The Truth behind a Child’s Rage

 Alexandra Delis-Abrams, Ph.D.

Rage in a child as displayed by aggressive behavior, hitting, and tantrums, is always an issue deserving of serious attention. While parents may fear mental disorders such as ADD or bipolar disorder and seek the help of a therapist, consider that much of the solution lies in developing your listening skills and enhancing parent-child communication. Master an approach to dealing with your child’s anger that offers resolution as well as the building blocks for fulfilling emotional growth for both your child and you.

“No. You’re not the boss of me!” Mary yells as she throws a plate across the room, shattering it and spraying scrambled eggs throughout the kitchen. Mary’s mother reaches to pick up the plate, while speaking in soothing tones to her child, “Throwing things isn’t nice, Mary.  Good little girls don’t do that.”  During this tantrum, Mary has added to her foundational belief system in parent–child communication and its relationship to life, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

  • I’m mad and no one has asked me why, or seems concerned.”
  • I can’t communicate with my mother.” 
  • “I must have the proper behavior of “good” little girls. Aggressive behavior is only reserved for boys.”
  • “If I feel rage or frustration, I must not be good.”
  • “If I’m not good, I’m not loveable.”
  • “I don’t know how do to it differently.”
  • “Someone else will clean up after my tantrums.”

So goes the life script of Mary. Children, like adults feel frustrated and angry.  Without the proper tools to communicate their feelings, they behave in rash ways, just as adults do.  Without direct attention to the reasons for their anger and positive ways to handle such emotion, a child will risk developing emotional and behavioral disorders or grow to be an angry adult.  Look around—the juvenile halls and prisons are filled with them. Every time the back door of a prison in the United States opens to release a prisoner, the front door opens to let in a new offender. Where will it end?

Do you have an angry child? One who exhibits frequent tantrums and violent acts like hitting others? Labels and diagnoses may include ADD, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. But regardless of the problem’s label, the essential ingredient to soothing that savage beast is learning to communicate with your child about your feelings and teaching your child to communicate hers before those feelings escalate to hostility and before false beliefs form about the child’s value in your life and the world. Your adult listening skills are the foundation of the solution. Let’s roll back the above scenario…What could Mary’s mother have done besides categorize her child’s behavior in a belief that “good” girls don’t throw things, and before picking up the mess?

Here’s a start:

  • Stop the child right then by looking her directly in the eye and verbally refocusing her anger to the real issue.  “I see that you are angry, Mary.  We need to talk about this and discover why.” Don’t believe a four year-old child is too young to redirect or that she wouldn’t understand you. Kids learn how to manipulate circumstances to get what they want much earlier than age four; what they want is generally attention. If you look her directly in the eye and talk with her, she has achieved her real goal and learned that direct communication is the most effective way to do so.
  • Don’t attempt to discuss the behavior with the child while she is still caught in the emotion of the moment.
  • Once settled, learn to listen to your child’s feelings.  If they can’t communicate the exact feelings, help them by suggesting how they might find out what they are feeling.  This is an ongoing process for children and adults.  We often don’t know what we’re feeling and we need to take time to explore it.  Kids will frequently give you an immediate answer, but it’s likely not the real issue.  Be patient—let them talk it out.
  • Never imply your child is not “good” because she has made a poor choice in handling her feelings.  Instead, give the child new methods to handle frustration.  If they are not ready to talk about their feelings, no matter what their age, encourage them to spend some time alone—not as punishment, but to think about what is really bothering them.
  • Explain to the child that there are more effective ways to get what they want and violent behavior, such as throwing dishes, isn’t one of them.
  • Insist the child take responsibility for cleaning up the mess.  When you step in and clean up the damages, you give the message that you will solve their problems and take responsibility for any damage they cause in life.  Children need to learn early that you love and support them, but they are responsible for the outcome of their actions.
  • Forgive and forget.  Once the issue is resolved, move on.  Don’t bring it up again.  Let your child demonstrate new methods of communicating without the rage, and never remind them of past behavior—it’s over.
  • Make communication of feelings and listening to your child a part of your everyday life.

 

Choose to make a giant step in resolving your child’s rage with the guidance of a personal session with Alexandra Delis-Abrams, the Attitude Doc. Alexandra will show you that your love and ability to listen to your angry child is far more powerful than tantrums and loss of control. She will give you the tools for an enduring, successful, and mutually fulfilling relationship with your child. Click for more private session information or take action today and get a copy of ABC Feelings! A proven method to cease child rage at home!
     We all experience anger, even rage.  Anger is a natural feeling, but rage is not.  You can replace dramatizing the anger with feelings words, when you have the vocabulary.   The stress in life at any age, without the skills to smooth it out can have catastrophic results.  Become a source of guidance and trust in your child’s life by instilling the beliefs and tools necessary for a life of happiness.  Leave out the beliefs that can harm them for years to come.  Kindly but firmly take control of the circumstances, establishing boundaries for behavior without blame.  Consider that circumstances in life always serve as a mirror reflecting back important lessons to each of us along the way. You and your child will grow together and make discoveries that will enhance every aspect of your lives.

Important:

Since this article was written, there has been an important release of information about hate among our youth by the Southern Poverty Law Center in their September 2004 report.  “. . .But as the Center’s Intelligence Project reported this summer, there’s a disturbing counter-trend:  Hate activity among kids has probably never been more widespread, or more violent.”

 

Now is the time to take action to get in touch with our children, help them to explore their feelings and teach them to express them effectively.  We urge you to incorporate feelings communication into your daily routines and life.  The ability to resolve conflict is a very important benefit of feelings communication.  If you would like more information about the SPLC Report, please contact them at 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104 or visit their websites at www.splcenter.org * www.tolerance.org