In the past three years John and I have adopted seven children from foster care, which means we’ve had to deal with a lot of angry kids.
Anger displays itself in many ways. I’ve had children yelling, screaming, kicking, fighting, and throwing things. I’ve seen looks of pure hatred directed at me. (I know the meaning of “if looks can kill”!)
I’ve been told things like, “You’re not my mom!” “I’m going to call my caseworker!” and “I want to leave!” Anger has been directed at me, my husband, and our other kids.
I’ve learned that anger stinks, and anger doesn’t make anyone feel good—even the angry kids. I’ve also learned that if kids are allowed to make anger a habit, it perpetuates an environment that is unhealthy for all involved.
Here are four things I’ve learned about anger, and seven ways to combat it:
1. Kids get angry outwardly because they feel out of control inwardly. Venting anger—or raging—may feel good for a short time, but deep inside a child often feels bad about his words and action. To feel better about himself, a child may justify his anger, believing he had no choice but to be angry. Soon he may believe that’s who he is: an angry person.
2. Children who get angry do so because they are missing basic skills. “Coping skills” should be learned and developed from a young age, but sometimes they aren’t. For a typical 2-year-old, when a toy is taken and anger arises, there is a parent nearby who teaches things like sharing, taking turns, and how to settle down. Children a little older are taught to put themselves in another person’s shoes. If a child doesn’t learn these skills, they instead respond in anger.
3. Kids who get angry often blame others for their problems. (And sometimes—such as in the case of kids being in foster care—there are many people to point a finger at.) These children have a hard time seeing they have problems, too. They don’t take responsibility for their actions, which means they’re quick to repeat them.
4. Internal anger is just as damaging as external anger. Instead of exploding, some kids just hold everything inside. Bottled up, this anger it eats away at them, giving them a darkened view of everything, not just the one thing they were originally angry at.
How I’ve learned to deal with angry kids:
1. Spend one-on-one, quality time together. As we’ve heard it said before, “Prevention is better than a cure.” Kids are often quick to get angry because it gets our attention. To kids, even negative attention is better than no attention at all. When dealing with angry kids, our therapist has instructed me to spend 5-15 minutes A DAY of uninterrupted time with the child. This includes playing what the child wants, focusing on his words (and repeating them back), and praising the child for positive behaviors. Not only does this give the child much-needed attention, but it also builds the relationship between parent and child in positive ways.
2. Understand that a moment of anger is only a moment of anger. A moment is not a lifetime sentence, even though our mind is quick to take us there. “We continually need to stay in touch with our fears of the future in order to stay fully in the present with our children—in a place of love,” says Heather Forbes, author of Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control. “When we start creating fearful stories of our children as dangerous teenagers or adult criminals, we put our children in an unfair and unsafe spotlight.” Instead of allowing myself to allow a moment of anger to fill me with fears for the future, I’ve learned to see it for what it is: one out-of-control moment.
Read the rest of this post at thebettermom.com.
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