By Janet Lehman, MSW
Screaming fights. Destructive behavior. Volatile moods. Do your child’s anger and rage make you feel exhausted and out of control? In a recent Empowering Parents poll, Angie S. commented, “I walk on eggshells around my 15-year-old son. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m afraid of his explosive temper.” In that same poll, more than 50 percent of respondents said that they end up “losing control and screaming back” when their child’s anger reaches the boiling point. But matching your child’s rage with your own angry response is not the answer. Janet Lehman, MSW, explains why—and tells you how to form a plan to help you handle their behavior.
By getting you to tiptoe around him, your child is teaching you to behave differently—he’s training you to anticipate his angry outbursts.
1. Make sure the area around your child is safe. Make sure that the area your child is in is safe and that no one can be hurt if and when he lashes out. Remove yourself and any siblings from the area. Reduce any stimulation in his vicinity. Turn off the TV, lower the lights. The idea is to let your child wear himself out. (This step applies to adolescents as well as to young children.)
2. Try to get calm: Even if emotions are running high, work to calm yourself down. Talk to your child in an even tone of voice. Tell him that his behavior is unacceptable and that you’ll speak with him when he’s calmed down. Model good behavior for your child. Remember, kids learn from their parents, which is another reason you want to remain calm. You’re teaching him appropriate ways to manage stressful situations.
3. Don’t respond to name-calling or verbal abuse. If your child is screaming things at you, calling you names, or saying you’re “the worst parent in the world,” do not respond to it. Simply leave the room or send him to his bedroom. Don’t yell back at your child because it will bring you into his rage and make you the focal point of his anger.
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