Parenting Your Angry Child
Parenting an angry child may leave you feeling hopeless, helpless, and guilty. Among the most important things to teach your child is that their feelings matter. When your child expresses anger something is bothering her. However, keep in mind that anger is often a masking emotion; your child may be feeling sad or hurt about something in her life. Two beneficial things you can do for your angry child is to listen, and to model healthy choices and strategies.
Don’t Give Your Child Advice: Help Her Find a Solution
Try to withhold advice and just hear what she has to share. Remember, she is sharing about herself, and she is her own person with her own perceptions and needs. When you jump right in and give advice she may not feel validated. She needs to be heard. Feeling heard validates her feelings. Validating her feelings helps her to accept them, process them, and let them go. If she does not process the pain associated with her feelings, she will store them until she can process them. Storing her feelings makes it more difficult to process them later and often leads to more situations where those feelings are triggered. After she has shared her feelings, ask her why she thinks she feels that way. Help her figure out what triggered her feelings.
Model How You Want Your Child to Deal With Her Pain
Model how you want your child to deal with her pain. Keep in mind that her feelings of sadness or anger hurt. No one likes pain so without your help she may develop unhealthy strategies to cope with the pain. The best way to help her develop healthy strategies is to practice them yourself. Model the strategies you would like to see her use. Step back and look at your life. Do you model healthy strategies or unhealthy strategies? Don’t feel bad when you notice you have some unhealthy strategies, everyone does. When you examine your own unhealthy strategies and then work on changing them, you are being a great role model for her. Typically, dealing with unhealthy strategies involves creating and implementing boundaries that honor you and honor your worth, which is also great modeling.
How To Create Healthy Boundaries
You create healthy boundaries by making choices that truly honor your highest good and that truly honor your worth. When your child is making poor choices because she is angry and hurt, it is difficult to implement and maintain a healthy boundary with her. You see your child’s pain, and you fall into the trap that further boundaries will cause her more pain. The reality is she needs that boundary because it will curtail the continuing use of an unhealthy strategy. Boundaries are difficult at times, but they create a life of inner peace, no matter how chaotic the rest of the world is. You want your child to learn to set their own boundaries.
After your child has expressed her feelings and together you have determined what triggered them, it is time to think about boundaries. For example, if she has friends that treat her poorly, you may want to help her create and hold boundaries with her friends. This may include a plan for her to calmly tell her friend that when he treats her a certain way it makes her feel bad, and to calmly ask him not to treat her that way. When, and if, he still treats her poorly, her plan could include calmly telling him that she is leaving or ask him to leave while stating clearly why. It is helpful to understand that her friend is using h is own strategies, which if they cause pain are unhealthy. In other words, h is behavior is not about her, it’s about him . He’s either trying to meet a need or cope with an unmet need. The beauty of maintaining healthy boundaries is that it is a gift to those who need the boundary. Setting healthy boundaries is a win win plan.
A summary of the process goes something like this (hint: you can use this same process for yourself):
Create a space for your child to express her feelings, and just listen-be empathetic and compassionate
Explore what triggered those feelings
Help her process her feelings, remember negative feelings equal pain
Create healthy boundaries for your child, this makes her feel safe and that she matters
Help her create healthy boundaries that work toward eliminating what triggered her feelings
Model the behaviors you want your child to utilize-modeling healthy strategies is a gift that lasts a lifetime, and it ripples across generations.