Give Peace a Chance
Teaching kids to control their anger is a value that benefits not only your family but society as a whole
BY: Meg Eastman, Ph.D., with Sydney Craft Rozen
There is an important message to be found in your child's fairy tales about angry dragons. Conflict and anger are a normal part of family life. When the fire-breathing rage begins at your house, you can cower in fear, you can be perpetually at war, or you can master the Dragon of Anger. When you anticipate conflicts and see that a tantrum is building, try these suggestions to deal with the problem more calmly and to reach a resolution.
Children go through predictable stages as they develop, and anger is inevitable as they struggle to master their changing bodies and feelings. You, as a parent, have to keep readjusting the line between whatyou
need to do and what your child is now ready to do for herself.
Anger becomes a problem when children do not develop the skills to be masters of their own anger. Angry kids can become stuck in the toddlers' mentality:Might makes right. Me first!
Aggression and power take top priority. Explosive children have not learned to recognize signs of anger in their own bodies so that they can calm themselves in a fit of rage. Aggressive children have not yet learned that words can solve problems and that everyone can win.
Preschoolers: Heading Off a Tantrum
Instinctively, you can help your preschool child relax at the first signs of anger:
1. Begin to hum or sing as soon as your child begins to fuss over a frustrating task (a button that won't fasten, for example). Your singing may [lighten the atmosphere] and encourage your child to try again more calmly.
2. Help your child find ways to cope independently. Suggest what he or she might do to correct the problem and offer a sense of "I can do it myself!"
3. Speak calmly. Give your child a useful example to imitate. You can say, "Sometimes I feel angry, too, and I do _____ to help me feel better."
4. Try to distract your child. Many preschoolers respond to redirection. Suggest that the two of you read her favorite story. Remind her that her stuffed animals might want to play. Place crayons and paper in easy reach.
5. Beware of offering treats as distractions. These will only encourage your child to continue expressing anger inappropriately, in the hope that you'll offer a bribe again.
As children grow older, they need more time alone to relax and regroup--with books, tapes, art, supplies, and crafts. More active children may do better if they spend their solo time performing a chore or being allowed time for active play. These outlets are especially effective if you suggest them before your child has exploded.