Some children never have a temper tantrum, while others are still having them at age forty. Parents have an opportunity when their children are young to teach them appropriate ways of coping with an expressing anger.
Anger is a normal emotion that we experience throughout our lives. The goal is not to eradicate anger but to learn healthy ways to cope with and express this emotion. An infant often begins expressing anger moments after he enters the world. With loud scream, flaring fists, and red face he lets you know that he’s not happy with the adjustments of this new world.
As he enters the toddler years, he may use temper tantrums to express his anger. Preschoolers call upon their newly formed vocabulary to express their anger with outbursts such as “You’re not my friend anymore” or “I hate you”. These experiences are not enjoyable, but they are a normal part of development during the child’s early years. Your child’s experience with anger during the first five to six years of life will greatly influence his or her future ability to handle anger in an appropriate way.
Causes of anger
Some children use anger as a method of getting attention. All children need attention, but some need more than others and will become outraged until they receive it. Once they discover that this method gets a response, they will continue to use it, even if the attention is negative.
Getting your way
One of the most common causes of anger is when we don’t get what we want. This is starts when children are over–tired or over–stimulated. They simply don’t have the energy to show control over how they express their emotions.
Another common cause of anger for a child is being uncertain of situations. It is normal and healthy for children to test the limits they are given. They do this to see if the boundaries are real and trustworthy. If parents give in they shows children that the testing behavior is a successful way to get their demands fulfilled. Children can exercise their freedom and independence by making choices within the limits. They are never likely to ask you to give them rules, but rules bring order and security to their uncontrolled world.
Anger by example
When children watch adults vent their anger in destructive ways, they are likely to do the same.
Circumstances that are beyond a child’s control–such as their parent’s divorce, the death of a loved one, poverty, illness, or physical or sexual abuse can cause deep rooted anger that will manifest itself in a variety of ways.
Teaching appropriate ways to express anger
You can teach your child appropriate and acceptable ways to express anger. All children need to express feelings and solve problems.
When your child is having an outburst of anger, calmly let him know what he needs to do to get control. For example, “I understand that you are angry that we can’t go out to see a movie but I can’t allow you to show your anger by kicking the wall. Instead, we can work out some solution”.
Start setting boundaries at an early age and consistently highlight them. Children need logical consequences for their actions. Explain to your kid that inappropriate expressions of anger such as temper tantrums or destructive behavior, will not get him what he wants.
No matter how discomforting or stressful, never give in to negative behavior. Kids are very smart to learn that an outburst of anger can pressurize their parents and they will easily surrender. For example, a child may have a temper tantrum because his mother asks him to clean his room. She asks him to go to his room. While he is in his room, she decides to go ahead and clean it herself. Thus, the child learns that the temper tantrum got him out of cleaning his room. A proper response would be to send him to his room until he is willing to clean his room and then praise him generously when it is done.
Protect kids powerful influences such as television, video games, movies, and music that exhibit uncontrolled anger. The media often show children that conflicts could be solved through violence. This shows children that violence is an normal way to express anger. Explain them about why violence is not acceptable.
Seek professional help
If your child continues to show signs of intense anger by losing his temper, reacting impulsively, and demonstrating destructive behavior, seek help from a health professional. Common goals of treatment include anger management, responsibility for actions, and acceptance of consequences.