As a child, my parents frowned on my anger and I often felt that I had to NOT get angry in order to not get in trouble.
As awesome as my parents were, this was one parenting tactic that I do not feel served me well. I had to hide my anger, so I wouldn’t be punished. When I grew older and had my own children, I felt myself getting angry and was not always handling it well because I was never taught how to deal with it, other than NOT express it.
Clearly, telling your children not to get angry is a hopeless and unhealthy endeavor. Anger is an emotion that every person feels. The goal of parents should not be to punish children for anger but help children learn how to act when they are angry. This is especially true in the youth sports arena where emotions run high.
In the book 5 Love Languages of Children, authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell outline an anger management plan for kids. I’m going to briefly explain the process.
Step 1: Express Unconditional Acceptance
Let your child know that even if they are angry, you are not going to condemn them. Some children may blow up at you and then feel guilty for it later. That guilt may prompt them to never share their feelings again.
Part of training your child to handle their anger is to let them know that you totally accept them, no matter how they act–whether they are happy, sad, or angry.
This may seem like a rather obvious first step, but actually parents often fail to do this just by the way they react to their child’s anger. Telling your child that you love them no matter how they act should be done on a regular basis; you cannot assume that your child feels your unconditional love just because you said it last month.
Step 2: Notice What Your Child Did Right
This is going to take some thought and some control from parents who are prone to react instantly and answer anger with their own anger.
You may say, “You did let me know that you were angry, and that is good. You didn’t let your anger out on your little brother or the dog. You didn’t throw anything or hit the wall. You simply told me that you were angry.” Mention whatever they did right (you may have to dig deep to find something if it seemed they were doing it all wrong!). Anytime a child brings verbal anger to you they have done some right things and avoided some wrong things.
The task for you, Mom and Dad, is to find those right things!
Step 3: Help Your Child Take One Step Towards Properly Handling Anger
Complete mature handling of anger will not happen overnight. Help your child take small steps to the end goal of maturity. Learning how to handle anger is more than just a “don’t do it.” It is a process of learning. The goal is to move your son or daughter toward a more positive anger response, one step at a time. The combination of your training, plus your good example of handling anger in a mature fashion, will help your child do their own self-training.
As an adult with my own kids, I’ve learned how to handle my own anger with tools I wish I’d heard about when I was growing up. Give your child anger-management training now so they are better prepared to handle the anger they will always face as they continue to grow up.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.