Last week, my 5-year-old son punched me in the nose.
T has been having a rough time lately. He hasn’t been seeing his dad on a weekly basis like before, and we haven’t been sticking to bedtime. He’s tired and cranky, and lashing out.
Besides making changes to his environment, like establishing an actual bedtime and crossing my fingers his dad doesn’t have to cancel plans, there are other ways that I can help him deal with his anger. I’m 99% sure that he gets his anger management skills from me, so I’ve been working on some tips that are helping me help T learn to deal with his anger.
1. First and foremost, I encourage using words. When I notice T starting to get upset, I ask him to explain to me how he is feeling. Sometimes it’s hard for him to find the words he’s looking for, but this will set him up positively for dealing with his anger in the future.
2. When he starts flailing about and swinging his arms as if he wants to hit me, I physically restrain him. I wrap my arms around him in a bear hug, pinning his arms beneath mine, and I hold him close to me. This has proven very effective at calming him down quicker than anything else.
3. I point out when his behavior is acceptable. If he gets upset about something but he tells me rather than throwing a fit, then I point out what was positive about his reaction.
4. I’ve learned that I can’t simply ignore T’s bad behavior. He gets upset at being ignored and throws a bigger fit. Instead, I calmly inform him that his behavior is unacceptable and I will not talk to him until he has calmed down. This doesn’t always work, but it works a lot more often than just ignoring him without a word.
5. Humor works wonders. When he starts getting whining or pouting, I try to encourage a smile. “Don’t smile” said with a goofy face is one that seems to work on a lot of kids. Mimicking his bad behavior makes him more upset, but good-natured teasing about something else redirects his attention.
6. I pay attention to his triggers. If I know a situation will cause him strife, then I do what I can to either avoid it or prepare him for it.
7. I change my own behavior. Like I said, he gets his anger problems from me. If he sees me utilize better techniques in dealing with things that stress me out, then he will start to mimic my more positive behavior. I’ve started focused breathing and the whole “counting to 10” thing, and it really does work.
Do you have any tips on helping kids deal with anger?