You know your child best. You may notice that there are somethings that make an angry outburst more likely. Being aware of this can help you and your child avoid a meltdown.
Anger can be triggered by basic needs, like hunger or tiredness. Or it may be that stress, new situations or family upsets or worries increase the number of outbursts. Things like teasing or feeling ‘bossed about’ by a sibling can also create these feelings. Sometimes stepping in to distract and support your child to manage their frustration can head off an outburst.
How your child shows his anger?
Giving best to respond to your child can be difficult when they are in the state of anger. The reasons and how your child shows anger will depend on a number of things like age, personality and understanding.
There is a pattern to anger. It can happen very quickly, but if you can spot the stages, you may be able to sometimes avoid the meltdown. Use sometime after an outburst to think how it might be avoided next time. As your child gets older, it is important that they get in the habit of reflecting on this too.
Stages of an angry outburst:
- Try to intervene or distract your child when you first notice they are becoming irritable or angry.
- Give positive instructions and give time for your child to act on these.
- Notice the triggers for future reference.
Escalation–it’s getting bigger!
- Try to change activity to diffuse the situation.
- Encourage your child to use calming strategies such as the “Take 5 breathing”, counting to ten or a physical activity like star jumps.
- Make sure everyone is safe and remain calm.
- Use a quiet, slow and clear voice so your child has time to understand what you are saying.
Recovery Stage–for you as well as your child.
- Allow time for your child to calm down safely.
- Give them a simple calming activity such as coloring or drawing.
- Be positive, encouraging, and avoid discussing what happened at this point.
- Having a meltdown is exhausting – your child will need reassurance and encouragement from you as the chemicals in their body returns to normal.
- Having a meltdown is a really scary experience for a child – they may need you to reassure and comfort them.
- If they are old enough, you can discuss any unwanted behavior after they are calm.
- Reflect, talk and listen with your child.
- Try to make a plan together to avoid future angry outbursts.
- It is important that your child feels listened to, especially when they are talking about something that is important to them and resulted in a strong emotion like anger.
Always praise your child when they try to manage a difficult feeling in a positive way. If they don’t manage it talk to them when they have calmed down. Come up with a plan about what they could try another time.
The Anger Iceberg
It can be good to think of your child’s anger like an iceberg. If your child is showing lots of signs they are angry, underneath the surface they could be feeling lots of other emotions.
- Anger is sometimes just the quickest and easiest emotion to show.
- Think about the other things that could be happening for your child at that current moment.
- Talk with them about what they might be feeling underneath.
Fight or Flight
Fight, flight or freeze is a normal reaction. It is our body’s way of preparing itself to respond to danger. Back in caveman times, it would have been the instinct that kept us safer when wild animals were around.
Fight, flight or freeze is an automatic response. It can happen when the danger is real or only in our minds. Our body’s automatic reaction is either to;
- Stay and fight.
- Freeze and be unable to move.
It can be helpful to watch out for when your child has a “fight, flight or freeze” response. Be aware of any patterns or triggers. Flight or flight can be a sign of the anger emotion. This response is our bodies letting us know that there is a danger. We can stay and fight the danger or run away.
Being able to spot the signs of anger early can help your child understand what they are feeling. Talk about what your child feels when they start to get angry.
For example, they may notice that:
- Heart beats faster.
- Tense Muscle.
- Teeth clench.
- Clench their fists.
- Stomach churns.
- Feel hot.
- Want to hit or kick.
- They shout or swear.
Safe and best ways to let anger out
Helping your child find safe ways to let out anger can be good for all the family. Giving your child space where they can go if they are feeling angry so this can also make them feel more secure.
Safe ways for your child to let their anger out:
- Listening to or playing music
- Writing down or drawing how they are feeling
- Hitting or punching a cushion or pillow
- Counting to 10 slowly
- Workout such as kicking a football or jumping on a trampoline
- Tearing up an old newspaper or magazine
- Scribbling with a marker pen