I never thought I would be teaching a 6-year-old how to manage his anger but here I am noticing an apparent change in my son. His emotions are way more intense than I’m used to and I’m not the only one noticing. It’s like one day he woke up mad at the world and all we could do was try to figure out what was going on. I could no longer use the phrase boys will be boys because now he was just being mean, destructive and way more sensitive then normal. I started to notice that every time he got upset, he was writing on walls & doors, scratching up the TV and he even cut up his headphone cord. I began to notice almost everything made him cry and he began to speak negatively about himself and thinking he wasn’t loved.
Being that I minored in child development, It became very apparent that my son was going through some phase in his life but I wasn’t sure what it was. I started doing some research and I came across something called adrenarche, which is a surge in hormones before puberty that can happen between the ages of 6-8. During this phase children can begin to experience body oder, acne, hair growth and mood-swings. Although boys and girls both go through this stage it tends to cause more of an emotional disruption in boys, causing them to cry more and be more aggressive. When I told my son he can’t damage things because he’s mad he said, well what am I supposed to do? That question alone let me know that he was aware of his emotions but he just couldn’t think of any productive activities to make himself feel better.
After the age of 8, our children will be able to handle their emotions better, but if they can’t here are some ways we can help them now and in the future:
1. Let Them Cry
I have a habit of telling my son to stop crying without realizing that I’m stopping him from feeling emotions and that can lead to him taking those out in a violent way. Let your children cry, but be there to tell them that everything is okay, that they are an amazing kid, along with other positive affirmations.
2. Set Boundaries
When children misbehave try to ditch the yelling and use your words. Let them know that it’s okay to feel sad or mad but it is not okay to exhibit a certain behavior, such as calling people names or hitting. Give them some time to cool off so they can listen and take in what you are saying.
3. Teach Calming Techniques
Teach your child how to take a second to breathe in and out slowly while counting to five. Do this until they feel like they are calming down. Breathing in and out relaxes and reduces stress. Another technique is the the 1+3+10. First have your child say to themselves to be calm, then take 3 breathes and lastly count to 10 in your head.
4. Create A Calm & Comfortable Place
That can be in the family room or there own room. Turn off all devices to eliminate distraction and put on some relaxation/meditation music. Give them something productive to do while in that space: read a book, write in a journal, draw, color or do a puzzle.
5. Use Self-Talk aka Affirmations
Teach your child a few positive messages when feeling upset or stressed. Those can include, “I am in control of my feelings,” or “Stay calm.”
6. Think of Other’s Feelings
I ask my son all the time, would you be okay with someone treating you badly or messing up your things? His answer is usually no. Remind your son or daughter to always treat others how they want to be treated.
7. Put Your Child In a Class
It can be karate, cooking, dance, music, etc. Give them something to do that will teach them discipline and will also help keep them calm, happy and get all of their energy out.
As a parent none of us like to see our children upset and acting out. It’s also up to us to set an example. Sure we can set boundaries for our children but we also have to have some of our own and that means staying calm and not lashing out on them because we are frustrated with their behavior. There have been multiple occasions were my son has challenged me. One of those times was when I told him to keep his hands to himself and he told me that I don’t keep them to myself. Like any other parent I wanted to pop him for being a smart ass but he was right. Children mimic what they see. The only way I can truly help him with his anger is also getting mine in check. That includes taking my own time to calm down or even finding support from others.
If you’re looking for a few more fun ways to teach kids about anger and how to deal try these:
- Pop bubble wrap
- Squish playdough
- Do Jumping Jacks
- Rip Paper
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Read books about emotions