Parents expect temper tantrums from 2-year-olds, but angry outbursts don't necessarily stop after the toddler years. Older kids sometimes have trouble handling anger and frustration, too.
Some kids only lose their cool on occasion. But others seem to have a harder time when things don't go their way. Kids who tend to have strong reactions by nature will need more help from parents to manage their tempers.
Controlling outbursts can be difficult for kids — and helping them learn to do so is a tough job for the parents who love them. Try to be patient and positive, and know that these skills take time to develop and that just about every child can improve with the right coaching.
A Parent's Role
Managing kids can be a challenge. Some days keeping the peace while keeping your cool seems impossible. But whether you're reacting to an occasional temper flare-up or a pattern of outbursts, managing your own anger when things get heated will make it easier to teach kids to do the same.
To help tame a temper, try to be your child's ally — you're both rooting for your child to triumph over the temper that keeps leading to trouble.
While your own patience may be frayed by angry outbursts, opposition, defiance, arguing, and talking back, it's during these episodes that you need your patience most. Of course you feel angry, but what counts is how you handle that.
Reacting to kids' meltdowns with yelling and outbursts of your own will only teach them to do the same (and actually is associated with an increase in children's negative behaviors). But keeping your cool and calmly working through a frustrating situation lets you show — and teach — appropriate ways to handle anger and frustration.
Let's say you hear your kids fighting over a toy in the other room. You have ignored it, hoping that they would work it out themselves. But the arguing turns into screaming and soon you hear doors slamming, the thump of hitting, and crying. You decide to get involved before someone gets really hurt.
By the time you arrive at the scene of the fight, you may be at the end of your own rope. After all, the sound of screaming is upsetting, and you may be frustrated that your kids aren't sharing or trying to get along. (And you know that this toy they're fighting over is going to be lost, broken, or ignored before long anyway!)
So what's the best way for you to react? With your own self-control intact. Teaching by example is your most powerful tool. Speak calmly, clearly, and firmly — not with anger, blame, harsh criticisms, threats, or putdowns.
Of course, that's easier said than done. But remember that you're trying to teach your kids how to handle anger. If you yell or threaten, you'll model and ingrain the exact kinds of behavior you want to discourage. Your kids will see that you're so angry and unable to control your own temper that you can't help but scream — and that won't help them learn not to scream.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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