Monday, June 2, 2014

Parenting an Angry Child


I don't know if you've noticed, but some days parenting is really hard.

Even if you have read mountains of parenting books, have years of experience and many, many happy days under your belt.

Sometimes your child is in a funk.  And, let's be honest, sometimes the grumpiest person in the house is Mommy.

Today has been one of those days.  There is a certain child in our family who sometimes becomes filled with anger.  Aggressive, screaming, scary and heart-breaking anger.  There are days I just don't know what to do.  My attempts to respond with a kind answer are met with hostility.  My desire to "hug-it-out" is met with tiny hands hitting, tiny feet kicking and a sweet little mouth bellowing hateful words.

I know what triggers this little person has and often we are able to avoid outbursts with extra attention:  additional one-on-one time, snuggles, books, or kicking a soccer ball back and forth.

We did all of those things today; not one of them helped. Logical consequences for hurtful actions were required, but they didn't change the tone of our day.


Over time we have seen a difference.  For a while it seemed that every day this child would have a big blow-up, recover, and then be perfectly pleasant and delightful for the rest of the day.  Jason and I joked that I needed to wake the child up in a really mean manner every morning.  The blow-up would come early in the day, and we could enjoy the rest of the day in peace.  As time has passed the blow-ups are not as frequent. But, my goodness, they are still difficult.

I don't always end these days feeling satisfied with how I handled the difficult moments with this child. Today,  however, was a good day for me.  But only because I completely checked out during the middle of the fit.  We happened to be in the car, so I just drove.  Tears ran down my face as I listened to my beautiful child screaming and threatening.

I never thought I would be faced with a child that acted this way. ("No child of mine..." and all that). I remember judging parents whose children acted this way. Before I had my own,  of course.   But parenting an angry child is not a matter of a lack of discipline or inattentive parents.  Our child is definitely not mimicking actions he has seen in our home.

My mantra today was "The actions of my child are not a reflection of my parenting".

I have no tips to offer or resources to share, though I've done my share of research.  The only method that seems to work consistenly in our home is patience (sometimes fake patience) and love.

We have many more happy days than bad days, so why is it the bad days that stick with me?

I don't entirely know what causes these aggressive outbursts, but I do know that eventually we work our way through them.  We are learning patience and appropriate responses to anger together.  The progress we have seen is enough to help me see that eventually these rough days may be just a memory.



This is obviously a sensitive subject. My intent in sharing our experience is to offer encouragement to others who may be facing the same difficulty.  If you have encouragement to share, please do!  Any negative or judgemental comments will be removed.





16 comments:

  1. I have had this same struggle for 10 years now. Have sought help from school, therapists, doctors, and books and have always felt like I came away empty-handed. Recently a friend who is going through the same thing, recommend a book called the "Explosive Child". It was the first book where I felt it explained and helped. Maybe it could be a good resource for you.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your struggle. I know how heartbreaking it can be. Thank you for the book recommendation! Is this the right book?

      http://www.amazon.com/The-Explosive-Child-Understanding-Chronically/dp/0061906190

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    2. Yes, that is the one.

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  2. You are strong & you being taught many celestial qualities by your child. Have you created a calming center (or calming corner) in your home? Calming centers are great ways to teach self-soothing for both ourselves & children. Have an area set aside for calm activities with comfy chair (like bean bag chair) and pillows with an acquarium, soothing music, books puppets, simple art activities etc....check out Dr. Becky Bailey's website for more info. Also, at night when in bed focus on at least 3 things done well by the child during the day. This activity helps build self awareness. During the day say comments like: "This could be one of your good things for tonite. Kids really like to know what they are doing well and what new skills they are acquiring.
    Do this consistently for a few nights & soon the child will begin to join in and start remembering what they are doing well. Walking away from angry tantrums, when you can, is always good idea because generally the child wants an audience. Parenting is a challenge & remember to care for yourself! You are your child's most important teacher! Stay strong and breathe deeply! ;o) Love you!!

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    1. Thank you for the advice and suggestions. I haven't tried a calming center. I'll have to look into that a bit more. I love the thought of one, even if I'm the only one who uses it :)

      We do what we call a "high thing" every night at bed. The kids tell us their best moment from the day and we tell them ours. This is usually done one-on-one, as we tuck them into bed and I tailor my high thing to be about whichever child I'm tucking in. Pointing out a something they did well during the day. They seem to thrive on this, and especially love to be told about something they didn't know I was watching.

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  3. That should read when putting child to bed at night....

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  4. Thanks Heidi, I too deal with a child of so much anger....and it is soooo hard! It is nice to hear that other have similar issues when the things they are saying and doing are not learned in the home...I have had many days of tears....just thank you!

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear that! It is good for me to know I'm not alone as the Mama of an angry kiddo, but I'm sorry you have to face it, too. Hugs!

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  5. Is there anyway your above friend can tell the author of the book she suggested? Thanks

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    1. I'm pretty sure the book that was recommended was The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene: http://www.amazon.com/The-Explosive-Child-Understanding-Chronically/dp/0061906190

      I just reserved it at our library.

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  6. Jason and Heidi, we know that you are amazing parents and that you are doing your best. We have had our share of an angry child. Things have gotten much better for us. He is almost 12 and trying hard to control his anger. He still has issues, but at least he is trying now. I don't know what kind of advice to give except there is only one who can really help you and that is the Lord. He knows what your child's needs and feelings are better than anyone else. Priesthood blessings are very helpful. I have needed many of them. Also, later, when we were both rational we were able to discuss the situation and his and our feelings. We love you! Good luck.
    April and James

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    1. Thank you, April! Your support means so much. Most days he is delightful, but we've had a few hard days in a row. It's so hard! But knowing I'm not alone is very reassuring. And we absolutely rely on the Lord. I couldn't make it through a day as a Mama without some help from above!

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  7. I've got one, too--actually two of them--but one clinically diagnosed and ever so hard. She's 14 now. Her pre-school and early elementary years were the hardest. She's learned so much over the years. Sometimes all you can do is cry along with your angry one. I remember long hours of sitting with her in my lap, holding her hands in order to keep her from hurting herself or anyone else, singing softly in hopes that the gentle music and words would reach a critical part of her mind. I'd just pray that her younger siblings would stay safe while we waited out the horrible, angry hours.

    Hang in there. These angry ones have remarkable strength and can become powerful forces for good.

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    1. Oh, thank you for that last point! That is something I remind myself of frequently. This little person is powerful for a reason. He has already overcome major difficulties and setbacks. His fierceness and determination and loyalty will see him far in life. I get to help him learn to harness that energy and apply it appropriately.

      I need to keep my attitude in the right place, too. Thank you for the reminder!

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  8. Thanks for sharing your hard day and for being real about how it feels.

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    1. I appreciate your support, Andrea!

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