child’s anger or emotional outbursts?
A: It’s common for children to have occasional tantrums and outbursts, but when their anger seems to flare up repeatedly or turn into aggression, it can be distressing for parents and often they feel unprepared with solutions.
Here are a few helpful tips to help your child cope with anger:
Lower Your Tone: It’s your natural inclination to verbally get loud to try to get ahold of an escalating situation. The problem with this is that for many children and teens, this can escalate the situation rather than suppress it.
When your child increases his or her voice volume, try to lower yours to the point of a whisper. If you can stay at a whisper for 30-60 seconds, it models for them that they are being too loud; it’s very awkward to have a conversation with someone yelling and the other whispering.
Take a Break: If maintaining the whisper for a minute or more isn’t working and the situation continues to escalate – take a break. If you can, have them go to their room, not as a punishment but just to cool down, and come out when things have normalized for them.
Reapproach: Allow the dust to settle after taking a break. Once things do calm down, it’s important you have a short conversation with them. Ask them what happened, what they were feeling and how it led to what made things elevate. Anger is just a byproduct of being hurt emotionally. Try to have them identify what hurt their feelings and attempt to get them to express their hurt. This can be cathartic and give them some initial relief from how they are feeling. If they owe anyone an apology for their actions and behaviors, ensure that this is done, and done sincerely. Reinforce that you still love them and make sure there’s a final hug or embrace. Touch communicates so much more than verbal communication. Chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. If your child continues to have regular outbursts, it may be time to seek professional help.
Dr. Jerry Weichman, Ph.D., is a board certified clinical psychologist, adolescent specialist and parenting expert. His practice at the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute at Hoag is exclusively focused on the treatment of adolescents, pre-adolescents, and young adults.