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Helping Your Child Control Anger
By Dr. Pervin Dadachanji

You're hoping for a nice, quiet afternoon. Your toddler finally settled down for a nap and your oldest is happily attending first standard. However, you receive a phone call from the school. "So much for happily attending school," you sigh after hearing the news. Your child was just sent in from recess for fighting.

When you pick him up, he explains that he just couldn't help it. He got mad because Rohit said he was ugly. You've taught him that fighting is wrong, but you've also taught him that it is wrong to call other people names or to do things that would make them feel bad. But what if someone does something to make him feel bad? How should he handle his anger?

Answering that question may seem difficult for a parent. Your child is bombarded with messages teaching violence as the way to handle anger, but you want him to be better than that. Fighting is not the way to express displeasure. When teaching him how to handle anger, it is vital that you don't unconsciously teach him that anger is wrong. Your child must learn that all of his feelings are normal, acceptable, and   universally experienced. Even anger. He may think that because he is angry, he is a bad person. Feeling a certain way does not make him good or bad. The only thing that will make your child's emotions good or bad is the way they are handled.

Children Expressing Anger

Anger is the most difficult emotion to handle, especially for young children. Your child is just beginning to understand and label the way she is feeling inside. Children express anger when they are frustrated with something or get their feelings hurt by another. Children cannot distinguish feelings from actions, so when they are upset, they bite, hit, kick, or scream. In order for your child to calm down, you must express empathy, warmth, and support. As your child grows, he will begin to link cause and effect to his emotions. She may still want to hit and kick when you won't let her have a cookie before dinner, but she also knows that if she follows through with these feelings, she will not be allowed to watch TV. So, instead, she uses her verbal skills to cry out, "I hate you!" 

As a parent, you want your child to be comfortable with what she is feeling, and also to express those feelings properly. Anger is not acceptable when it is expressed violently. Therefore, you must teach your child how to express such an intense emotion in a more acceptable manner. As a parent, it is your responsibility to teach your child that while it is OK to be mad, it is definitely not OK to be mean.      

Causes of Anger

There are many potential causes of anger and aggression.

Victims: Some children who are too aggressive have been the victims of aggressive behavior. Abusive parents, siblings, or peers can be imitated by the abused. Children who are "picked on" or abused by others surely do pick on other children. However, it is dangerous to assume that all aggressive children are abused themselves.

Overindulgence: If children are accustomed to get what they want when they want it, they may become verbally or physically aggressive with other children when their wish is not immediately granted. They may even bully their parents and siblings.

Roughhousing: Aggressive behaviors may also be imitations of play for some children. Rough housing and fun teasing may be defined as love for children, and hitting and touching become an automatic way of interacting. They may not understand they are being aggressive. If this is so, curtail aggressive play.

TV and Video Games: Sometimes children's programmes involve as much aggressive behavior as adult ones!

Parent Sabotage: Another important source of aggressive behaviors is parents who are not parenting as a team. If a parent takes the child's side against the other parent, aggressive and manipulative behavior is often the result. This is because the child is given more power than the other parent. This especially happens during or after a divorce.

Inner Anger: Sometimes children have inner anger because of something that has gone wrong in their childhood that they do not understand. Adopted or foster children, who have been neglected as infants, children involved in predivorce arguments, children whose parents have serious medical problems, all could be acting out their unconscious unhappiness and frustrations.

Illness: Hearing, visual, or intellectual deficits that children cannot explain to parents can cause frustration and lack of understanding that result in angry and aggressive behavior.

Part 2 - Strategies to Control Anger

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