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Anger Management

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Anger Management

Handling children's anger can be puzzling, draining, and distressing for adults. One of the major problems in dealing with anger in children is the angry feelings that are often stirred up in us. We need to remind ourselves that we were not always taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life during our own childhood. We were led to believe that to be angry was to be bad, and we were often made to feel guilty for expressing anger.
It will be easier to deal with children's anger if we get rid of this notion. Our goal is not to repress or destroy angry feelings in children or in ourselves but rather to accept the feelings and to help channel and direct them to constructive ends.
Parents and teachers must allow children to feel all their feelings. Adult skills can then be directed toward showing children acceptable ways of expressing their feelings. Strong feelings cannot be denied, and angry outbursts should not always be viewed as a sign of serious problems; they should be recognized and treated with respect.
To respond effectively to overly aggressive behavior in children we need to have some ideas about what may have triggered an outburst. Anger may be a defense to avoid painful feelings; it may be associated with failure, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation; or it may be related to anxiety about situations over which the child has no control.
Angry defiance may also be associated with feelings of dependency, and anger may be associated with sadness and depression. In childhood, anger and sadness are very close to one another, and it is important to remember that much of what an adult experiences as sadness is expressed by a child as anger.
Several points are important before we go any further:
Anger and aggression are different. Anger is a temporary emotional state caused by frustration; aggression is often an attempt to hurt a person or to destroy property.
Anger and aggression do not have to be dirty words. We must be careful to tell the difference between behavior that indicates emotional problems and behavior that is normal.
When with angry children, our actions should be motivated by the need to protect and to reach, not by a desire to punish. Show the child that you accept his or her feelings, while suggesting other ways to express the feelings. An adult might say, for example, ?Let me tell you what some children would do in a situation like this? It is not enough to tell children what behaviors we find unacceptable. We must teach them acceptable ways of coping. Also, ways must be found to communicate what we expect of them. Contrary to popular opinion, punishment is not the most effective way to communicate to children what we expect of them.
Responding to the Angry Child
Some of the following suggestions for dealing with the angry child were taken from The Aggressive Child by Fritz Redl and David Wineman.
Catch the child being good. Tell the child what behaviors please you. Respond to positive efforts and reinforce good behavior. An observing and sensitive parent will find countless opportunities during the day to make such comments as ?I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded?; ?I appreciate your hanging up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play?; ?You were really patient while I was on the phone?; ?I?m glad you shared your snack with your sister?; ?I like the way you?re able to think of others?; and ?Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened.?
Similarly, teachers can positively reinforce good behavior with statements like ?I know it was difficult for you to wait your turn, and I?m pleased that you could do it?; ?Thanks for sitting in your seat quietly?; ?You were thoughtful in offering to help Johnny with his spelling?; ?You worked hard on that project, and I admire your effort.?
Deliberately ignore inappropriate behavior that can be tolerated. This doesn't mean that you should ignore the child, just the behavior. The ?ignoring? has to be planned and consistent. Even though this behavior may be tolerated, the child must recognize that it is inappropriate.
Provide physical outlets and other alternatives. It is important for children to have ...

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