Healthy ways to express anger? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 04-19-2010, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter just turned four. Over the last few months she's been having a lot of issues with anger. When she was younger we encouraged her to jump on her trampoline (it's a small one with a handle) or stomp, or pretend to be a volcano to express her anger. We remind her to put her finger to her nose and count to a random number (initially it was three, then as she got older it changed) to redirect her for a few seconds so she could calm down.

But those tricks are no longer working. The smallest things set her off and she has a massive meltdown with being very rude or screaming.

I do not want to stifle her emotions. I want her to learn how to deal with anger in a healthy manner. But I also don't want her lashing out at me or her sister.

She doesn't take naps (hasn't since she was 22 months), but the recent time change has definitely made things worse because she's not getting as much sleep at night. Taking a nap isn't an option because it keeps her up until past midnight.

What are some tips on how, in the moment, to let her express her anger without lashing out or being hateful?

Thanks, mamas.

SAHM to Guinevere (04/05/06) and Eowyn (02/13/09)
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#2 of 16 Old 04-19-2010, 04:21 PM
 
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Punching playdoh
hitting a pillow
reminding my son to breathe......
He is 10 now but anger has been an issue for a long time. Listening to meditation tapes when he ISN'T angry has helped. Sometimes when he was little putting him in a warm bath helped. It's hard when they have a hard time with handling their emotions...but it does get better!
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#3 of 16 Old 04-19-2010, 04:49 PM
 
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How do you handle your own anger? That seems like a good place to start, because she learns from you.

I hope you don't take offense at the question. My own son used to hit and bite quite a bit....it took me a long time to notice what I had been doing to contribute to the dynamic. My dad used to hit me (back then, spanking was "normal" as a discipline method but he was way too angry also), so having been raised not knowing how to handle angry feelings, it was all too easy for me to behave angrily toward my son. Which of course he fed off of. Even though I did not HIT (etc.), my angry-face, clenched jaw, etc. was like throwing a match onto a haystack...it lit him right up. :-)

It took me figuring out MY triggers and figuring out solutions for myself in order for my son's lashing out to subside. Now we are ALL in the process of learning together.
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#4 of 16 Old 04-19-2010, 08:41 PM
 
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Originally Posted by NellieKatz View Post
How do you handle your own anger? That seems like a good place to start, because she learns from you.

I hope you don't take offense at the question. My own son used to hit and bite quite a bit....it took me a long time to notice what I had been doing to contribute to the dynamic. My dad used to hit me (back then, spanking was "normal" as a discipline method but he was way too angry also), so having been raised not knowing how to handle angry feelings, it was all too easy for me to behave angrily toward my son. Which of course he fed off of. Even though I did not HIT (etc.), my angry-face, clenched jaw, etc. was like throwing a match onto a haystack...it lit him right up. :-)

It took me figuring out MY triggers and figuring out solutions for myself in order for my son's lashing out to subside. Now we are ALL in the process of learning together.
This is an excellent point! I wasn't spanked as a kid, but lots of anger was expressed in our house (dishes getting broken, yelling, etc)...I have a problem myself with dealing with my anger without lashing out verbally (at everyone except my ds, though). What techniques/solutions have you found? I know I really need to find other ways for myself...
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#5 of 16 Old 04-19-2010, 09:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not offended at all. It's an excellent question and one I don't have a good answer for, because I was spanked as a child and raised to be "quiet" and "good" and never express anger (because only little boys were allowed to be angry ).

I'm at a loss how to teach her to express herself, because I was never taught by my parents. I try to talk through how I'm feeling. But she's still so young she has a hard time expressing herself verbally, in the moment.

So she needs ways to physically get it out. We never did the hitting a pillow or toy thing because when she was little she couldn't distinguish between it being okay to hit a pillow but not the cat (or whatever).

Maybe that could work now though, but I don't know. I'm feeling so helpless about it, and frustrated, and she's picking up on my frustration, for sure.

So any suggestions on things other than what we've tried, would be VERY welcome.

SAHM to Guinevere (04/05/06) and Eowyn (02/13/09)
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#6 of 16 Old 04-25-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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This is a great discussion! I know, for me, I have trouble expressing my feelings because I come from a family who didn't express them properly. I definitely think kids learn from seeing how we handle them. If my husband or I handle or feelings in a not good way in front of our 3 yr old, we always talk to her about how we didn't handle that right and what we should have done and how we're learning.

My 3 yr old is allowed to scream if she's in her room, but I tell her it's not okay to scream at me or in my face. Not that this usually happens, but she knows that it's better to go in her room and scream and I try to help her go in there if I can.

I tried having her draw angry pictures ones to 'show' me her anger, because she's really into drawing, but that one only worked a few times for us. But I liked the idea of it!

Do you have any kids yoga classes in your area? I'm mentoring under a kids/tween yoga lady and I've been taking my daughter to preschool yoga and it's GREAT. They learn some awesome breathing techniques and I even heard my DD playing with her stuffed animals and telling one how to breathe when he was feeling frustrated. They also teach body and self awareness and keep that link between the emotions and the body and the mind all together... something that I know at least for me, was and still is disconnected in a major way. Maybe there are some yoga DVDs you could rent too (no recommendations since I have never used any).

So yeah.... our big thing right now is deep yoga breathing techniques. DD really likes lion's breathe. Or a big deep inhale through the nose and long exhale through the mouth.
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#7 of 16 Old 04-26-2010, 12:34 AM
 
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This is a good question (i.e."what techniques have you found?") It's a tricky one to explain, but I will try.

I have found that it's best to not just look at the anger and what to do when we feel it. I have found that it's necessary to look at WHY we are angry in the first place. And I don't mean the thing that our child did to "make us angry." I mean our underlying emotions or assumptions. It is only then that we can solve them.

For example, if my belief is that my kid "should" behave a certain way (maybe because of the way I was brought up) and he is not behaving in that way, and I believe that kids "should" obey their parents (again maybe due to my upbringing, which was a general culture of "parents are in charge; kids should be seen and not heard") then when my child is "misbehaving" and "disobeying" (seen through this lens) then of COURSE I am going to be angry. Because anger often comes from fear. And in this case, in the scenario I have spelled out, the mom in this case is of course fearful that she is failing as a mom, she may be embarrassed when other moms who are "in control" of their kids are looking on, like at the store....etc.

Now switch the framework. Switch the lens through which the child's behavior is seen. Picture a mom who is questioning that whole "should" thing (i.e. child rearing rules imposed from outside the family....say in society, or in one's extended family, or in one's church) and instead just looks at what IS, and what might be best for their family and their child. No judgement, no fear, just seeing what is. Then the mom in this scenario might see the child through a clear lens, not one distorted by fear of failure. She is free to give the child the benefit of the doubt (i.e. assume the child's best motives for whatever he/she did), she is free to listen to the child's unspoken feelings which the formerly labeled "misbehavior" is trying to say (i.e. "I'm tired, or I'm hungry, or I'm really wound up due to a chaotic day or schedule, or I'm frustrated because none of the grownups' rules make sense to me but I am only 3 and I so very much want to please them"....fill in whatever emotion they might be feeling) Instead of fearing failing, which can make us feel mad, we are free to listen, to empathize, to see the situation more clearly. And not in a win-lose dynamic.

Both peoples' needs can therefore be valued, there need be no battle.

I have lived this whole thing which I just spelled out. In addition to this, I have found Marshall Rosenberg's non-violent communication web site to have some helpful articles. Someday I will buy his book but the free sample I got via Kindle for the iPod Touch was also very helpful.

hope this helps
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#8 of 16 Old 04-26-2010, 12:40 AM
 
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I was taught this as a child, and it really works and I have done it as an adult too

Get on your knees beside the bed, like you are going to say prayers. Place a pillow in front of your head. Lean in and scream in to the pillow while pounding on the bed with fists if you want to. It helps every time!

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#9 of 16 Old 04-26-2010, 11:48 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Bunnyflakes View Post
I was taught this as a child, and it really works and I have done it as an adult too

Get on your knees beside the bed, like you are going to say prayers. Place a pillow in front of your head. Lean in and scream in to the pillow while pounding on the bed with fists if you want to. It helps every time!
I like that suggestion... I might try it next time I am feeling angry.

I believe that there isn't really any particular method that is "right", but the best option that I have found to help my children is, with a gentle hand and a clear calm voice, I guide them to a quiet place (wherever that is... a quiet corner, their room, a seat on the staircase, whatever) and tell them what I observed about their behaviour. I might say something like:

"You are angry out of control. It's okay to feel angry, but before we can talk about it you need to get control of yourself. You may sit here to calm yourself down, and when you are calm we can talk about why you feel angry."
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#10 of 16 Old 04-28-2010, 12:49 AM
 
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#11 of 16 Old 05-04-2010, 03:09 PM
 
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So I have always wondered about pairing anger with aggressive outlets of it. For instance, hitting a pillow when you're angry is still hitting. I suppose children can learn the subtle difference, yet I also see that combining the act of hitting while angry could reinforce that action with the emotion. Just my two cents.

I have had times of great anger, and learned that it sometimes (or always?) is based in feeling vulnerable... so the body reacts as a form of protecting itself. I have found using a variation of a timeout, a voluntary one... where they can choose to go to another room and come back when they feel calm, OR where they can come snuggle with me until they feel calm. When they are calm I ask them what's going on? Usually, it's something like I wanted to do xyz and that didn't happen (or something similar). Then I process different things that could have been said or different actions taken.

All that to say I learned Anger is a secondary emotion, and trying to work with that is more challenging than addressing the root cause and finding ways to prevent the angry outbursts.

I remind myself, and the kids, that they have the power to use their words to work things out before they get angry. Otherwise you're just giving your power away and not allowing for the possibility to work it out.

Just my .02 cents.
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#12 of 16 Old 05-04-2010, 04:01 PM
 
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There was another thread a while ago where someone suggested some of us need a physical release, and reading this thread just reminded me. That person suggested doing push-ups, which I fully intended to start doing and then forgot about. It's not hitting/damaging something, but it is physical and helps expend energy. I'm going to try to keep it filed in my mind for future use. I figure if that helped me, it might help someone else.

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#13 of 16 Old 05-04-2010, 04:22 PM
 
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#14 of 16 Old 05-04-2010, 06:25 PM
 
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Great time to find this thread, thank you!
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#15 of 16 Old 05-04-2010, 08:38 PM
 
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I'm in the middle of reading Playful Parenting but it's tweaked a few things that i remember my mom doing with my brother (who is ADHD/ausbergers) when he was about 3. They spent a long time identifying the mad- scared-mad? sad-mad? frustrated-mad? Once he could identify the underlying feeling he was able to cry instead of stomp around or whatever.

She would also play games where she would pretend she was mad (very playful parenting!) She'd make up some event that would make her mad (he took the block she "wanted"). So she would stomp around and put on her mad face and say in a loud voice, "I'm very angry, I'm so mad I could scream, when I'm mad I just have to go and do x,y,z (somethign you're OK with as an outlet- going to you and saying he's mad, hitting a pillow, screaming once really really loudly, whatever). This helped him to understand that being mad was OK, other people get mad too, and this is stuff I can do to feel better without getting in trouble. Worked better than a lecture, at least!

I know for ME (my brother and I were talking about this yesterday, actually) we were both trying so hard to keep everyone happy that we never figured out how to be angry. We both decided for us we need to throw/hit something, say a bad word once and put as much anger into it as possible, and go somewhere else to cool down so that's probably what I'll have Nigella and Orrin do once they're past the instant melt down stage.

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#16 of 16 Old 05-05-2010, 12:45 AM
 
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My son has always been emotional and has outbursts (usually crying, but also anger, throwing things, hitting, etc.), but after DD was born a couple years ago, when he was almost 4, it got really bad. My therapist suggested something that REALLY helped, like it worked every single time I have used it: she said that when he seemed like he was going over the edge, or even when he was in the middle of it, give him something to push on. She said that it's been proven that using your muscles actually helps release emotions and calms kids down. So, what I started doing is a game about "who's stronger?" and we push with our hands & arms against each other. Of course he always ends up winning. You may have to start it as a game before the middle of a big tantrum, but I've used it at various times and it always works. I mean, there's obviously more going on than just the physical part, since we usually end up on the floor laughing, it gives him a feeling of control/power that may be related to NOT feeling in control and why he had the outburst in the place. I didn't even use it all that often and he even asked to do it when he had started feeling upset about something. It's a very low-key thing, we're not "fighting" in any way, just pushing against each other with our arms. So, it helps with the physical release that others have talked about, it also allows physical closeness without the risk of anyone getting hurt.

And then, of course once he is calmed down we can talk about his feelings and other ways to handle the situation.
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