### Child Psychologist’s Advice on Raising Happy and Successful Kids: Teaching Them Healthy Anger Management

No caregiver eagerly anticipates their child’s next tantrum. However, rather than approaching it with dread, viewing each tantrum as a valuable learning opportunity could assist your child in acquiring better emotional management skills — a crucial ability for their future happiness and success.

According to Jazmine McCoy, a clinical psychologist from the Atlanta suburbs, occasional outbursts of anger are unavoidable. Therefore, your objective as a parent of young children should not revolve around avoiding or suppressing these outbursts at all costs. Instead, McCoy advises embracing a mindset focused on nurturing a child capable of effectively handling their anger in a constructive manner.

Research indicates that learning to regulate emotions, particularly intense ones like anger and sadness, can contribute to children’s resilience, enhanced attention spans, and improved cognitive development. These skills and characteristics are fundamental to the overall well-being and success of children.

When it comes to discussing anger, especially in response to unexpected outbursts, the way parents communicate is pivotal in teaching children how to appropriately manage this emotion, as per McCoy’s insights.

“It’s acceptable to feel angry,” she emphasizes. “Anger serves as a message, conveying something significant. Therefore, it’s crucial to pay attention to it.”

McCoy outlines four essential steps to follow:

Establish Clear Boundaries

McCoy stresses the importance of children feeling heard and understood, particularly by their parents. It is essential for children to recognize that experiencing intense negative emotions is normal and that their parents are there to offer support unconditionally, even during challenging moments. While accepting the emotion itself is crucial, it does not mean endorsing any harmful behaviors that may result from it, such as yelling or physical aggression. In such instances, McCoy suggests setting clear boundaries that should not be breached.

For instance, if a child starts yelling in anger, McCoy recommends establishing a boundary by expressing, “Hey, [this is] important. I want to hear what you have to say. But it is hard to understand when you’re yelling… Let’s calm our bodies down.”

Validate Your Child’s Emotions

Acknowledging a child’s anger can assist them in articulating the intense emotions they are experiencing, a vital step in helping them regulate these feelings without resorting to negative behavior. Encouraging children to communicate their feelings verbally can reduce the tendency to express anger through aggression.

This can be as simple as inquiring about the source of their anger and discussing potential solutions, such as engaging with a different toy while waiting for a sibling to finish with the desired one.

“When we teach our child how to communicate with their words, then they don’t need to feel like they have to yell [and] get aggressive to communicate what they need,” explains McCoy.

McCoy also recommends using children’s literature and other media to initiate conversations about emotions. For example, discussing why a character in their favorite book is upset and brainstorming solutions can be beneficial.

Foster Calmness

Encouraging children to take deep breaths when upset is a widely recognized and effective method for de-escalating angry outbursts. McCoy suggests a technique for implementing this strategy successfully: demonstrate deep breathing yourself in front of the child. By pausing the conversation and taking deep breaths, parents can model the calming effect of this practice, potentially prompting the child to follow suit.

According to McCoy, the effectiveness of this method hinges on children not feeling coerced into taking deep breaths. “We don’t necessarily force them to take that deep breath. We can just model it,” she advises.

Avoid Responding with Anger

Despite the frustration that accompanies witnessing a child’s sudden outburst of anger, McCoy emphasizes that young children are still developing their emotional regulation skills. Responding to children’s anger with yelling can have enduring negative impacts on their self-esteem and emotional growth. Even if not explicitly expressed, children can perceive parental anger, which may exacerbate the situation.

Taking a step back and openly discussing feelings of frustration with children can be beneficial. McCoy highlights the significance of the messages conveyed and the modeling of appropriate responses to anger. By acknowledging feelings, taking responsibility, offering apologies, and demonstrating coping mechanisms, parents can effectively manage their own emotions and set a positive example for their children.

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