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How to deal with a Child with Anger Issues in Five Steps:
It’s not uncommon for children between the ages of 2 and 4 to have complete meltdowns over silly things. Unable to manage disappointment on any level and not fully comprehending cause and effect is normal at that age.
But what about when your older child has anger issues?
What happens when your 8-year-old is still having screaming fits? What about managing your 7-year-old’s tantrums? Are they tantrums or sensory overload?
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At what point should the expectations of your child behaviors climb and are they capable of managing their meltdowns?
According to WebMD if your child is still showing behavior patterns of tantrums past age four, or five, then it’s time to seek your child’s physician. That’s not to say that your child who whines a lot or stomps their feet in the grocery store behind you is what we are talking about here.
I’m talking about your 5-year-old (or older) who is flailing on the grocery store floor because you won’t buy them a toy. I’m talking about the meltdowns that you cannot reason with, the ones that you start to sweat bullets and become red in the face because of stares from onlookers.
The uncontrollable temper tantrums from your 7, 8, or 9-year-old.
How do you stay calm when your child has anger issues and meltdowns?
1. Take yourself out of the equation.
Statements like “Stop this right now, you are embarrassing me!” do nothing to motivate your child in the way of stopping their behavior. The tantrum is not about you, or how they are treating you. It is purely about them, their feelings, their brain. Their tantrum is about how they understand and cannot cope with their situation.
2. Get on their level.
Come down to eye contact with your child if they are laying on the floor. Squat or kneel next to them, not over them. When you do this, it will help to ignore the things around you. People are staring, etc. Your chances of them listening and actually hearing you increase when you can make eye contact.
3. Using your indoor voice give direct instructions: “Get Up.” “Walk with me.” “Let’s go right now.”
Do not say “stop screaming” or “Don’t do that.” Tell them what TO DO instead of what to stop. If they do not do these things with you willingly, skip down to my bonus step.
4. Keep them close and ignore the sounds.
They are going to whine, and cry and possibly even scream as you make them get up and walk with you. Smile at people, continue walking and do not let them go. Whether you are holding their hand, their shoulder, even if you are holding them up against you; continue your task. If you are shopping, keep shopping. Ignore the whines, and sounds and screams.
Step 5. Continue to answer their request and become a broken record.
“No, I’m sorry we still aren’t getting the toy.”
“No, I’m sorry we aren’t doing that today.”
“Nope, that just isn’t something we can do today, I am sorry you are disappointed.”
The more direct you are, and the more you say it, the more it sinks into them that they will not sway you regardless of their tantrum.
Important things to remember on how to deal with a child with anger issues:
I feel like I say this in every post about parenting. But it is the number one thing when disciplining your child to stay above their cloud. Their head is clouded, their judgment clouded with emotions. If they manage to pull you into their darkness, you will act on feelings and lack good judgment. This is not helpful.
Don’t give in
Once you’ve said No, it must stay no. Even if you start to feel like the thing you are arguing about is not that big of a deal. Stick with it. This is difficult, yet I have waivered or changed my mind mid-meltdown. But don’t do that, you’ll make it more difficult the next time. Every time you stick with no is a compounding effect. Each reaction to your no will get shorter and shorter the more you stick with it.
Bonus Step for how to deal with a child with anger issues:
If your child’s behaviors become extreme, your reaction must match their level of extreme.
If they are flailing around and kicking and screaming, you must find a way to restrain without harming.
If your child refuses to move, or get up and go with you, you must be able and ready to physically pick them up and take them where they cannot harm anyone, including themselves. And possibly away from wherever you are. If you are home, this may be the bathroom. If you are out in public, this may be to your car. Or even all the way home.
Unfortunately 7 & 8-year-old’s who throw tantrums still, can massively disrupt your life. But effective parenting in times of meltdowns can significantly impact the outcome in the future.
During your broken record, asking questions to your child to redirect or change the subject can help to distract from the disappointment. This may help your child calm their emotions faster and move on.
It’s ok to need to decompress later. Meltdowns, while they may be part of raising an ADHD child or emotionally distressed high sensory receptive child is exhausting. Especially if things like this disrupt your plans. Grocery shopping or running errands can be completely thrown off course by one major meltdown, or three.
Calling a friend later to complain, or venting to a Facebook group that understands can help. Sometimes just hearing someone say “I’ve been there, I know how hard that is. I know how it feels, and I am sorry.” can make a world of difference.
It’s ok to cry.
It’s ok to need to excuse yourself and have your own meltdown. Just do your best not to show your child they got the best of you. Strong-willed children require active parents. (Read my post about being a good mom regardless of your difficult child here.) You aren’t trying to break them, you are merely trying to help them adjust. The world will not always be understanding of heightened emotions and struggles. Preparing them for a life with disappointment and frustration is critical.
Learning boundaries for children with ADHD is a much more difficult concept than many realize. Especially if your child has anger issues. It requires a lot of patience and discipline. You can do it, momma! Let me know if you need help!