A young child shrieked “No, No, No!” in a high-pitched tone in the grocery aisle. The flustered mother dragged the child away from the annoyed viewers. The parent said, “If you do that again, I will …” The child screamed more. The irritated parent said, “That’s enough.” The frantic child glared at the parent and screamed piercingly. You want to show the spectators that you can handle your child. A part of you is embarrassed. You do not want to cast a shadow of doubt that you are abusing your child with strict discipline. However, you do not want to appear without control of the situation.
Fear Triggers Rage
Before you can calm a child, you have to understand what triggers a child’s wrath.
The number one cause of extreme anger in a child is fear. A child may fear that it will be impossible to get the fancy toy in the store. A child is overwhelmed by his body sensations. He is experiencing hunger pain, fatigue, heat or coldness. It is causing him great discomfort. All he knows is the uneasiness turns to pain. Pain causes him to fear. A child also fears your anger. He knows that you tend to take away his stuff. A child worries that you will yell, hurt his feelings and cause him shame. A child knows making mistakes set off negative reactions from you. A child senses facial mood transformations. A child recognizes subtle differences in your demeanor. The child can read your body signals well. However, he is unable to articulate in words his fear.
5 Tips to Handle a Raging Child
1. Validate and teach them to understand and say the word “anger” or “mad” or “upset”
If the child is too young to say the words anger, mad or upset, the parent or caregiver must give him leeway to express his tantrums. The parents must identify and address stress triggers both internal and external. Label his tantrum as “mad”. Repeat his name and tell him that he is mad. Tell him that he feels mad. Let him know that you have identified what made him upset and you understand that he is mad. Encourage the child to say it in the following way: “Francis is mad.” Or Jennifer is angry because Mommy took the doll away. Yes, Jennifer is mad. I would feel mad too.” Just validating the child’s feelings will begin the process of pacifying her. If the child can say her name and articulate her anger, praise her.
2. Teach them to say “I need to be calm.”
Depending on the age of your child, teach them to say after recognizing their anger “I need to be calm.” Help them to say the sentence at least one time. Self talk is an important strategy to feel safe. Praise them for all their attempts. If unable to say this, assure the child that you are there to help them calm down.
3. Teach them to breathe in and out
Anger is a reaction to a perceived threat. A child’s body language is our physical cue. After validating their tantrums, hold them and direct the child to look at your face. Tell him that he can calm down if he can learn to breathe in and out slowly. Demonstrate inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. Practice doing this for 5 times. Encourage him to do it. You can count one to five for each deep breaths. Praise him for his attempt to imitate you.
4. Offer an idea, a task, that can create humor or comfort food and stroke them gently
Laughter is still the best medicine for stress. Find something humorous around the child. Remove him from the nosy audience and make funny faces and gestures to assure him that the stressful situation will be over soon. For younger children, always have some inexpensive toys or crafts or candy to distract them. Sweets are considered comfort food. If too much sugar is the problem, a gentle stroke will let him know everything will be okay.
5. Praise them with “Pizzazz” each time
Praise them not with pizza but pizzazz. Pizzazz is an upbeat positive tone of voice. If they are able to be calm, reward them with applause, cheerful words and praises. “Ye-hey! You did it! You are calm!”
The tantrums of a child can be fear-based. Parents must be sensitive to what causes fear in their child. Parents must take a look at their own fears and try not to project it in their discipline efforts. Sometimes parents worry too much of what other people think of their child-rearing skills. Parents need to de-stress when taking care of a child. Stress can make a parent overly emotional. Take time to use the 5 easy techniques to handle a child’s emotions. A calm parent raises a calm child. A frantic parent will raise a raging child. The choice is yours.