In this blog you’ll get three steps to calm for when your child is sitting an angry volcano, with outbursts and aggressive behaviour.
Recently I was at a gathering where one of the women shared that her son had been angry in this way. Very angry. She and her husband couldn’t understand why. Nothing they said or did seemed to work and it had been going on for some time.
And then something happened…
Watch the video or scroll down to read more…
This boy told his mum: “You love me, but dad doesn’t.” Wow – a bit of a shock. And I also think it’s wonderful that this boy felt safe to express these feelings to his mum.
They investigated a bit further and they found that he’d come to this idea because his mum had regularly told him, “I love you” but his dad hadn’t. And so this mum spoke to her husband and he began telling his son, in so many words, that he loved him. And the boy’s behaviour had changed. He was noticeably less angry.
There is always a reason for behaviour.
Another perspective that arises is that anger is a secondary emotion. It’s the bold front which conceals a more vulnerable emotion lying beneath, like fear, worry or hurt. And that hurt needs attention.
Here are the three steps to take if your child is expressing their hurt as anger.
#1 – Remind yourself that you are not to blame for this.
No one is to blame for this. These things happen, for example the dad I mentioned just didn’t know that his son needed to hear those particular words from him, in order to feel loved.
And there are other things that happen in families which are not your fault, for example, a house move, challenges with a teacher, missing friends from a previous school, or being in a difficult sibling dynamic.
You’re not to blame for these things. And even if you find yourself getting triggered by your child’s anger, again, this is not your fault. This will be to do with old hurts in you that are being touched by your child’s outbursts.
It’s really, really important to clear space from those parts of us that get upset, worried and angry about anger – and to come back to your heart. Because within your heart you have your knowing. When you’re coming from your heart, you can access the deeper feelings that lie underneath anger, and the compassion for those deeper, vulnerable feelings.
It’s hard to connect with your heart while there’s a lot of noise caused by parts of yourself that are worried – and frantically (but ineffectively) trying to help you by bringing their negative viewpoints. So you might want to literally pause right now while you’re reading, put your hand on your heart and remind yourself, you’re not to blame. Your child isn’t to blame. The answers lie here, in your heart.
The healing begins when you get in touch with the reasons for your child’s anger and compassion for yourself and your child.
#2 – Get curious about the reasons why your child is angry and initiate a conversation
The next step is to chat with your child about the reasons for their anger and, if you’re coming from your heart, this step can’t go wrong.
Maybe you’ve no idea why your child is angry, or maybe you have an inkling. Very often I find that parents have a kind of knowing. If you feel unsure, try to imaginatively put yourself into your child’s shoes and see life from their point of view. This will help you access your knowing.
Once you have an idea why your child might be angry, or you’re at least feeling in tune with their feelings, start your conversation. You might say something like “I wonder if you’re missing our old house?” or “I wonder if you always feel to blame for arguments in the family?” There’s no need to know you’ve got the right answer. You’re just ‘wondering’. Then let the conversation flow from there.
This is much more effective than asking them what’s wrong, because children don’t respond well to a questioning approach, where you as the parent need information from them. This makes you needy and you’ll probably find that your child shuts the conversation down. Instead start with your knowing.
#3 – Allow your child to express their anger
If your child has difficult feelings, it’s important that they can be expressed.
I love what Gabor Maté says: we don’t actually want people who aren’t angry, we want to have people who know that expressing anger doesn’t need to be harmful. So, if your child is doing dangerous things, support them to express that anger in a way that may still be vigorous but isn’t actually harmful.
It’s understandable to panic when anger appears and to want it to stop. This can be to do with old memories and experiences from our childhood when anger really felt scary and dangerous.
So this step is about retraining your response. Practise allowing your child’s feelings to come out, without reacting, just simply being there. Even reassuring your child can be unhelpful if it comes too soon – because it can convey that you don’t understand the problem.
It’s a kind of paradox. The more open you are to anger, the less you will see of it.
Try to remember these three calming steps for when your child’s anger erupts. Firstly, remember that no one is to blame for this – that’s really important. Secondly, get curious about the reasons for your child’s behaviour and initiate a conversation. And thirdly, if they do get angry allow them to express it safely.
And if you want some more reading, here are 10 Signs Your Child’s Anger Needs Addressing and 3 Common Approaches to Avoid when Tackling Anger Issues. You’re not alone.
Solve the Struggle with Your Kids
The 6 Wise Parenting Powers
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