You have taught your child skills for “using his words” to express anger and frustration in difficult situations. Through role-playing with you and a whole lot of on-the-playdate training, he has mastered the delicate art of self-control when it comes to handling his own angry feelings. On the flip side, how does your child do when it comes to receiving your anger or the frustrated words of playmates? Does he know how to respond to another’s anger with the same skill as he can express his own?
Help your child learn these three basic rules of responding to anger to help him complete his training in coping with anger—both his own and that of others:
1. Listen openly
- Assure kids that angry words are like thunder—on their own they are nothing to be feared. Kids who can tolerate listening to angry words keep the door open for calming, healing communication.
- Remind kids that they can be attentive and tuned in to what a person is saying regardless of whether they agree or not.
- It is also important to teach kids the difference between listening openly when someone is expressing angry feelings and tolerating verbal aggression. No child deserves to be exposed to abusive words from anyone.
2. Avoid passive and aggressive behaviors
- Teach your child not to engage in passive behaviors such as running away from or ignoring someone’s anger. Most people care more that they are understood and that their feelings matter than they do about getting their own way. Encourage kids to verbally acknowledge that they understand when someone is feeling angry.
- Discourage your kids from engaging in blaming, shouting, or attacking. These aggressive behaviors are barriers to effective communication, interfere with conflict resolution, and cause others to escalate their anger.
3. Practice Coping Skills
- Remind your child that his primary job in responding to anger is to practice his own coping skills. Kids can practice soothing themselves with calming statements such as:
“We can deal with this”
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion”
Being able to respond effectively to anger is as important of a skill for children as being able to express anger assertively. To help your child cope well with both sides of anger, teach him these tips for good listening and self-soothing and help him identify specific passive and aggressive behaviors to avoid.