Managing emotions in children and coping with anger is a tricky business, especially in little kids. When they are that young they do not have control and they certainly do not understand everything that they are feeling. Just the other day, for example, Pup went into full on nuclear meltdown, all because I confiscated both boys’ tablets. Honestly, my two are like bloody Tom and Jerry, always trying to get one up on each other. Brothers!
Lately, these explosions seem to be increasing in size. I try to understand where it comes from and help him through it but it is extremely difficult. In order to deal with his emotions he has a tendency to use his fists. A LOT! On this occasion he attacked the walls, the floor, the doors and me. Maybe I should get him a punching bag. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. At least in the future he could have a career as a Pro Boxer.
The only thing I could think of was to stick him in the bath tub. Thankfully, this worked and he calmed down however, in the process of all this happening, he wet himself. He had worked himself into such a state that, not only did he lose control of his emotions but he lost control of his bodily functions. This is the perfect example of how out of control it can get when you are raising children but, how do you prevent this kind of thing from happening again? Or, at least, how do you minimise the fallout?
Coping with Anger
Managing emotions in children certainly isn’t easy as I’m sure you will agree. In order for us to help our children remain calm and understand what they are feeling, the most important thing we can do as parents is to keep calm, stay level headed and think before we act.
We must demonstrate how we cope with our own emotions and, keep ourselves in check when dealing with the ups and downs that our child is experiencing. As parents, we are their role models. My first port of call in the situation above should have been to distract first but, I let my anger decide my actions. Let the head be in control, not the heart!
Please note, anything I talk about in this blog is strictly from my own experiences. In no way am I a certified healthcare professional or child psychologist. I’m just a parent sharing what I have l earnt along the way. 😀
Distract, Don’t React!
So many times I have heard people say children are just like little dogs. I’m sure I’ve said it myself too and in a lot of ways they are. Just don’t compare too much and attempt to do a Scooby-Doo.
Distract, don’t react! Assess the situation and make the necessary changes. Don’t let your own emotions take hold.
Going back to what occurred with Pup; I know now what I should have done differently…
Later on, that same day, I attempted a small experiment. I returned their pads and, this time round, I sent Tink upstairs with his and sat Pup on the sofa with me. When the time came to turn it off and set it aside I tried this distract technique. I offered him an alternative that we could do together. He was surprisingly susceptible to this and decided to build train track with me.
Separating the boys in this manner prevented the arguing from beginning in the first place, meaning that no confiscation of pads took place. Distracting Pup gave him the opportunity to make the decision as to what to do next and then, participating in the task with him meant that we were both in control of the situation. Happy parent, happy child!
When managing emotions in children, it’s also important to empathise and be able to sense your child’s emotions; act before they react. Just like above, distract from any potential fallouts by changing activity, laughing or dancing. When you laugh, dance or just act silly, your body releases happy endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin. Stress hormones are also suppressed which is beneficial for both you and your child. We are definitely a dancing family. Dancing is a great way of coping with anger.
Introduce books or play together as sometimes they just want attention. The second you sense a potential kick-off, take the upper hand, go get a book or a game, anything to divert from what is about to happen.
I’ve been quite lucky with my children in that they do not kick off anymore at bed time. However, I know a fair few mums who do have this issue. One biggy that seems to help is to play soothing music until they fall asleep.
I also let my two take books to bed. I don’t force bedtime on them, learning my lesson from when Tink was smaller. He used to fight me every night, insisting that he didn’t need to go to bed. I would get wound up and eventually issue threats such as closing his bedroom door.
This is not a road you want to go down. Kids mimic our behaviour. The more strung out I would get, the higher he’d get. It was a never ending, vicious cycle. When you get to this point you realise something needs to change. I started to let him have a toy in bed or read a book till he fell asleep. As long as he stayed in bed there was no issue.
For us, this seemed to work. Parenting is definitely a learning curve.
Another distraction which can help is to make your child a warm drink, especially when coping with anger. I know that for me, a hot cup of tea or a wee cappuccino can work wonders. Sometimes you just need those 5 minutes to chill. The same applies to children; a wee hot chocolate or warm milk can help soothe those pent up feelings and calm the raging inferno.
Sometimes, giving your child a much needed break from reality is all that is needed. Think about it! If you are feeling stressed, strung out and ready to crack, what do you do? I know if I zone out in a book, a TV show or my blog I can distract from what is causing my anxiety. Once I am calmer I can then address what is getting me down. The same applies to children.
They need that time away, to lose themselves in a game, like Minecraft or YouTube. Once they are calmer, you can re-visit what was causing all that anger and frustration.
Think First/Act Later
Sometimes, when managing emotions in children and coping with anger, it is extremely easy to lose your own cool, especially when they have done, or are doing, something to make you MAD. Growing up, my dad always told me, “Go in cold.” What he means by this is don’t show weakness, anger or get upset. Don’t show your emotions, think about it rationally and approach the situation cold.
This is actually spot on advice, as much as I regret admitting how right he was. When coping with angry children, or bad behaviour, the last thing you want to do is go in all guns blazing. You need to slow down, think first and act later. Go in cold!
For me, this has always been a challenge. I wear my heart on my sleeve, cry at everything and anger easily. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because both my boys are exactly the same. They take after me and as much as I need to work on my own emotional baggage, I know that I need to be there and show them how to cope. If I manage my anger, I can show them how to manage theirs.
Broken Tablet Example
One such example occurred a few weeks ago. Tink came into the kitchen crying because he had caught Pup bouncing up and down on his tablet. The screen was destroyed. I’m not even sure how I managed this, maybe part of me was slightly relieved as I wouldn’t have to sit and listen to a narrative on Minecraft but, I approached the situation calmly and rationally.
Taking the tablet, I walked into the lounge and showed it to Pup saying, “Look what has happened!” He burst into tears and tore out the room, before I could even ask him if he was the guilty party. Newsflash, he was!!!
Remaining calm, I let him cry a little and then went upstairs, soothed him and spoke to him about it. He then apologised and told Tink that he could have his tablet. Shocker! He felt so guilty and I hardly did a thing. It was all down to how I approached the situation in the first place.
If I had gone in like an angry tornado he would have denied it and blamed Tink. In the end no grudges were held and Tink forgave him, eventually. It did take a few hours for him to come to terms with it.
Tone of Voice
In this situation my tone of voice made all the difference. When managing emotions in children we, as parents, need to remember to keep our own tone of voice calm and even. Don’t screech, yell or scream. It’s easy to lose control but if you do then you have to deal with the consequences of how that impacts your child. For tips on staying calm when coping with anger, click here.
Another tip to help children keep calm and in control is eye contact. Get down to their level; make them look at you when you speak to them. Be direct and hold their gaze. Obviously don’t grab their head and turn them to face you. Physical contact is not ok! A simple, “Look at me please” will suffice or even just tap them on the shoulder, get their attention and remember your tone of voice.
This is a good tip for when you want to reflect on what may have happened that day.
When managing our own emotions, we all need space and time to think. The same applies to managing emotions in children. They need time to reflect on what they may have done, how they may have reacted and what they may have been feeling. They need time to reflect by themselves.
This is also a good time for implementing soothing music, reading a book or maybe even colouring in. It’s proven that colouring in can help to soothe anxiety in all ages. Your child doesn’t need to reflect by themselves, you can reflect together.
Discuss how you were both feeling and how you may want to move on from the situation. If you did happen to lose your cool it is always important to apologise and explain why. I do this all the time with the boys. Managing emotions in children and coping with anger, especially our own, go hand in hand.
This morning actually Tink turned to me and said, “Mummy you’re angry again.” Instantly I stopped and took a look at the situation. As it happened it was a typical school morning. Pup would not put his jacket on and we were running behind so I had raised my voice. This is not ok. I apologised and we moved on.
I can recognise and admit my own faults. This is where being a role model comes in. The angrier I get, the angrier and higher they get. It doesn’t work and solves nothing. They mimic my behaviour but when I am calm, they remain calm. One thing I have always said, that I actually picked up from another parent very early on in my parenting journey, is do not send them to school angry. Life is too short for angry emotions.
Health & Wellbeing
One major aspect in managing emotions in children and coping with anger is health and wellbeing. Here I want to focus on routine, a balanced diet and exercise. I know, I know, routine! AGAIN! I always mention routine in everything I write about. However, when it comes to raising children routine is mega important. It provides stability and we all know that stability in anything enhances mood. They need a well structured day, a well balanced diet, plenty of exercise and a calm bedtime routine.
I have talked about this previously so I won’t go into too much detail here but I will say that if a child knows what to expect from each day, then it helps to enhance those feelings of nurture and love. They feel safe. Safety is key in managing emotions. You want your child to be able to confide in you otherwise none of the techniques I’ve discussed above will work. Just like you build trust with your better half, you need to build trust with a child and providing stability helps to do that.
Diet & Exercise
This again comes down to happy endorphins. Eating the correct foods and getting enough exercise helps to release the right hormones.
My boys always have fruit with breakfast and I try and get enough veg into them. Although sometimes, you know that veg is just on the plate as garnish.
Soup is a good meal but unfortunately Pup has decided he doesn’t like soup anymore. He’s going through that fussy phase where all he wants to eat is bolognaise, cake and custard. Thankfully we eat A LOT of bolognaise and FYI, I don’t buy cake and custard, much to his dismay. They have other treats after meal times but I always try to restrict what they have. The most they actually get is a couple Haribo, cookies or a chocolate bar. I don’t do lollypops or chewy sweets.
When it comes to physical activity, it’s important to get them into clubs. I’ve said this before too. Tink does Karate, Swimming and Football, all of which I hope to involve Pup in once he turns 5. Unfortunately, this is all still impacted by bloody Covid so we have had to make do with walking, dancing around the living room or jumping around with Joe Wicks. I do try, honest!
There’s Always Wine!
To briefly recap, when managing emotions in children and coping with anger, the key aspects are to distract, think and keep calm. Manage your own emotions in order to help your child keep in control of theirs. My tips for doing this include keeping your voice level, holding eye contact and go in cold; don’t show your anger. Always reflect on every situation and remember…
There’s always wine!!!