Children often exhibit aggressive, bullying, disrespectful or conflictual behavior because they lack the ability to manage their anger. Kids should understand that being angry is okay, but it’s how they display these feelings that is crucial. As parents, one of the most important life skills we can teach our children is self-control. This helps them to think about and make the appropriate decisions when a maddening person or obstacle is in their way. In fact, studies show that kids with poor self-control are more likely to have aggressive behavioral problems, anxiety and depression, as they get older. Parenting education classes are a great resource to help gain the necessary skills to get your kids on track. Some quick tips are as follows:
To start with at a young age, parents should encourage children to talk about their feelings. When parents dismiss or disapprove of their child’s negative emotions, it just makes them angrier and doesn’t teach them how to resolve the conflict. Instead, when parents empathize and help them work through the feelings, they learn constructive and positive ways to cope. Early on, start with the basic feelings of happy, sad, angry and fearful. How do these feelings look and how should we appropriately respond to them? Reading books together about different topics, like those from the Berenstain Bears or Happy, Sad, Silly, Mad can help get the conversation going. Explain that every single one of us gets emotional, but there are better ways to respond to these feelings than others. Make a point of keeping the avenue of communication open with them throughout childhood so they will continue to share with you during their teen years.
From early on our kids are watching our every move. As a parent or caregiver, we are the role models that they trust to show them the right path. If you have a meltdown and start yelling when the computer isn’t working as expected, then they will follow suit. Instead, take a deep breath and verbally walk through the resolution. “I am going to turn off the computer and restart it” or “I will call the tech department when I have time later today” shows them that maintaining self-control allows you to think clearly and problem solve during frustrating situations. In the same vain, it’s important to show your children that they can’t get the upper hand by throwing tantrums or acting up. For example, if you are at the mall and your child wants an ice cream and throws a fit, don’t give in. Take them aside, stay calm and explain why he or she can’t have the ice cream right now, or just go home. This will demonstrate that their tantrum was a pointless and ineffective way of trying to get what they want.
Furthermore, setting appropriate limits and boundaries helps children to understand what is expected of them. Every time that we set a boundary, the child must learn self-control. Of course, he would rather be playing Xbox until midnight, but when we stick to our guns and get them into the bath and bed, your encouragement and warm response helps them to choose the better path. The child’s motivation for your positive reinforcement or for some type of reward for good behavior teaches him to manage his emotions. Of course like anything that one gets good at, it takes practice and consistency!