Impulse control is managed in the brain’s frontal lobe, an area that is far less developed in children than it is in adults. During childhood, all feelings (not only anger) are stronger. The ever-increasing complexities of life are coming at them hard and fast; their smaller brains haven’t yet developed logical decision-making capabilities. When frustration and emotional discomfort boil over, children can become explosive and lash out, showing no mercy to anything or anyone standing in their war path.
A father’s response to a child’s anger carries great influence. The most important thing we can do is to remain calm. If we respond to childhood anger with adult anger, we tend to inspire more anger. Dad’s calming influence can help children slow down and collect their thoughts. By actively listening to what they are experiencing, we can diffuse hostility. Encourage them to express their feelings. For particularly turbulent meltdowns, respectfully check in with them—well after the storm has passed—to ask how they might respond differently if a similar situation should arise in the future.
Dr. Christian Conte‘s 5 Keys to Controlling Anger
Christian Conte, PhD is a licensed professional counselor, a certified Domestic Violence Counselor, and a Level V (highest level) Anger Management Specialist from the National Anger Management Association. Dr. Conte has summarized five ways to get a hold of our anger.
- Don’t be attached to our own ideas. Refrain from defending yourself to the bitter end—be open to learning. When someone disagrees with our ideas, they aren’t saying no to who we are as a person.
- Don’t take OTHER people’s issues personally. Some folks just lash out and say mean things—it’s literally not about you—it’s 100% about then.
- Learn to let things go. It’s human instinct to want things to go our way. When we aren’t so attached to our position, we won’t crumble when things don’t go our way.
- Be aware of what’s going on in your body. Anger might be mismanagement of hunger or tiredness.
- Proactively express to others how you’re feeling, whether anxious, frustrated, hungry, tired, etc.
Every child is different; for most young children, a “Thinking Chair” (a timeout but with a positive rather than a negative connotation) can help. Assign the number of “thinking” minutes based on how old they are (a three-year-old gets to think for three minutes). If they make noise or cause a disturbance, the clock resets. THE most important part of the “Thinking Chair” is the wrap-up. Get on their level, eye-to-eye, and ask them what they were feeling, what they think they should have done instead, and what they’ll do if a similar situation should arise in the future.
With older children, it can be better to leave them alone than to reward their anger with attention. Fathers can consider circling back when tensions have subsided so we can learn what’s going on and be there for them. Always remember, safety first. Sometimes, immediate intervention is needed and “circling back” is NOT the right approach. Every situation is different.
Listen & Teach Coping Skills
Lots of factors contribute to problems with anger management, including, but not limited to: emotional and verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, behaviors modeled at home, bullying (in-person and online), and underlying mental health conditions. While anger, in and of itself, isn’t a “bad” emotion, it may be a sign that something else is going on. Dad should make the time to connect with his children, sit down and speak with them—not confrontationally—but from the perspective of being on the same side of the negotiating table, as partners seeking to come up with a solution together as a team. When we actively listen to our children, we can better understand where they’re coming from, and adjust our approach to align with their needs.
By listening to them and their feelings, we can better help them develop appropriate coping tool(s). By learning about their triggers, we can take preventative measures before things get too hot. For example, if we know a child gets angry when they are told to stop doing something, give gentle warnings before the situation gets out of control. Children aren’t born with critical soft skills that help folks get along in life. Have we tried praying with them or helping them tap into their spiritual dimension? Do they need to learn about the importance of having a good attitude, active listening, communication, conflict resolution, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and empathy? How to manage fear and anxiety? How to tap into the powers of gentleness, kindness, and gratitude? Having a growth mindset? Have they learned to harness the power of their thoughts? Have we helped them explore the self-defeating implications of self-doubt, hatred, and unforgiveness? How goes their learning journey with integrity, leadership, patience, reflection, resilience, respect, self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-improvement? Have we taught them about sharing? Have we introduced them to timeless principles from Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic, The Four Agreements?
Violence & Special Needs
If a tantrum isn’t violent, ignoring it is typically best. If things start getting physical, safety is the top priority. In extreme situations, calling 911 might be best. If the behavior is too much to handle, professionals can help. Some children have underlying medical conditions. ADHD, anxiety, autism, and other learning disabilities can inhibit kids from readily choosing appropriate responses. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help children learn coping skills and teach parents ways to help. If CBT doesn’t work, the child may need a specialized treatment program.
A father’s calming influence can deter the turbulence of angry children. With love and patience, we can guide kids to reflect on why they are feeling angry and help them develop coping skills. For young children, the “Thinking Chair” can be a great resource for them to reflect on their behaviors and learn correct approaches to problem-solving. When children have underlying medical conditions, fathers sometimes provide the best support by bringing in professional help. By looking to Dr. Conti’s 5 Keys to Controlling Anger as an “anti-anger” checklist, we (and our children) can learn to recognize the onset of inner turmoil with a systematic approach to controlling our anger, rather than allowing it to control us.
“Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.”
—Psalm 37:8 NLT
Listen. Validate. Explore Options. These are the three essential components of Yield Theory™. In this clear and practical guide, you’ll learn Dr. Christian Conte’s revolutionary method for de-escalating conflict, promoting clear communication―and changing the way you relate to others in every part of your life.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.