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Category Archives: Anger Management

We had a huge crowd of parents who took time out of their work day to come and talk about how to manage their child’s anger. Sharon Williams, LCSW, one of the therapists helping with the workshop found this great story about managing outbursts in public. I got a chuckle from it and it also gives some valuable strategies for parents.

I hope you enjoy it as well and thanks to Sharon for finding this gem.

We’ve all seen it. A child is in the grocery store, crying about a piece of candy, or other treat that they want and are not allowed to have. Perhaps you gave the mom a sympathetic look. Perhaps you wondered why Mom wasn’t doing anything about their annoying kid. If that annoying kid happens to be yours, you probably felt that flush of embarrassment and frustration that accompanies every public tantrum. In this fun story below, a man notices a mom handle her fussy daughter with such grace, he is compelled to follow them.

A man observed a woman in the grocery store with a three-year-old girl in her cart. As they passed the cookie section, the little girl asked for cookies and when her mother told her “no,” the little girl immediately began to whine and fuss. The mother said quietly, “Now Monica, we just have half of the aisles left to go through- don’t be upset. It won’t be long now.”

Soon, they came to the candy aisle and the girl began to shout for candy. When told she couldn’t have any, she began to cry. The mother said, “There, there, Monica. Don’t cry. Only two more aisles to go and we’ll be checking out.”

When they got to the checkout stand, the little girl immediately began to clamor for gum and burst into a terrible tantrum upon discovering there’d be no gum purchased. The mother said serenely, “Monica, we’ll be through this checkout stand in 5 minutes. Then you can go home and have a nice nap.”

The man followed them out to the parking lot and stopped the woman to compliment her. “I couldn’t help noticing how patient you were with little Monica,” he began. The mother replied, “I”m Monica. My little girl’s name is Tammy.”

Anyone who has had children knows that tantrums are just a part of toddler growing pains. They are developing complex emotions but don’t yet have the words to express them. Moreover, they are becoming aware of themselves as individuals and are struggling to exercise that individualism by attempting to control various aspects of their lives. This manifests in tantrums over… just about anything. Unfortunately, knowing the psychological and developmental reasons behind the epic meltdown your toddler is having in the middle of a store does nothing to help you deal with it. Different parenting philosophies may suggest different tactics, but there is universal agreement that the best thing a parent can do is to remain calm. I loved this story because Monica’s words sound so familiar to my own internal monologue when my darling daughter is being less than darling. (I’ve also been known to pop a piece of chocolate if I can get away with it.)

Once you have managed to stay calm in the face of a screaming child, there are many ways to deal with the public tantrum itself.

  1. Prevention. Children have a much harder time regulating their emotions if they are tired or hungry. If at all possible, schedule errands around naps. Consistent bedtimes can also help prevent chronic fatigue, which sometimes manifests as hyperactivity. Always carry a healthy snack that you can offer your child, especially if you know you will be out for more than a few hours. In some cases, a child may have a food allergy that causes irritability. If you suspect this is the case, consult your pediatrician.
  2. Preparation. Most children do better if they know what to expect. Rather than gathering up your toddler and hoping everything will go smoothly, try explaining what is going to happen and what you expect from her. Let her know that you are going to the store, but that you will not be purchasing toys. Repeat the expectations for her behavior on the way to the store as well. If possible, give her an age appropriate job to do. For example, she can put produce into bags as you select them, or cross items off a shopping list. Having a task will keep her busy while also conveying confidence in her abilities.
  3. Resolve. Whether you decide to ignore the tantrum or address it, it’s important to remain consistent. If you give in to the tears, your child will believe that crying can sometimes be an effective (and appropriate) means to get what they want. If you plan to buy her a special treat that day, let her know in advance.

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CC White LPC, one of In Step’s wonderful clinicians saw the movie Inside Out this week and has written this week’s blog post about the film. Some children’s films hit that sweet spot between supreme entertainment and emotional authenticity. I haven’t seen this film yet, but after reading CC’s post, I’d say that Inside Out makes the mark.

If you are a parent, chances are very good that you already know about the movie Inside Out, a story of an 11-year-old girl who just moved with her family and is having a tough time adjusting to her new school and life. She is experiencing a wide, quickly-changing array of emotions including Anger, Disgust, Joy, Fear and Sadness; feelings we all, children and adults alike, experience and relate to. Each feeling is portrayed in the film as a unique character manifested in her mind.

This movie is truly a gift that encourages children to open up and talk to their parents and others about how they are feeling. Children see that it is okay to have all these emotions. In all of us, there is a place for disgust which helps us understand the importance of hygiene; fear which helps us understand situations that are troublesome or concerning; anger which helps us stand up for ourselves and understand frustrations; joy which helps us understand love as well as people and situations that make us feel whole. Most of all, there is the benefit of sadness which helps us understand disappointment and longing. Sadness in a child is a challenging emotion to sit with for most adults, especially parents. We want our children to feel loved, supported and unique, and not to dwell on the wrongs or hardships of life. We feel it is our job to make our kid(s) happy. The truth is, outside of our homes too, our children face stressful challenges at school, with peers, teachers, and coaches. Growing up isn’t easy for kids, and helping them to express emotions in healthy, appropriate ways is not easy either. Resiliency and a sense of optimism develop when children find ways to untangle and then manage more complex feelings.

Inside Out doesn’t just give emotions a side-line role in the film. Rather, feelings literally come alive with personalities, opening the door for parents and children to process a range of emotions together. The film illustrates the critical need for parents to stay tuned-in to their child’s emotional needs and help them understand, nurture, and express feelings.

The following are a few take-home messages for you to nurture feelings at home:

  • Create a safe environment. Feelings can be confusing, frightening and powerful. Create an open and safe environment for your child to share feelings by checking in on their feelings. Then, listen in a fully present manner to what they share.
  • Respond empathically. Listen and try to relate to how your child is feeling. Show with your face and body how much you care.
  • Go with the emotion. Rather than telling your child what to feel and what not to feel i.e. “You don’t really feel that way.” or “This isn’t a reason for you to feel sad”, validate feelings instead. For example, if your child has an argument with a peer and worries s/he may be losing a friend, try saying this, “You seem sad. It’s hard to lose someone you care about so much”. When you acknowledge and name the emotion, your child feels heard and is soothed by your recognizing their feelings.
  • Try coping strategies. Simple actions can de-stress. Help your child relax with deep breaths, counting to ten, develop strategies that can help make them feel more comfortable and calm.
  • Use a different lens. There are no all or nothing situations. When your child has a challenging event with peers, negativity typically gives way to more positive take-aways once s/he has felt heard and understood. You’ll know when it’s time for you to encourage using a different lens, however small. For example, after an upsetting social situation with peers, ask him/her to try to remember a familiar face or person there who was positive and supportive.
  • Make feelings a priority. The greatest gift you can give yourself and your child is an opening to start a conversation about emotions early on. Give them an opportunity to understand themselves better and accept themselves. Learning about oneself from the “Inside Out” gives our children the potential to become healthier, happier and more resilient.I encourage you to see the movie and take the time to talk about it together. You might be surprised at what you will learn and that is the platform for growth.

CC White

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