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7 Ways to Help an Angry Child

It’s tough to know how to help an angry child. But some children—despite their small size—seem to have an endless supply of anger buried inside them.

They grow frustrated easily. They yell. They might even become aggressive. But, they usually blow up over seemingly minor events.

If you’re raising a child whose angry outbursts have become a problem, it’s important to teach him the skills he needs to deal with his feelings in a healthy way. Here are seven ways to help with anger:

1. Teach Your Child About Feelings

Kids are more likely to lash out when they don’t understand their feelings or they’re not able to verbalize them. A child who can’t say, “I’m mad,” may try to show you he’s angry by lashing out. Or a child who isn’t able to explain that he’s sad may misbehave to get your attention.

Help your child learn to identify and label feelings.

Begin teaching your child basic feeling words such as mad, sad, happy, and scared. Label your child’s feelings for him by saying, “It looks like you feel really angry right now.” Over time, he’ll learn to label his emotions himself.

As your child develops a better understanding of his emotions and how to describe them, teach him more sophisticated words such as frustrated, disappointed, worried, and lonely.

2. Create an Anger Thermometer

Anger thermometers are tools that help kids recognize the warning signs that their anger is rising. Draw a large thermometer on a piece of paper. Start at the bottom with a 0 and fill in the numbers up until 10, which should land at the top of the thermometer.

Explain that zero means “no anger at all.” A 5 means “a medium amount of anger,” and 10 means “the most anger ever.”

Talk about what happens to your child’s body at each number on the thermometer. Your child might say he’s smiling when he’s at a level 0 but has a mad face when he reaches level 5 and by the time his anger gets to a level 10, he may describe himself as an angry monster.

Talk about how his body feels when he grows angry. He might feel his face get hot when he’s a level two and he might make fists with his hands when he’s a level seven.

When kids learn to recognize their warning signs, it will help them understand the need to take a break, before their anger explodes at a level 10. Hang the anger thermometer in a prominent location and refer to it by asking, “What level is your anger today?”

3. Develop a Plan to Help Your Child Calm Down

Teach children what to do when they begin to feel angry. Rather than throw blocks when they’re frustrated or hit their sister when they’re annoyed, teach them healthier strategies that help with anger.

Encourage children to put themselves in a time-out when they’re upset. Show them that they don’t need to wait until they make a mistake to go to time-out.

Instead, they can go to their room for a few minutes to calm down when they begin to feel angry.

Encourage them to color, read a book, or engage in another calming activity until they’re calm enough to resume their activity.

You might even create a calm down kit. A kit could include your child’s favorite coloring books and some crayons, a fun book to read, stickers, a favorite toy, or lotion that smells good.

When they’re upset, you can say, “Go get your calm down kit,” and encourage them to take responsibility for calming themselves down.

4. Teach Specific Anger Management Techniques

One of the best ways to help an angry child is to teach specific anger management techniques. Taking deep breaths, for example, can calm your child’s mind and his body when he’s upset. Going for a quick walk, counting to 10, or repeating a helpful phrase might also help.

Teach a variety of other skills, such as impulse control skills and self-discipline. Angry kids need a fair amount of coaching to help them practice those skills when they’re upset.

5. Make Sure Angry Outbursts Aren’t Effective

Sometimes kids exhibit angry outbursts because it’s an effective way to get their needs met. If a child throws a temper tantrum and his parents give him a toy to keep him quiet, he’ll learn that temper tantrums are effective.

Don’t give in to your child to avoid a meltdown. Although that may be easier in the short-term, in the long run giving in will only make behavior problems and aggression worse.

6. Follow Through With Consequences When Necessary

Consistent discipline is necessary to help your child learn that aggression or disrespectful behavior isn’t acceptable. If your child breaks the rules, follow through with a consequence each time.

Time-out or taking away privileges can be effective discipline strategies. If your child breaks something when he’s angry, make him help repair it or make him do chores to help raise money for repairs. Don’t allow him to have his privileges back until he’s repaired the damage.

7. Avoid Violent Media

If your child struggles with aggressive behavior, exposing him to violent TV shows or video games isn’t going to be helpful. Prevent him from witnessing violence and instead, focus on exposing him to books, games, and shows that model healthy conflict resolution skills.

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How to Address Your Teen’s Issues with Poor Motivation

Getting your teen to improve his or her focus.

“If the eye is patient enough, it will get a clear view of the nose.” – Anonymous

When people think about issues related to poor concentration, they immediately think about distractions. This is even more the case when it concerns teens. Things that come to the mind of the casual observer, are smart phones, social media and troubled peers.

A quick Google search for how to improve your teen’s lack of focus, will bring up issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), depressionnutrition and strategies for developing a more efficient schedule. These topics and recommended strategies are appropriate and effective for helping your teen improve his or her issues with focus, but they cannot be effectively applied until one important issue is addressed.

Motivation.

That’s right. The primary reason young people struggle with poor focus and concentration is a general lack of motivation to do anything meaningful. The teen who lacks motivation will often gravitate towards activities which greatly stimulate neuro-chemicals associated with the brain’s reward system.

Activities such as video games, food, mind altering substances, alcohol and sex. These are things bored teens are likely to engage in habitually, in order to feel alive. This is because, in the absence of motivation to succeed, the teen is faced with a difficult reality consisting of a monotonous chore and a daily schedule. Even things like daily showers can seem time consuming and tiring to a teen who struggles with low motivation. It is also important to note that these issues are also symptoms of depression with a teen.

Before we begin processing on how to get teens more motivated, it is important to come to an understanding on what motivation is. According to Wikipedia, the term motivation is derived from motive. Motive means a need that desires satisfaction. So, for a teen to be motivated, he or she must be actively pursuing a need which desires satisfaction.

Saul McLeod/Simple Psychology
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Chart
Source: Saul McLeod/Simple Psychology

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Typically, we understand needs to be intrinsic materials necessary to keep us alive, such as food, water and shelter. However, an expanded discussion on the issue of needs would be based on the famous work of Abraham Maslow, regarding his hierarchy of emotional needs.

According to Dr. Maslow’s theory, there are two types of needs people strive for. They are deficiency needs and growth needs. Deficiency needs are comprised of basic needs and psychological needs. These are physiological needs, which have to do with food, water and shelter. Followed by the need for safety and security. The physiological needs and the safety needs are known as basic needs.

Next are the psychological needs, which have to do with the needs for a sense of belonging and feeling accepted. This is also followed by the need for esteem, which has to do with prestige and status in society. According to Dr. Maslow, people are only motivated to get these needs met, when these needs are deficient in their lives. Once these needs are met, people are no longer motivated in getting them met, which opens the door for addressing growth needs.

Then there are the self-fulfillment needs, which Dr. Maslow describes as self-actualization coming from having achieved one’s full potential. He also describes this as growth needs. Unlike deficiency needs, people become more motivated as their growth needs are met.

So, a teen who practices the courage to do his best in understanding calculus, becomes more motivated the more he succeeds and subsequently more focused. Further, teens who are experiencing success in achieving their potential, are also very disciplined in their home life. For example, they are disciplined in following through consistently with their assigned chores and personal hygiene.

It has been theorized that teens who struggle with depression, have experienced very little success in effectively getting their psychological needs met. This topic will be addressed in another post.

Often Motivated.

Upon examining Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is easy to conclude that most teens don’t have low motivation. Rather, most teens are preoccupied to getting their deficiency needs (acceptance and recognition) met, rather than their growth needs (success in academia) met.

Such a phenomenon is easy to witness with teens from low socio-economic backgrounds, such as an obsession in getting their physiological and safety needs met. However, with teens from middle class backgrounds and up, their focus is often on their psychological needs. For example, relationship with friends, close friendships and status among peers.

When teens are focused on getting their deficiency needs met, they are not going to be focused on issues regarding self-discipline and mastery. For a parent to help his or her teen become more focused on growth needs, he or she will have to teach his or her teen how to effectively get their deficiency needs met.

Conflict of Beliefs and Values.

This may be easier said than done, as today’s teenager is often exposed to new values and beliefs through social media. Meaning, that these values and beliefs are often in conflict with the teaching of the parents.

So, efforts to help the teen address his or her deficiency needs may result in a stalemate between parent and teen. Which then leads to a recurring problem with a lack of focus due to poor motivation with issues like school work, personal hygiene and chores.

The solution for a situation like this will be for parents to seek therapeutic services to assist their teen in effectively getting their deficiency needs met, in order to focus on his or her growth needs.

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7 Tips for Disciplining a Depressed Child

Depression doesn’t just affect adults, it also affects millions of children and adolescents.

Some of the symptoms that accompany childhood depression include irritability, social withdrawal, and low energy. Children with depression may also struggle to manage their behavior.

In 2013, 11 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds experienced a major depressive episode. Many younger children are also diagnosed with depressive disorders, such as persistent depressive disorder or disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, every year.

Children with depression may require a slightly different approach to discipline. Here are seven tips for disciplining a depressed child.

Work With Your Child’s Treatment Team

If you suspect your child has depression, speak to his pediatrician or a mental health professional. Depression is treatable, but without appropriate intervention, it may get worse. Treatment may include therapy, parent training, or medication.

Work with treatment providers to learn about the steps you can take to best support your child’s mental health. Inquire about the specific strategies you should use to address behavior problems like non-compliance and disrespect.

Establish Healthy Rules

All kids need rules, but children with depression sometimes require specific rules that support a healthy lifestyle. A depressed child may want to stay up late and sleep all day, or he may want to spend all of his time playing video games because he lacks the energy to play outside.

Set limits on electronics and discourage your child from sleeping during the day. You may also need to create rules about personal hygiene as children with depression sometimes don’t want to shower or change their clothes. Keep your household rules simple, and emphasize the importance of being healthy.

Provide Structure to Your Child’s Day

Kids with depression often struggle to fill their time with meaningful activities. For example, a child may sit in his room all day, or he may put off doing his chores as long as possible.

Create a simple schedule that provides structure to your child’s day. Set aside time for homework, chores, and other responsibilities and allow him to have limited electronics time once his work is done. Children with depression sometimes struggle with sleep issues, so it’s important to establish a healthy bedtime routine as well.

Catch Your Child Being Good

Positive discipline is most effective for children with depression. Look for opportunities to praise your child by saying things like, “You did a great job cleaning your room today,” or, “Thank you for helping me clean up after dinner.” Praise will encourage your child to keep up the good work.

Create a Reward System

Rather than focus on taking away privileges for misbehavior, emphasize to your child that he can earn rewards for good behavior. A behavior chart or a token economy system can motivate depressed kids.

Choose one or two behaviors to work on first—like taking a shower before 7 p.m. If he follows through, let him earn a token or sticker that can be exchanged for bigger rewards, like a trip to the park. Or, provide small, immediate rewards for compliance, like 15 minutes to play on the computer.

Separate Your Child’s Emotion from the Behavior

Discipline your child’s child’s behavior, not his emotions. Don’t scold him for being angry or lecture him about being in a bad mood. Instead, send the message that emotions are OK, it’s what he chooses to do with those emotions that matters. Teach him healthy coping strategies so he can deal with uncomfortable feelings, like anger, frustration, embarrassment, or sadness.

Consider the Implications of Negative Consequences

Children with depression need negative consequences for breaking the rules, but you should choose those consequences carefully. Taking away your child’s ability to socialize with friends, for example, could make his depression worse.

Short-term consequences, like time-out, can be very effective for younger children with depression. Consequences that take place over several days, like being grounded for a week, can backfire because children with depression may lose their motivation to earn their privileges back.

4 Motivational Interviewing Skills for Parents

4 Ways to Help your Child Deal with T1D Management

What Is Motivational Interviewing? It is one of the most effective ways to decrease ambivalence in clients suffering from long-term illness and the incredible burden associated with it. Many of these skills focus on simple bite-size steps that will begin building self-esteem and feelings of hope. Actively practicing these skills can greatly increase the level of success your child feels over time.

1. Create achievable, realistic goals.

Why? When you place too much on someone’s plate and pair it with severe negative downside, you have a solid recipe to create indecision and apathy.

How? If your child is struggling with daily tasks, don’t talk about things like the A1C blood test constantly. Instead, focus on the next meal, day, or week to help create the right habits.

2. Empower your child rather than manage your child.

Why? Success does not mean blood sugar within the desirable range; it means helping your child take active steps required to create the right habits. Exclusively trying to manage your child’s outcome based on good blood sugar or other fact-based outcomes can put a lot of uncontrollable elements onto your child’s plate and ultimately create hopelessness or low self-esteem.

How? As you talk to your child, work to identify areas of pride or success and incorporate asking about these items while you check in on insulin levels or carb intake. Additionally, try to elicit ideas from your child on how to manage a certain situation (e.g. how much to eat or how much insulin to take). This will support their confidence in their ideas instead of always looking to you for the answers.

3. Listen to your child.

Why? Your child has a 24/7 job that they did not apply for and they cannot quit. Creating an atmosphere that allows your child to safely explore conflicts and face difficult realities is critical to successfully managing T1D.

How? Show empathy, and then communicate your empathy. As a parent raising a child with T1D, it can be easy to hyper-focus on the next blood sugar reading or meal. Simply saying, “That makes sense. I can see how frustrating that would be.” can go such a long way.

4. Roll with Resistance.

Why? Managing T1D can be extremely discouraging. Your child might do everything right and still have a high blood sugar reading at the next meal. Helping your child understand that managing T1D is a roller coaster and not every blood sugar reading will be in the desirable range will help tremendously.

How? Normalize your child’s experience: “You ate the right amount, took the correct dose of insulin, and you still have high blood sugar. That happens all of the time.” Also, spend your mental energy on controlling what you can control and let everything else run its course.

 

These tips are helpful and supported by research but can be incredibly hard to implement consistently. If you ever need help or want someone to talk to, give us a call at (612) 223-8898 or schedule an appointment here.