How to deal with angry kids: quick fixes

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

First of all, how you deal with anger in others gives you a lot of information about dealing with your own anger, but that’s for another time…

At this moment in time, I’m stuck in my house with my two (mostly lovely, sometimes insane) children because we’re in the middle of the Corona Crisis (I hope this post becomes outdated really soon!).
This means that there’s not that much time to start delving deep into my own anger issues and, it also means that my kids are prone to bursts of frustration, irritation and plain fury multiple times a day. I get it, life is rough when you can’t play with friends and are stuck with an annoying sibing and stressed out mother all day (My excuse: fulltime parenting and working from home is a challenging combination. Yes, that’s a euphemism.)

So, I need quick and easy solutions for dealing with my kids’ anger, and I don’t have a lot of time just now to practice complex techniques.

Luckily, I’ve studied quite a bit of Nonviolent Communication (you can find a free introductory course on Youtube) and I read the book “How to talk so LITTLE kids will listen” by Joanna Faber and Julie King. So I’ve got a few quick tricks if you want them.

When dealing with angry/frustrated/exhausted/sad/… children,

DO:

  1. Validate, validate, validate. It’s as simple as: ‘Wow, you’re angry.’ Or ‘You’re shouting, you seem really frustrated right now’. Even if you’re wrong, and they’re actually feeling sad instead of angry (my son’s go-to behaviour when he’s sad is lashing out and throwing tantrums), they’ll correct you and feel heard. Keep guessing, if you get it wrong.
  2. Let it be. Let the emotion run its course. It will get out one way or another. If you make them suppress it, you’ll just have to deal with it later and, trust me, it’ll be worse! This goes for all emotions, especially bad ones (though I’m very prone to try and suppress excitement too, I don’t always have the patience for kids running and screaming in my house, not matter how happy they are.)
  3. Set limits in a calm way. Hitting is not ok. Breaking stuff is not ok. You’re allowed to stop them, it’s actually part of your job. It also teaches them you can set limits and expect them to be respected (though keep your expectations age-appropriate – it takes a looooooong time for them to start respecting your limits in any way.)
  4. Stay around (if you can stay calm). Don’t leave them to deal with it on their own, they can’t. Especially little kids need to know you’re around and need help in regulating their emotions. That being said…

DON’T:

  1. …Fix it. You don’t need to, and if you’re at the end of your rope (aren’t all parents most of the time?) you won’t want to. It’s one of the helpful tips I picked up from a local parenting expert named Nina Mouton: you don’t have to fix your kids’ emotions, you just have to be there as they go through them and realise they won’t last forever.
  2. ….Scream back, hit back, throw your own tantrum as a not-so-subtle revenge. I’ve tried all of these techniques multiple times (no, not deliberately), and can assure you that they don’t work. It just makes things waaaaay worse.
  3. Threaten and/or punish. For me, this is the go-to response I picked up over the years. “If you… then…” This makes them feel rotten, and me even more so. They’re already feeling bad and now I’m just punishing them for not being able to handle their emotions, instead of teaching them how to do that properly. If you feel like you can’t deal with it, then don’t. Step out for a moment until you’ve regained composure.

Above all, give yourself a break from time to time. Figure out what YOU need to be the best parent you can be. As someone who’s notoriously bad at this, I’m telling you, it’s solid advice! (I should listen to it myself more often.)

How do you deal with things when you’re children get angry? How are they allowed to express their anger? I could use tips here, too!

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