Read my advice published today in Gulf News.
“Chloe Andrews has been called in to see her son Oscar’s teacher three times this term already. The seven-year-old has started grabbing children in his class and hitting them on the arm. He has also punched a good friend. Although the behaviour is worse at school, Chloe has now noticed that he’s getting enraged at home when he is refused sweets or time on his computer.
“I’m really embarrassed by it,” confides Chloe, a 28-year-old postgraduate student. “His father and I are very quiet and calm and we certainly don’t go around hitting people. Even if we tell Oscar to turn the PlayStation off, or to put his toys away at home, he gets so furious he goes red in the face. He used to be such a placid boy. Now I’m frightened he’s turning into a little monster.”
Most people, especially parents, have been on the receiving end of a child’s temper tantrum. Some will remember a toddler screaming “It’s not fair!” all the way around the store as they did their weekly shop, while others will have witnessed their child biting, kicking and throwing things when enraged. As our children grow up, losing their temper takes on more serious consequences, especially if they continue to react physically.
Yet, whether the children are five or 15, many parents are embarrassed about their children’s anger, because they fear they have failed in some way as a parent and anger isn’t an attractive quality. They don’t want their child to be labelled as “the angry one” by others, or seen as angry people themselves.
So is the answer to protect our children and steer them away from anger? Is it better to repress it?
Parenting expert Sue Atkins, author of Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children (Vermilion), says anger is better out than in, and adds if we teach children to repress their anger, we’re also teaching them they can’t trust their own emotions. She says anger has to come out at some point in our lives, no matter how hard we try to keep a lid on it.
“Anger is like a fizzy drink,” says Sue, who runs anger workshops in the UK (www.thesueatkins.com).
“Shake a bottle of lemonade up and down, keeping the lid on, and ask yourself where all the bubbles and fizz go. They have to come out somewhere. Anger is a normal human emotion. Some things, like injustices and cruelty, will make you angry – and rightly so. Anger serves a purpose because it gets you motivated and projects you into a different place where you want to stand up for yourself or others, but it’s what you decide to do with your anger that’s important.
“Hitting your sibling or being abusive to your mother isn’t the healthy way to deal with it.”
For children and teenagers, most anger starts with the feeling that they haven’t been heard, and because of this, we, as parents, can stop anger mounting up until it’s out of control. Sue says if parents can show children they’re being heard from an early age, they can prevent an escalation of rage.
“If they feel they’re not heard, they think they’re not understood, and they’re not listened to,” explains Sue. “A lot of anger comes out of frustration. Parents often take the attitude that the child must do as they say, but often the child has a reason for having their own opinion.
“They may not want to put an extra layer of clothes on because they’re already very warm. It might be a child doesn’t want to turn the TV off immediately because they have just five minutes of a programme left, and then they will have seen the entire series.”
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