defusing child anger

When our children get annoyed or tearful, as parents we often end up contradicting them. We try to explain why they shouldn’t feel that way.

We tell them off for being unreasonable, we try to tell them what they should do to sort it out.

Next time there’s an angry outburst or upset, try instead to use empathy!

Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. To see things from someone else’s point of view. So how can you use empathy to help your child calm down if they’re shouting or crying? try to understand what makes your child angry.

We cover how to defuse anger in our calm parenting course in module 2.

6 steps to defuse anger

  1. Listen to your child. Give them your full attention. Try to determine the emotion your child is feeling

    Work out why your child is upset or angry. Is your child angry with you for not letting them have what they want? Did they have a bad day at school? Are they annoyed with their brother or sister?

  2. Stop yourself from subtly denying your child’s emotions. Don’t tell your child why they shouldn’t feel the way they do. Don’t try to fix their problem or offer solutions. Don’t try to distract them, reassure them that they’ll be fine, or take the opposite point of view.

    Use empathy. Help your child feel understood. Even if you don’t agree with how they’re feeling, let your child know you understand. Take a guess what emotion you think they’re feeling and suggest why.
    “You seem upset. You’re cross with me that I won’t let you go to George’s house.”
    “You look sad. I’m guessing something happened today at school.”
    “You sound angry with your brother for borrowing that without asking. That has really annoyed you.”
    “You really wanted a biscuit. You’re disappointed I’ve only got an apple.”

  3. Then stay quiet. Don’t add a ‘but.’ The word ‘but’ automatically pits you against your child and contradicts the understanding you just showed.
    Just empathise with your child then stop talking.

    If your child carries on being upset or annoyed, keep empathising for a few moments.
    “I get that! I understand!”
    “I know, that must be really annoying. I can see you’re really angry.”

    “It’s OK to be upset. Come here my darling, come and have a hug.”
    “You really want that biscuit; you’re cross you can’t have one!”

Don’t just take my word for it. Next time your child is upset or angry try it. You’ll be amazed at how it works to defuse a big emotion and helps your child feel understood. (it also works with adults!)

To book a parenting session to tackle tantrums, anger management or any other parenting problem, please call me on 01403 839683.

Anger management for 5 year olds

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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