1. Help the child to recognize anger, and talk through the cause together
Feeling cross can bring on a hurricane of emotions when the child is angry. Help the child to recognize the feeling and identify the cause: “I can see that you are upset. Your beautiful balloon burst and now you feel miserable.” Listen to the child calmly and pick him/her in your arms. Explain that we all feel cross sometimes and that it’s part of life. Try not to dismiss the emotion or brush it away. Sometimes crying is the best way to wash the anger away.
2. Come up with a solution
Many situations have a simple solution. A new balloon to replace the burst one, is an easy fix. Sometimes it’s enough to direct the child’s attention elsewhere. If the somersault doesn’t go well, try star jumps! Even if the child gets cross easily, he/she will usually forget about it just as easily with the right distraction.
3. Stay calm and behave consistently
This is the hardest tip: don’t let yourself get upset, and behave calmly and consistently. You are the adult setting the example for the child. Be the solid, dependable rock and don’t give in to your own anger. Show your child that you don’t have to get cross just because someone else is. Don’t give in, rewarding anger teaches a child that being cross leads to getting his/her own way. Hold on to your principles even when it feels hard to say no. It’s very important that the both parents are consistent. If one says no and the other yes, it’s confusing for the child. The child tests his/her boundaries constantly and looks for ways to break them down. As a parent, observing boundaries helps bring safety and structure to a child’s life.
4. Has the child eaten, slept and played enough?
Everybody gets grumpy when they’re tired or having a blood sugar low. Has the child missed a nap or had a bad night’s sleep? When did they last eat? The reason behind angry behavior might be hunger or tiredness. Children also have a lot of energy and if the child can’t let the energy loose it can manifest as anger. A couple of hours playing outside every day works miracles.
5. Talk about the situation afterwards
Going back and reflecting on what’s happened might be a good idea. Talk about the situation and what kind of emotions it prompted. Help the child to remember how he/she overcame the anger. The parent should emphasize that despite angry behaviour, the parents still love the child very much. Different stories and characters that the child can identify with are also good ways to address the issue: “Can you remember how Cranky Crabbie acted when he was angry? Did you act like Cranky Crabbie when you couldn’t have sweets from the shop?…”
Tips Maija Nuorteva