Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Angry Chair - Dealing with anger, rage & tantrums

You know that scene from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland where the caterpillar turns bright red and screams at Alice to mind her temper in an ultimate act of contradiction?  I am experiencing that moment every single day in my life right now, where I play the part of the Caterpillar and the part of Alice is played by my son.  The scene is running on constant, levels of frustration are at an all time high and sadly no one has transformed into a butterfly.

Image of  Disney's "Angry" Caterpillar care of And Clouds Like a Stone

Jack's temper has been intense lately, and it's been taking a toll on all of us.  I understand that being four and a half is frustrating, you have very little control over your own schedule, destiny, and people are constantly bossing you around, that's gotta suck.  I don't enjoy the passive resistance game of possum that I've been on the receiving end of daily for almost two weeks now, which is usually followed by an opposingly aggressive yelling and screaming fit carried out in front of other parents at after school program pick-up.

Last week, after a series of time outs one of us got our very first "I HATE YOU!", I am shocked and amazed that it wasn't me, but I also know it's coming for me sooner or later, and it's going to be terrible.

I also know that our reactions to recent infractions are giving him the negative attention he wants.  On an average day we go from the first few "incidents" with calm(ish) reactions, followed by the "dude, come on, you know I don't want to spend all of my time punishing you" phase, to the final, "IT'S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG B%&#H!" where the boy is usually exiled to his room, the timeout chair, or begins losing the three Ts (toys, TV time, and treats).

I decided it was time to complete some research, compile it, and come up with a plan for operation everyone calm down.  Here's what I found, hopefully it works!

 6 Tips to help you & your kids deal with anger, rage, & tantrums

  1. Stop giving a reaction
    A tantrum is only a "success" if your child has an audience for his performance of the one man play, The Jerk.
  2. Separate yourself from the tantruming child whenever you can until the tantrum is over
    Obviously don't ditch them at the grocery store, but if they're throwing a fit at the dinner table pick up your plate and enjoy dinner in your living room. Let the tantruming child know that they are welcome to join you when the tantruming is over (AKA when they've calmed the frig down).  This tells the child that they won't get what they want, and that their bad behaviour isn't working.  The thought is that if you continue to make the tantrums ineffective they'll figure it out and start to ease up on them.

    Image of Anger (Inside Out) courtesy of Pixar Wikia
  3. Improve your child's "emotional literacy"
    You know how Ari Gold on Entourage wanted everyone to hug it out?  Kinda like that, but you'll need to talk it out.  Read books on feelings and talk about them when things aren't heated. If a character in a movie or a TV show is frustrated talk to your kids about it to give them language to use to express anger, and emotion.  Also talk to them about solutions and asking for help.  
  4. Identify and acknowledge your child's rage
    I know this may seem contradictory to number one and two, but hear me out.  Calmly identify what's going on to show your child that you understand why they are upset.  A simple, "You're upset that I made you put on your coat." helps, just try to resist the urge to point out that it's minus 10 outside and that it would be ridiculous to go outside without your coat on.  If they continue to tantrum follow the process for number one and two.
  5. Create Anger Rules or Process
    This is an extension of number four, teach them appropriate coping strategies for when they are becoming frustrated or get angry when they are calm.  Teach skills to resolve conflict, things for them to say to peers and teachers when they are getting upset, and how to work things out themselves peacefully. Giving them options like counting to ten or walking away before things escalate are good starting points.
    Image of Incredible Hulk Courtesy of Marvel Hero Wikia
  6. Offer both positive and negative consequences
    Don't punish your kids for getting upset (even if you think their reasons are ridiculous). Positive reinforcement of positive consequences are really important tactics for kids who usually have a hard time managing their Incredible Hulk like rage.  When your kid manages their anger effectively reward them with praise, stickers or whatever else motivates them. When they break the rules calmly enforce negative consequences (like walking away, time outs, withdrawing of privileges etc.) Consistent responses are key to making the system most effective.
What anger management and tantrum reduction tips have worked best for you and your kids?

To read about dealing with toddler tantrums click here

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  1. Even I have gone through this phase. My toddler throws a tantrum about each & everything especially while feeding her food. I have to tell her stories while feeding her & only then she will finish her food. I will follow the tips given by you & see. Here are some more tricks to deal with kid's tantrums - https://www.tinystep.in/blog/dealing-with-toddler-tantrums