Our family is a newly foster-adoptive family. A couple weeks ago, we had two lovely siblings stay in our home. To maintain confidentiality, we’ll name 4 ½ girl (Zoe Girl – ZG) and 2 ½ boy (Zoe Boy – ZB). During their stay, I experienced ZB’s first anger outburst. Here’s what happened….
We were sitting on the couch watching Veggie Tales, when I caress ZG’s hair and suddenly ZB pulls ZG’s hair. I said, “ZB, we are nice. Please stop.” He then hits my face, gets off the sofa and walks away backwards, while attempting to spit on me. He continues to point his fingers and tries to spit once again. He fails miserably as it lands on his shirt. He stands behind the sofa and gives me his back. I then walk toward him, get on my knees and say, “Sweetie, I know you’re angry. I feel sad when you hit my face. It hurts. Let’s be nice.” Then, he starts crying, puts his arms up (a sign to carry him). I pick him up and comfort him. He stops crying. I then reinforce the “Be nice” catchphrase by saying, “This much better… we can be nice to each other.”
Following are six tips I hope can help in dealing with anger outbursts in your home:
- Show empathy – Showing empathy doesn’t mean tolerating “bad behavior.” It means you show the child you accept them as a person. Use I messages – “I am sad when you hit me. It hurts. I would like you to keep your hands to yourself.”
- Be clear and make it short – Children need to know ahead of time what you expect of them. One of the scripts that we have implemented in our home is the following: “We are nice, we don’t hit.” Don’t give the child a long sermon on the reasons they are not to hit. You will loose them.
- Don’t take it personal – Don’t make yourself that important. I do mean this in a loving way. Taking things personal means we allow ourselves to be consumed with “I.” It takes the focus off the child. We are the adults. They are children. Therefore, we are to guide them into more healthy styles of relating.
- Role model – If we want children to do as we say, then we need to model that for them. Children are beginning to learn about boundaries. Show them what you mean with your words and actions. Kids are watching our every move!
- Be consistent – Setting boundaries with your child doesn’t mean they will change after the first time. There needs to be plenty of practice experiences. I always say that conflict is great because it allows the child and the parent to get to know each other better, to experience each other at a deeper level. Although this statement may sound weird, children will need to learn how to deal with conflict in the home. They will go out into the real world one day, so let’s prepare them.
- Always end with touch – Now, if your child does not allow you to touch them, I suggest you respect that boundary. If your child does respond to touch – PLEASE end with a hug!
Here’s the worksheet: (6 Tips for Dealing with Anger Outbursts)
Rest in His Word: Proverbs 11:29
“He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.” (NIV)
- Go back to the list and mark the ones you already implement with your children. Great!
- Now, for the ones that you didn’t check, pick one that you can begin implementing today. Just one. Focus on it, get good at it and share it with others. Once you master it, move to another item.
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