Teaching Anger Management

My six-year-old daughter has a very difficult time handling her anger and frustration. She throws full-blown temper tantrums whenever we say "no" to something she wants, or we have to make a change in plans, or we ask her to do something she doesn't want to do. (Such as, clean her room, go to bed.) We give her choices and sometimes we let her help in making her own consequences [for her behavior], so it's not like we try to control her every move. It's hard to teach her any sort of anger control as she just freaks out again. I'm reading a book on kids and power struggles, but all the while I feel like I'm loosing the battle and soon it will be too late. Any advice would be helpful. We are even wondering about a counselor/family educator.

--A Parent Soup member

Robert Schwebel

Clinical psychologist Robert Schwebel, PhD, has been in private practice for almost 30 years, counseling children, couples and... Read more

If you feel as though you are the losing the battle, don't wait any longer -- go see a counselor. You deserve help and support.

Some children are more "spirited" than others. Some are testier, and some are angry about something. Parents often struggle, sometimes for long periods of time, in trying to help their children learn to control their tempers and to accept rules and limits. There is no reason in the world not to get help. Sometimes counselors notice things that parents may be missing. If children are angry, counselors can help them learn to manage their emotions. Counselors can help parents with strategies. Also, sometimes parents just need encouragement to hang in there -- to be patient and to endure during this sometimes long, and often difficult, process. So, don't wait until you're at the end of your rope.

Meanwhile, there are some principles that I have often written about:

• Give appropriate freedom
• Set reasonable rules and limits
• Be consistent
• Be firm, but gentle
• Use your considerable power well (with time-outs and rewards, etc., but do not use physical punishment because it teaches aggression and makes children angrier and more defiant on the long run)
• Be a model of calm responses, even when you are upset
• Be a teacher -- help your children understand the lessons you are trying to teach
• Use finesse and humor to encourage positive behavior
• Reinforce positive behavior and do not give too much attention to negative behavior
• Be patient: sometimes it takes longer than you think it should to teach important life lessons.

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