It’s not as if she does it all the time. But like most children she shouts sometimes if she’s angry about not getting her own way.
And sometimes when she’s frustrated with me and can’t find the words to express it.
And sometimes when she’s exhausted and struggling to move from one activity to another.
And sometimes, the red mist descends and I can’t stop shouting back.
The Red Mist Descends
All my frustrations at juggling a million things badly spill over. And the nagging fear I’m a rubbish mum because I have a shouty, screaming child bubbles up.
I snap and snarl unreasonably and instantly loathe myself for doing it. For what my daughter desperately needs is me to help her learn to calm herself down when she gets mad.
Of course, of course, she also needs to know she will never ever get what she wants from me by shouting and to get mad less in the first place
But at the same time I don’t want her to think it is completely wrong to feel angry … there are so many things in the world it is reasonable and right and important to feel angry about.
The lesson she needs … cripes the lesson I still need! … is how to handle that anger so that it doesn’t become self destructive.
So we’ve been trying out different tactics to help both of us to express our anger constructively and not to be overwhelmed by it ….
Different tactics seem to work best for different children and at different times so we’ve had to experiment a bit but have also found that they are more effective the more we practice them …
1. Offering Time Alone
I know time out works for lots of families but it hasn’t for us.
What is working much better is asking, “would you like some time on your own?”, which will help her build the skill of calmly walking away for a few minutes from situations when she feels her anger rising uncontrollably.
It’s not always what’s needed but often my daughter grabs at the invitation and takes herself off behind the curtain to “mutter” to herself as she calls it.
I’m trying to lead by example by calmly walking away rather than stalking out.
2. Do A Belly Flop
I’m such a fan of simple breathing exercises for managing emotions but they can be tricky to explain to kids, so I love this belly flop trick.
When we want to calm down we “flop” our bellies … mummy’s is big, so it’s very funny 🙂 … which automatically helps us to take nice deep breaths.
3. Silly Slow Counting
My daughter loves to count, so really enjoys silly slow counting e.g. one big smelly elephant, two big smelly elephants, three big smelly elephants.
Concentrating on the numbers distracts from the anger and automatically slows down our breathing and our heart rate and stops all the angry hormones being released.
4.Checking It’s Not a False Alarm
A classic behaviour technique is to get kids to rate how big the problem is that has made them angry or anxious and this is a really fun way to do it.
We talked about our fire alarms and how they go off because mummy is burning sausages rather than because there’s a fire and how we don’t want the fire brigade out for burnt sausages.
And then I explained feeling angry is a bit like a fire alarm and sometimes we get angry when it’s just burnt sausages and not a real fire.
If my daughter’s got mad about something small we talk about whether it’s really a fire that needs the fire brigade or whether it’s just burnt sausages.
5. Robot and Rag Doll
Tensing all your muscles up and then relaxing them all is a great way to turn off anger. And the robot and rag doll is a lovely way to introduce this to kids.
First we stiffen up like a robot and then go floppy like a rag doll. Repeating a few times and making a dance of it helps everyone laugh and relax.