Coping With Your Child’s Anger
You can tell what the purpose of someone’s mischief is by the way that it makes you FEEL. When it is happening, instead of reacting to the mischief, you can ask yourself, “How is this behaviour making me feel right now? Which of the basic emotional needs is being sought?”
If you feel
His or her purpose is to get your attention. The most basic and fundamental need of children is the need to belong to, bond and feel connected to the parent and family. To be esteemed and valued as a human being. This makes attention one of the strongest motives underlying the child’s misbehaviour.
If you feel
Out of control…
His or her purpose is to gain power and control over YOU. Children have the need to be able to influence and control their environment. They strive to control the outcome of the events going on around them in ways that are consistent with and in service to their own wishes and desires. When they feel inadequate to do this, they become rebellious and defiant.
If you feel
His or her purpose is revenge! Children also strive to protect themselves from their “perception” of an attack or threat to their sense of self, whether real or imaginary. They perceive every reversal, major or minor, as if others (i.e. parents, teachers) were singling them out for special torture and punishment. They feel victimized and seek relief from their hurt feelings through acts of revenge.
If you feel
His or her purpose is to withdraw from the task/situation for which he feels inadequate to cope with. Children withdraw from overwhelming situations in order to maintain their immature sense of ego and pride and to escape the reality of their own inadequacies.
The solution: Disengage from the mischief
Disengage does not mean to ignore the emotional needs of our children. But now, you know exactly what is going on. You are disengaging from the child’s mischief and misbehaviour, not from them as a person. You are choosing to behave appropriately in the reality of the situation.
After you have disengaged from the child’s mischief, you will feel relief from the tension, pressure and stress of the moment. You will feel in control, liberated, mature and secure within your own self. You will not take yout child’s behaviour “personally” as if it was a true reflection of your own worth as a parent and as a human being. You will feel appropriately responsible and competent to handle the situation. The more you practice disengaging from your child’s mischief, the better you will become at it, the more your child will respect you and the more you will respect yourself!
Coping with the angry child
When children feel inadequate to cope with a situation, when they don’t even know what the reality of the situation requires them to do, it frustrates them, it makes them very angry. Then, they will do something that does not need to be done-mischief. Mischief is self indulgent, counter-productive and ultimately self-destructive. If it is not managed properly it does not get better, it gets worse. It escalates until you can’t stand it any longer and explode. Mischief ranges from talking back to parents to setting the house on fire. It covers everything that does not need to be done.
Children who feel inadequate to cope do not respect themselves or others. They hold themselves in contempt and behave accordingly. We may think that their behaviour is illogical, but it is not. They have their own logic, “I am worthless and stupid, worthless and stupid things deserve to be destroyed, therefore, I deserve to be destroyed/punished.” This is the logic of self-destructive misbehaviour. Their misbehaviour and mischief is their way of bringing about the punishment and destruction that they feel they deserve. Your child’s negative behaviour always has a hidden purpose underneath it. To effectively manage and cope with the child’s anger, and the misbehaviour associated with it, you must be able to identify the underlying purpose and the goals of negative behaviour. After you have identified the negative purpose or goal of your child’s behaviour, you are in a position to do something constructive about it and learn how to emotionally disengage from his provocative behaviour.
The problem is not your child’s anger.
The problem is the mismanagement of the anger. Mischief and misbehaviour CAN be a problem, but it is also an opportunity to teach responsibility and anger management skills to your child. There are two very effective ways to do this. Give them choices and give them personal examples. Responsibility = Choices + Consequences. Responsibility is learned by making choices and then accepting the outcome and consequences of those choices and decisions. Therefore, the most essential condition that we must create for our children is to provide them with the freedom to make choices and the awareness of the logical consequences thereof. Of course, we must exercise appropriate discrimination when creating these conditions to teach responsibility to our children. Read “Coping With the Angry Student/Child” resource manual for examples of anger management activities for students and children.
Example is not only the best way to teach character and anger management to our children, it is the ONLY way to teach it! As parents, teachers, counselors or education professionals, we must model appropriate behaviour to our students/children. It is the way you, as a parent or teacher, are managing your anger problems and frustration that provides children with the best means of handling their own anger and frustration. Therefore, we must- as a precondition- learn how to effectively and appropriately manage our own anger and then, model these skills for our students/children. Example is always the best teacher.