Anger Issues with Your Child
Dear Dr. Vicki,
I have an 11 year old daughter and am trying to help her with “anger management”. So far we have been doing better with talking about it, and (she’s) counting to 10, taking deep breathes, walking away. . . .and I have tried to be calm in responding and then I “ignore” any junk behavior. Then I go on to a “normal” question and she seems to fall back into “normal” getting along. She does not want to be at odds with me. Thanks for any input.
Dr. Vicki’s Response:
It sounds as though you are doing a lot of great interventions to help your daughter get control of her anger. Anger is a tough feeling to express for kids, primarily because they seem to get in trouble a lot for how they express those feelings.
It is wonderful that she does not want to be at odds with you. That’s a great place to start from.
Responding calmly is key. If you become angry and respond in kind, the situation will tend to flare up even more. Encouraging her to come back and talk to you when she calms down is a great strategy. When she does, I suggest that you praise her for using whatever technique she used to calm herself, and let her know that you are more than happy to talk to her now that she is calm.
The strategies you suggested to her are good ones. It is very important that while parents are telling children what they can’t do, they need to help them replace those behaviors with acceptable ones. You might try practicing some of the techniques with her when she is not angry, so they will be better developed for when she needs them.
I also encourage children to come up with their own ways of expressing their anger. At this age, some like to journal or draw (remember it can be angry words and angry pictures), write a letter or e-mail to express themselves (although direct communication is ultimately best), listening to music, cool off in the shower, take a walk, etc. I also like to teach them progressive relaxation, where they learn to tense and relax their bodies and also visual imaging, where a very calming or happy image is conjured up in their mind, allowing that feeling to spread over them.
This would be a technique that you and your daughter could learn to do fairly easily, with some individualized instruction.
Another nice technique is to allow her to walk away to take time to calm herself down. I don’t mean in defiance; I mean with an agreement that she is allowed to do so. I like a signal that either of you can give the other that would indicated ‘time out’–let’s take a break, calm down, and get back together again and talk.
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.