Your Childs Anger May Not Be What You Think It is!
Parenting today seems challenging and fraught with frustrations.
Children are so much more vocal about expressing their angry feelings.
If you’re a parent, how have you felt when your child bombards you with angry, argumentative words?
Did you feel manipulated and controlled; thinking your child doesn’t care about your feelings and/or all the effort you put forth in his or her life? That’s how I used to feel, until I learned there’s usually something more going on beneath a child’s anger.
Now, it’s much easier for me to remain calm when a child is upset with me. I want to share some thoughts and ideas about this.
When a child responds angrily to a parent’s message, that message has not gone to the thinking part of the child’s brain.
No, it has not reached the front part of the brain that does logical, rational thinking and problem solving.
It has actually traveled to the part of the brain dealing with emotions. Most people know this as the limbic system, which is located in the central part of the brain.
I call this the lizard part of the brain because it has no thinking abilities whatsoever; it merely reacts.
Have you ever noticed how angry, upset children (and some adults) appear as irrational?
They’re in the lizard part of their brain and can’t think straight. They’re not trying to control and manipulate you. What’s happening is something lying underneath the surface of their conscious mind.
Underneath the anger is a feeling of fear. It’s totally unconscious so usually both parents and children are unaware of it. When a child becomes angry and moves toward a temper tantrum stage of feelings, what the child is non-verbally telling you is:
. “I can’t think—I’m in the lizard part of my brain and I don’t know how to get out of it to the thinking part where I can talk you in a way that makes sense.”
· “I need your help—I don’t know what to do; I’ve become so upset, I’ve regressed to about the age of 2 or 3.”
Would you expect a 2 year old to be able to sit down and have a rational, logical conversation with you? I don’t think so! And yet, that is the very thing many parents attempt to do when their child is angry and upset.
Can you see the waste of energy that gets expended doing this?
What you as a parent can do to help your angry child is to remain calm. Think like a super nanny on the front lines of parenting.
The first thing you have to do is to help your child move to the thinking part of his or her brain. To do this, calmly (and with no sarcasm)
1. Ask your child, “What part of your brain do you think you’re using right now, the lizard part or the thinking part?” if the answer is, “lizard part”, then ask,
2. Is that working for you? Are you getting what you want?” If your child tells you “no”, then go the next question,
3. “What do you need to do to get back to the thinking part of your brain?” If the child says, “I don’t know,” let him or her know you can see the shift has already happened because your child is answering your questions. This is a good thing!
4. If your child has calmed down a bit, ask if he or she needs some time to think about what just happened so you can talk about it together and come up with a way to handle the situation differently next time. If the child responds with a “no”, give a hug and say something like, “You are always so much nicer when you’re using the thinking part of your brain.” Then, walk away.
The next time, you’re faced with an angry child ask yourself two important questions before you respond:
1. What part of the brain is my child using right now?
2. At what age do I usually see these behaviors in a child
If your child is in the lizard part of the brain and acting like a toddler, this would not be a good time to talk.
Get your child so he or she can think rationally, calm down and then go for the talk.
You can’t talk to a toddler (or anyone else for that matter) when he’s upset. Help him calm down simply by acknowledging his angry feelings and be there with a smile and a hug (regardless of how you’re feeling).
This is a small gesture and will pay big benefits for you down the road.
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