Remember your angry child's good characteristics.

How to Really Love Your Angry Child

by Gail Sessoms

If you are dealing with an angry child, you should probably forget your plans to be the perfect parent to a child whose smiles make the sun shine. It's a challenge to handle a child's anger effectively. Parent and child often are locked in a battle of wills over the child's need to be independent and the parent's need to be in control. He gets angry, you get angry and it's all downhill. Start with the premise that you really do love your child. You just need a plan for showing that love when your child challenges you with angry outbursts.

1 Recognize that no two children have the same personality. Each is a composite of genetics, environment, developmental challenges and a bunch of other stuff that impacts behavior and mood. Anger is a normal reaction to some of the frustrations he faces as he learns about the world around him.

2 Control your own anger before attempting to deal with your child’s angry outbursts. Stop and delay your response until you have taken time to cool down and assess your anger. Talk to another adult and discuss how to handle your little fireball. The University of Minnesota Extension suggests counting to 10, putting your hands in your pockets or leaving the room until you can calm down.

3 Consider how your child is displaying his anger and free yourself of the notion that your child’s purpose in life is to drive you crazy. What incited his rage this time? Is he frustrated, sleepy or in need of attention? Is he frustrated over a difficult task or your failure to listen to his new song with rapt attention? Now he looks less like a problem and more like a little person who needs your help.

4 Remember that your child is new here and there is still a lot to learn. He does not handle anger well. You probably will see temper tantrums, air-born toys, kicking, screaming and blaming. After it’s all over, he might be ashamed of his behavior.

5 Separate the behavior from the child. Your child needs your help to understand that everyone gets angry and it’s OK, but it’s not OK to act on the anger in ways that are inappropriate. He wants to get it right if you will give him the chance.

6 Talk to your child about his anger and acceptable ways he can express his emotions. Let him know that he can tell you that he is angry and explain why. Explain that anger won’t resolve the problem, but he can use his brain to come up with good solutions. Help him to understand that being mean to others is not a good solution. Model for him how to act when angry.

7 Let the loving begin. Get started and fake it until it’s effortless. Try to catch your child behaving kindly so that you can praise him. If he needs more help with his behavior, plan and stage events that allow him to display his good behaviors.

8 Remember your child’s positive characteristics. There must be something besides anger. Recall often all the things you love about him — his eyes, his laugh, the way he sleeps, the way he wakes up and crawls into your lap, the serious look on his face when he is putting together a puzzle.

9 Do not respond to angry outbursts and hug him when he calms down. Spend some close time reading or sharing other activities that allow for touching and comfort. Love also includes setting boundaries for your child and consistently applying consequences. With lots of patience, you will discover that he is lovable even when he is angry.

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