Anger and Children – Introspection
Most of us recognize the continuing escalation of violence, negativity and intolerance around us, and it is a common tendency to blame the issue on somebody else. Given that problematic teenagers and adults of today were once children, and that a child learns about the world around them largely through copying, it stands to reason that a child will have been greatly influenced by the behavior of their parents.
It can be easy to lose your patience when coping with an unruly or angry child, but in doing so you are really just reinforcing the child’s behavior. Therefore, an important place to start dealing with a child with anger issues is through introspection and learning as an adult to lead by positive example.
For example, how many times have you been shopping in a supermarket and witnessed an over-aggressive parent shouting or threatening their child, or parents who constantly bicker and belittle each other whilst in the presence of their children. Such actions send out the wrong message to children and it should come as no surprise if they develop their own anger control problems.
However, many parents seem oblivious to this cycle of behavior. Studies have shown how extremely efficient we are at bending reality to suit our own needs. Such that, when experiments have been conducted using concealed cameras, parents who argue frequently in front of their children will typically respond when questioned later, “We only argue occasionally and never in front of the children… honest!” Most are genuinely shocked when they see how often they interact with their children in a negative or anger-laced manner.
Therefore, a calm house is often a happy house. Of course, parents are going to disagree and have their differences; however, they need to be adult enough to discuss their issues when the kids are out of earshot. Given that children are like little recording machines that mirror the behavior of their parents, it is important to act the same way that you want your children to.
Remember, angry adults, aside from increasing their own risks of possible heart disease and cancer, will tend to produce angry or damaged children.
Anger and Children – Respect
As a child gets older, issues of anger can be linked to the child’s desire to be understood, having greater control of their lives and in particular, gaining the respect from their parents. We can easily remember the main elements involved in this area through the keyword itself – Respect:
R= Respect your child.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies in this context. Children need structure, boundaries, consistency and an understanding that actions do have consequences. However, these should be maintained from a loving perspective and therefore, physical or inappropriate verbal aggression towards a child is never acceptable.
E= Expect respect from your child.
Children must understand that despite their emotions and feelings of anger, you will not tolerate disrespect. It is vital to be absolute and consistent in this regard and through it, show your children that you do not have such low self-esteem as to allow them to dictate and walk all over you.
S= Support your child.
Everyone makes mistakes and children need to understand that these are an important learning tool of life. The key is not to keep repeating the same mistake. Putting questions to them e.g. “How could it be avoided next time?” rather than directives e.g. “Stop it” or “I told you so”, can be far more effective and beneficial.
P= Positive attitude.
It’s been shown that negative parents typically produce pessimistic children whereas positive parents, optimistic children. Factors linked to this include having a good diet and plenty of exercise and sleep.
E= Establish family rules.
When the mood is relaxed, get the family together and set guidelines and parameters. As the child gets older certain issues can be open to negotiation within reasonable bounds. However, parents are the adults and when a child is unreasonable, it is imperative that the parent enforces the family rules in a consistent, fair but firm way.
C= Cool off periods.
Time-outs can be beneficial to all parties in a disagreement to prevent it from escalating. A cooling off period can be helpful and make children realize that progress can only occur when they act in a reasonable manner.
T= Train your child.
There is no instant switch to good parenting, and patterns of positive behavior are built over many years. Being a responsible parent is about doing what is in the best interests of the child and not about taking the least path of resistance. Teaching children how to do something for themselves builds life skills that empowers them, resulting in a growth in confidence and self-esteem. A child with high self-esteem will be happier, more confident, content and far less likely to have anger-related issues.
Anger and Children – Self-Esteem
Healthy self-esteem is linked to both self-respect and inner confidence; through having realistic respect for yourself, your abilities and achievements that result from hard work, the individual will in turn develop empathy and respect for those around them. Conversely, people who do not respect themselves usually have little respect for others e.g. individuals who are arrogant or narcissistic.
In the excellent book ‘Self-Esteem: How To Help A Child Become Confident, Content and Happy’, Marcus Dane explains how the prospects for a child and its future can largely be determined by their degree of self-worth and self-esteem. He explains:
”The terms, ‘an optimistic child’ and a ‘child with a sense of self-esteem’ typically go hand in hand. Such children often grow up to be happier and more ‘successful’ in their adult lives. Success in this context does not necessarily mean just monetary gain, although research shows that in many cases, this will also apply.”
It is true that a child with high self-esteem will be more content, at peace within themselves and subsequently far less likely to have anger-related issues. Many factors contribute to a child’s self-esteem, such as:
- The personalities of the parents and understanding why optimism is contagious.
- Being a positive role model and encouraging your child to make positive choices.
- Ensuring that you spend lots of quality time with your child.
- Accepting your child for who they are and helping them do the same.
- Helping your child discover their abilities, talents and encouraging outlets for them to build on and improve upon.
- Communication – encouraging children to verbalize what they think and understanding the importance, for both parents and children, of developing good listening skills.
- Remember that there are limits to the degree that we as parents can ‘connect’ to our children.
- Being aware of what constitutes reasonable discipline and why it is vital for good self-esteem.
As Marcus Dane puts so succinctly, “We are what we eat; We become what we think”