If your child is exploding a lot over this and that, it implies that difficult feelings have gathered beneath the surface ready to erupt when a vulnerable feeling is touched.
The question is: how can we as parents help our children feel better and explode less?
Watch the video or scroll down to read more…
Here are the three approaches to avoid, followed by three positive tips which will help:
#1 – Trying to explain to your child why their feelings are illogical or unnecessary.
“Your sister had to do this and she didn’t get upset. She didn’t make a fuss.”
“It’s closed and they won’t open until tomorrow morning – being angry is not going to help.”
Why do I recommend avoiding this?
It’s because, when we speak to children like this, it’s all too easy to inadvertently give children the message that their feelings are wrong, which can make children feel worse.
And children can extrapolate that not only are their feelings wrong, but they are wrong. And that’s the last thing we want to communicate to our children.
#2 – Trying to fix a child’s feelings
It’s so hard for us parents to see our children suffer that we want to fix any difficult feelings asap. Fixing can be a trap though because if we rush in to fix things and point out the positives, there is the danger of dismissing the feeling your child is actually having in the moment!
“You’ll make another friend soon, you’ll see…”
“This one is just as nice.”
So, as in #1, there is the possibility of communicating that they shouldn’t be feeling what they are feeling.
#3 – Trying to make your child stop expressing their anger
This is about those times when we lose it and start:
- issuing threats,
- shouting at them,
- giving knee-jerk punishments,
- saying things like, “If you don’t stop right now, you’re not going on screens for a week!”
Although this approach will often get you results in the short term, because it stops children in their tracks, it isn’t the best approach. Of course we know this and none of us wants to be doing these things!
But I thought it might be helpful to look more closely at two reasons why trying to make our kids stop expressing their anger is unhelpful:
1) It teaches children to repress their feelings. And repressed anger ultimately leads to stress and depression.
Gabor Maté says:
“The repression of anger leads to the chronic secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol, that suppress the immune system.“
And of course, none of us want stressed children or children with suppressed immune systems.
2) The other reason why this isn’t helpful is that we’re modelling shouting and forceful methods, which are the opposite of what we want them to learn.
Children learn from how we behave and what we do, much more than from what we say.
So, what can we do instead?
#1 – Validate children’s feelings
We can validate our children’s feelings – empathise – so that they feel seen, heard, loved and understood in all their difficult feelings. The good, the bad and the ugly.
#2 – Allow their feelings to be felt
We can just allow them to be a bit grumpy, sad, or angry. As long as they’re not doing damage to themselves, property or people, just let them.
I get that it’s not much fun being on a walk with a nine-year-old who’s grumpy about going on a walk in the first place. But I think that’s one of these things that we parents have to get over. It is okay just to let your child be angry.
Feelings, wants to be felt. That’s their whole role in life. And we’re not helping when we try to make children feel they shouldn’t be feeling those feelings.
#3 – Model healthy emotional expression
I’m going to mention just two ways we can model healthy emotional expression:
- Firstly, shaking out our anger, dancing out our difficult feelings, or even screaming into a towel. We can explain to children what we’re doing so that they understand and see us modelling healthy ways of dealing with difficult feelings.
- We can be curious about the feelings that are underneath the anger. You may have heard The Anger Iceberg. There are always vulnerable feelings underneath the big, boisterous, angry feelings on top. Let’s be curious about that in ourselves and in our children, because that’s the route to healing anger in our lives.
Did you relate to any of the ‘mistakes’?
If so, I recommend choosing one to avoid as well as one tip to try out. You’ll be taking a positive step towards easing the pressure on any bubbling volcanoes in your house.
Or, if you’re feeling a bit stuck – don’t let anger damage your family. Reach out to me.
I have a really good track record of helping parents to help their angry kids feel much, much happier.
Send me a message, we can set up a call, and I’d be delighted to look into it with you and discuss whether I’d be the right person to help you.
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