So I just experienced ZB’s first anger outburst. I was caressing ZG’s hair, as we’re sitting on the couch watching Veggie Tales, when suddenly ZB pulls ZG’s hair. I said, “ZB, we are nice. Please stop.” He then hits my face, gets off the sofa and walks away backwards, while attempting to spit on me. He continues to point his fingers and tries to spit once again. He fails miserably as it lands on his shirt. He stands behind the sofa and gives me his back. I then walk toward him, get on my knees and say, “Sweetie, I know you’re angry. I feel sad when you hit my face. It hurts. Let’s be nice.” Then, he starts crying, puts his arms up (a sign to carry him). I pick him up and comfort him. He stops crying. I then reinforce the “Be nice” catchphrase by saying, “Isn’t this much better… see how nice we can be to each other.”
After the first incident, we have had several others. I welcome them because I think that ZB is feeling comfortable to just be himself. I know that other times he does it to test us… to see if we will disengage. When he pushes us away, we gently stay in place and take baby steps to enter into his world. We encourage you to do the same. Following are six tips we hope can help in dealing with anger outbursts in your home:
- Show empathy – Showing empathy doesn’t mean tolerate the “bad behavior.” It just means you show the child you accept them as a person. Use I messages – “I am sad when you hit me. It hurts. I would like you to keep your hands to yourself.”
- Be clear and make it short – Children need to know ahead of time what you expect of them. One of the scripts that we have implemented in our home is the following: “We are nice, we don’t hit.” Don’t give the child a long sermon on the reasons they are not to hit. You will loose them.
- Don’t take it personal – Don’t make yourself that important. I do mean this in a loving way. Taking things personal means we allow ourselves to be consumed with “I.” It takes the focus off the child. We are the adults. They are children. Therefore, we are to guide them into more healthy styles of relating.
- Role model – If we want these children to do as we say, then we need to model that for them. Remember that these children are hurt children. They may have never had proper boundaries modeled for them. Show them what you mean with your own words and actions. Kids are watching our every move!
- Be consistent – Setting boundaries with your child doesn’t mean they will change after the first time. There needs to be plenty of practice experiences. I always say that conflict is great because it allows us (The child and myself) to get to know each other better, to experience each other at a deeper level. Although this statement may sound weird, children will need to learn how to deal with conflict in our home. They will go out into the real world one day, so let’s prepare them.
- Always end with touch – Now, if your child does not allow you to touch them, I suggest you respect that boundary. If your child does respond to touch – PLEASE end with a great hug!
We Want to Hear from You! – What did the first anger outburst look like in your home? How did you handle it?