What is the best course of action when my child gets angry?

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8 December
11:37
December
2016

With the exception of teenagers, the ages of six and seven is when rudeness and habits like answering back peaks in children.

Shouting back at them or punishing them is not the answer. Research shows is that when you shout at children you send them into ‘fight or flight’ or what’s known as ‘freeze’ mode. When that happens the prefrontal cortex – the logical side of the brain stops functioning and they child goes into what is sometimes referred to as ‘chimp’ mode due to an overproduction of the anxiety hormone cortisone. 

So for a while the child’s body gets flooded with this anxiety hormone and they cannot actually memorise or understand anything. It’s a really bad time to try and reason with a child or explain things rationally as their brain is not functioning properly. Yet we all do it. Shouting something like “Stop shouting or don’t answer back!” at this point makes it doubly hard for them to do it. All they know is that daddy or mummy are shouting and they are scared but they cannot remember why. 

"Anticipate the issues rather than scream or punish because that way you are sharing the control on your terms and they are a lot more cooperative." 

So they end up associating this negative feeling with their parents. The opposite of what you want. Anticipate the issues rather than scream or punish because that way you are sharing the control on your terms and they are a lot more cooperative. Once they share the control, you also have very clear boundaries and rules and they know there’s a consequence. It’s not a punishment. It’s not about making them feel bad.

On the contrary the whole idea of punishment – making children feel worse in order to do better is crazy. This idea that you have to feel pain in order to remember is very much ingrained with everything that has to do with punishment. It’s not pain they have to feel, it’s just to realise that there’ s a consequence to an action and to look at things that are related to what they’ve done so they can learn from the experience. Help them to realise that if they keep answering back they won’t get the desired response by calmly saying something like. ‘I only listen to children who speak to me in the same tone of voice as mine’ . Or‘ I only listen to children who respect me. “

One of my favourite tools is to do a ‘rewind’ when they get angry or answer back. So I say, let’s rewind and find a better way of saying this. And they do because they realise they’re not going to get anywhere by being rude. The reality is they may have to do quite a few rewinds. They have as much difficulty managing their emotions as adults. So lead by example. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until the age of 25. That is when adulthood really takes place.  

You can access further information and advice from Nadim Saad at Best of Parenting; to buy 'The Working Parents' Guide' click here

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