Us mums have a LOT going on!
If you’re like a lot of mamas I help, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind… already thinking about what to make for dinner, thinking of the logistics of the busy week ahead and don’t even get me started on the loads of washing you’ve gotta put away!
We try to provide all we can to our kids and give them the childhood they deserve.
But do you know, I hear from a lot of mums, that despite doing so much for their family, that their kids just seem SO. ANGRY. (LIKE ALL THE TIME)!
Dealing with an angry child is not fun. It’s not what you pictured when you first looked into your babe’s eyes all those years ago. You can’t quite believe how that sweet sleeping face turns into a raging beast when anger sets in.
Anger is a difficult emotion for so many parents!
Seeing our kids in a rage can be really triggering! Maybe you were never allowed to express anger as a child, or you grew up believing anger was BAD.
Most of us did!
I’m probably gonna stretch your mindset a little here, but hear me out…
ANGER IS NOT BAD
Are these 3 mistakes, you’re making when your kids are cranky?
#1. Saying “Use your words”
This became a catch-phrase used in daycares, schools and in parenting a couple of decades ago. You might have heard it when you were young or be using it with your own kids. And while we’re all for kids communicating their feelings, saying “Use your words,” is problematic for kids.
And for parents…
Hands up if it has worked for you? *crickets*
Firstly, when anger bubbles up to the surface, as humans, our logical part of the brain takes a vacation and it is our fiery amygdala (the region of the brain primarily associated with emotional processes) that shows up front and center. In the moment of anger, the amygdala comes out swinging ready to fight. So expecting a child (whose brain is not even fully developed) to use their words sets them up to fail, or in this case bubble over into a raging MESS.
Secondly, if we expect kids to use their words, we must first TEACH them the ‘words’ (emotional vocabulary) to use and teach them how to use the words.
Did you know that most adults don’t have a good grasp of emotional vocabulary?
It’s really common to hear caring well-intentioned parents say “Oh, are you sad your drawing didn’t work out?”, when their kiddo rips their page and tosses it in the bin, tears running down their red, face. What the child is more than likely feeling is disappointment, frustration, inadequacy or embarrassment.
Can you see the difference?
Teaching kids to use the right words, in the right way, helps them to feel understood. It is a basic human want to feel validated and understood. When kids feel understood they return to a calm state much quicker.
Teaching children that ANGER isn’t bad
#2. Using Discipline to stop anger
Dealing with an angry child is not fun.
Anger is a difficult emotion for so many parents! Seeing our kids in a rage can be really triggering! Especially if you were never allowed to express anger as a child, or you grew up believing anger was BAD.
For sure, the unwanted behaviours that come from anger can be inappropriate.
Behaviour CAN be BAD.
We reframe the concept that the emotion itself is bad, and teach children that it’s not the ANGER that is bad, what matters is the way we respond to anger.
So, picture this, your child has spilt their milk (I know cliche, but hey it happens- amiright?), there are tears, yelling, and the stomping of feet.
Be honest, just between you and I, your heart’s probably pumping harder at all the noise, the mess and the complete over-reaction literally over spilt milk.
You take over cleaning up, because they’re making more of a mess and it’s just easier to do it yourself! Next second your child is screaming at you,
and pow that amygdala of YOURS is fired up.
Screaming at you is inappropriate behaviour – right!
So, naturally you discipline your child, send them to their room, ban the iPad, cancel Christmas (just kidding).
Your child then quite quickly (maybe subconsciously) draws the conclusion that Anger is BAD. Anger got them into trouble. See where I’m going…
Let’s take a few steps back
Let’s think about the actual emotions that pop up for your child in this example: disappointment, frustration, inadequacy or embarrassment.
Now imagine the same scenario… The milk is spilt, your child feels empowered to say “Oops, I spilt my milk, how annoying!” You could reply, “It’s okay, we all make mistakes. I get embarrassed too when I make a mess too. I can see you’re frustrated. Want some help to clean up?”
And we’re back to point 1. Communicating emotions and feeling understood, leads to a de-escalation of the situation (and Anger)
Kids do better, when they know how to…
#3. Trying to MAKE kids happy
For most parents, their number one priority in life is their kids’ happiness. We run around on Saturdays ferrying kids to and from sports, dancing, and friends birthday parties all in the pursuit of our kids’ happiness.
But, once our kids reach school age, a lot of contributing factors are taken out of our hands.
I spoke recently in Kids Emotional Wellbeing Hub about all the causes of children’s anger and you mama are only a teeny weeny part of it! Most of it is out of your control.
So while you are running around trying to MAKE your child happy in order to decrease their Anger, it’s not even about you!
It’s the friend who upset them in the playground, it’s the teacher rushing them to get their writing finished (and they didn’t even want to write a story about lost dog, they wanted to write about the adventures of their Minecraft character), it’s coming fourth in their race, it’s their sister singing that song over and over, etc, etc and etc…
All of these seemingly little annoyances add up over the day, the weeks and years. That volcano inside is in a permanent state of agitation and the slightest trigger results in eruption.
The key take-away is that we can’t diffuse Anger by making our kids happy.
We need to get to the source and address THAT.
And it’s almost never about anger- it’s another emotion lurking behind the anger.
What parents CAN do, is help kids release the pressure from all of the annoyances. Check out our resource to do this at home.
Yes, doing fun things is a nice release, but addressing the frustrations of life, validating feelings and problem solving if need be, is far more effective in neutralising Anger.
Teaching kids to let it go is one of the strategies we teach at Raising Connected Kids. We teach kids how to manage Calming the Storm Workshop for Kids and our weekly groups over at Connected Kids Academy. Parents love the reassurance that their child is learning essential life skills to support emotional development and kids love learning with us because we empower them to feel in control of their emotions instead of their emotions taking the wheel to control them and their behaviours.