"Emotional explosiveness can be a major problem in family life.
In fact, even a very tranquil parent can feel overwhelmed with anger when a child gets angry. One of the most important things you can do if you’re trying to help your child deal with anger is to remain calm yourself. You want to keep the problem the child’s problem. When you get angry with the child then you need a whole different solution – a class on conflict management – because now you have two angry people frustrated with each other. Instead, you want to keep the problem the child’s problem. You do this by remaining calm but firm.
Anger is a heart issue. You won’t get as far by just focusing on behavior. What you don’t want is a child who looks good on the outside but has unresolved anger in the heart. You may want to read the book Parenting is Heart Work as you work on this problem. You’ll learn more about what the heart is and how to deal with underlying issues. Rarely is anger the primary issue. Usually children have other heart issues that, when dealt with, relieve the anger.
We've also written an article about helping kids with anger. (http://www.biblicalparenting.org/pr-tip1.asp)
One of the important anger management tools you’ll want to develop and practice is what we call a Break. You might want to read an article about the Break or listen to a podcast about the Break. The Break is further developed in the book Home Improvement, The Parenting Book You Can Read To Your Kids. Most children who struggle with anger resist the Break because it requires that they pull back instead of push forward. Because anger produces energy, most children want to push forward when they’re angry and they do that with violent words or actions. One of the primary skills that a child needs is to pull back when upset. You’ll want to explain the Break to your child. It’s not a punishment, but a tool for settling down. You’ll also want to be prepared if your child refuses to go to the Break or has a tantrum when in the Break. All of these questions are addressed in chapter three of the Home Improvement book. Chapter five gives you a hands-on plan for helping children deal with anger.
In order for children to pull back instead of push forward they have to see their anger coming on. The Bible says in James 1:19, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” One of the ways to help children “be slow to become angry” is to teach them to recognize early warning signs of their anger. Another way to help children slow down the anger in their own hearts is to do some teaching about what anger is. Both of these things are taught on the CD Helping Children Deal with Anger. Although the live session by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN is before an audience of parents, you can actually listen to that CD with children ages six and up. Listening together helps you maintain a coaching attitude with your child. The anger is the child’s problem, but you want to communicate your desire to help equip your child with the necessary tools to manage life.
Most of the time, when working on anger management with children we find that the underlying issues involve an unwillingness to follow instructions, an inability to transition from one thing to another, a lack of understanding about the value of correction, or some bad attitude issues that transfer from one situation to another. If you suspect those kinds of problems are the real issue, then we wouldn’t suggest that you work directly on anger at first. Instead work on those underlying issues by focusing more on following instructions, correction, attitude, and accepting no as an answer. The Heart Work Training Manuals and CDs go into depth about these issues and help you know how to build successful routines to force children out of their angry ways of thinking.
Be careful that you don’t cater to a child who uses anger to manipulate the situation or who uses tantrums to avoid confrontation. Don’t be afraid of a child’s anger, but don’t jump in and join the battle either. Sometimes it’s best to confront a child a couple hours after the angry episode when the emotions have settled. You’ll also want to transfer the responsibility for anger management to the child. After all, this is his or her problem and if not addressed will become a major life issue. If you’re not seeing progress, don’t assume the problem will get better. Get additional help. Having a child meet with a person from church or a counselor to talk about anger can often help process emotion in a more helpful way. To help you get started or to develop a plan you might want to set up a phone coaching session with Dr. Scott Turansky or you could discuss your particular issues in an online parenting support group.
Be sure to pray for your child regularly. Also, pray for yourself so that you are spiritually ready to address the challenges of the day. Often children ride the emotional waves of the parents so your calmness will likely produce more peace in family life in general.
If you sense that your own anger needs some work you might want to read the book Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. This book addresses parental anger and helps you know how to better respond to your own frustrations and even use them wisely to point out problems that need to be addressed in your children. You might also want to read about resources in the section entitled Parental Anger, Yelling, and Nagging.
Remember that some anger is caused by hurt such as a divorce, physical pain, or the loss of a loved one. That kind of anger needs a different approach. The CD Helping Children Deal with Anger goes into hurt anger more in depth so if you suspect that there are underlying hurt issues, you might want to listen to that talk by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.
Of all the problems that happen in parenting, a child’s anger can be the most disruptive, so stay on it, continue to look for new approaches and solutions and ask God to guide you to strategic heart moments with your child. We believe that children who get angry a lot or feel their anger intensely have a gift, it just needs to be trained and managed. People who experience intense emotions also have the ability to understand the emotions of others and even connect with people on an emotional level. Your child may end up being a counselor someday. Now’s the time to teach important skills of anger management. "