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Parenting: Kids and Bad Temper





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Published on Aug 10, 2011

Parenting: Kids and Bad Temper - as part of the expert series by GeoBeats.

Hi, I am Dr. Laura Markham of, and we are talking today about how to help kids manage their anger. Well, the first thing to know about anger, is it is actually a defense. That sounds pretty psychologically jargony, right? But what I mean is, when we are angry, we are trying to not feel something else that is under the anger. So, our four-year-old may be angry at the two-year-old, but guess why? Because our four-year-old is terrified that we love the two-year old more! Or, our eight-year-old is really angry at his playmate, but guess why? Because he was excluded from a game, or humiliated on the playground, right? So whatever is going on with your child in terms of anger, there is always something behind it.

So, the way we can help kids with anger is to accept their anger. Everyone has a right to their angry feelings, that is the first thing. It is not rude when your child is angry. Your child is angry! So, the first thing we can do is accept the anger and let our child tell you about whatever they are angry about. If they are two, they might not be using words. They may be showing you in the form of a tantrum, right? If they are four, they are able to start using their words, but they may still be pretty physical about it. By the time they are twelve, they might be slamming a door or yelling at you, in which case you say, "Sweetie! I never talk to you that way. You must be so upset to yell at me like that."

At which point your child will probably, if it is a girl, burst into tears; if it is a boy, he might slam the door again for good measure. But at least he will come and throw himself down on the couch and be ready to tell you why he is so furious at his best friend. So, if you can stay calm while your child is angry, and encourage your child to express whatever is going on, and help your child to get under the anger, you will find that you can really see it as an opportunity. Help your child with whatever feelings are coming up that are making your child act out with that anger, right?

And the final tip about helping kids with anger: look at the role modeling that goes on in your household. There is a lot of research on this. Children who have anger management problems usually have parents who have anger management problems. So, if someone in the household is yelling at anyone else, if the parents are yelling at each other, if someone is yelling at the kid, or at another kid... You know, even if you are yelling at people who cut you off in traffic? You are role modeling the whole time. And your child sees that this is how you deal with anger. In fact, your child looks at this and says, "Oh! This is what grown-ups do! So, if I am going to show I am grown up, I need to have a few tantrums of my own!" So, it is possible to help kids with anger, so that they can, by the time they reach the school age years, they can pretty much manage their anger, and deal with it pretty constructively. But, see it as emotion coaching, instead of asking them to suck it up.


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