Even if your child is sweet and quiet by nature, occasional outbursts of heated anger are common, especially once he reaches school age.
Educational researcher Marian Marion explains that anger has three parts. The first is anger's emotional state. This occurs when your child is prevented from reaching a goal or from having his needs met. The second stage is the actual expression of anger. This expression may be communicated nonverbally (sulking, facial expressions), verbally (protests or hurtful words) or physically (hitting, kicking or running away). The third and most mature aspect of anger is an understanding of the emotion.
When helping you child deal with feelings of anger, Steve Maurer, a clinical psychologist, recommends parents first acknowledge their child's emotions. Try speaking in a soft but strong voice and saying things like, "I can see why you're angry." Second, try to hold your child or remove her from the situation in order to help her cool down. When your child is able to talk with you, ask things like "What made you so angry?" and "What do you want to do now?" Help your child get the logical, thinking part of her brain working again. Maurer also emphasizes that parents should remain calm and supportive and model good anger control for their children. Don't let their anger fuel your own.
The Bible has a lot to say about anger. For instance, David wrote, "In your anger do not sin" (Psalm 4:4) as a reminder that anger itself isn't a sin, but what we do when we're angry can be. (For more on anger, look at Proverbs 15:1 and 16:32; Ecc. 7:9; Matt. 5:9; Luke 6:27-31; Eph. 4:26, 31-5:2.)
Rachel Gilmore, former educator and mother of two
Punishment vs. Guidance
Most parents struggle with discipline. We aren't always sure what to do or how to do it. Our conflicting feelings and the constant search for new ways of enforcing the rules can leave us feeling clueless and defeated.
When it comes to discipline, it's important for parents to understand that discipline is not only about punishment, but about loving guidance?guiding our children to become like Jesus. As Proverbs 22:6 explains, discipline is merely a training process, and through proper guidance, consistent modeling and prayer, the heart will follow.
This kind of loving guidance doesn't have to be complicated. A few simple guidelines can help you establish consistent discipline for your early elementary child:
1. Set clear expectations. Try something like, "Do your homework. You can go outside when you're done." Your child might balk, but stay nearby until she finishes. She relaxes. You relax. There's no nagging.
2. Help your child express his feelings in a constructive way. Tell him, "You can be mad at your sister, but you must treat her with respect when you talk to her." The first few times you might even need to provide your child with the words to say.
3. Affirm what she's doing well. Tell her, "You're doing a great job of picking nice friends at school." Discipline includes noticing what your child does right. Every day, affirm at least one action.
Karen Dockrey, youth worker and mother of two
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