Little children often have BIG feelings. And that’s when they get overwhelmed and we adults take it for misbehaviour and anger. However if we are mindful and exert a little bit caution, it is easy to calm an angry child. All these little bundles of joy need is a guide to show them how to stay calm and in control.
1. Identify and Name the Need: Children, when overwhelmed, find it difficult to express their feelings. They get so caught up in the emotion that they forget the very need, which leads to that emotion. Help your child identify this need to calm her down. Let’s say your child gets all whiny and clingy when you sit down for work. Here the need is ‘attention’. All she wants is your attention. A simple question “Do you need my attention?” will often calm the child in this case.
2. Label the Emotions: “I see you are getting frustrated trying to fix your legos” will be more helpful than simply asking “What happened? Why are you behaving like this?”. Children need us to decipher their emotions. So instead of asking them what and why, give them the answers and help them manage their feelings.
3. Empathise: Empathy works wonders with children and adults alike. Just like we don’t like being lectured when angry or irritated, children too do not like being told what to do when they are grappling with feelings. Listening and validating your child can have a great calming effect of him.
4. Work out a Calm down Plan: Brainstorm calm down techniques with your child. Ask him how would he like you to help when he is angry or frustrated. This will help your child reflect of his emotions and think of ways towards calming down…the very first step towards staying in control.
5. Be a partner: Nothing can be more disheartening for a child than being left alone to deal with her big feelings. Tell your child that you are her partner, her guide and will try your best to help her calm down. Simple phrases like “I love you”, “I’ll stay close till you feel better” or “I am here for you” have an immense calming power.
6. Bring on Mindfulness: Be it taking deep breaths or listening to soothing music, mindfulness can teach your child to learn to manage her emotions and calm herself down. Explore various techniques and see which one works best for your child.
7. Revisit happy memories: Remember the song “These are a few of my favorite things” from Sound of Music. This song always has worked for me. It helps to count our blessings and recall happy memories when we are upset or grumpy. Narrating a happy incident or recalling a laugh you shared can ease up the tension and help your loved one calm down.
8. Improvise: Whenever my child is anxious or grumpy, I choose to improvise rather than preach. Often that means making up a story around his emotions and the situation at hand. And while we are at it, he himself comes down to a solution. Stories, somehow, have a way with kids and are a great way to calm them down.
It is imperative to remember that love, above all, has the most profound calming effect. Much like a child who needs to learn how to address his/her feelings, parents too need to learn how to love and calm an angry child. It is not easy but with practice nothing is impossible, specially when at stake is your child’s emotional and mental well-being.