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Oregon Family Magazine

Lessons in Keeping Your Cool

04/03/2022 ● By By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Anger is a normal human emotion, and we all feel it now and then. Teaching our kids how to handle their anger is an important task for parents.

What happens when we are angry?

During moments of anger, the body is flooded by adrenaline, which science has proven makes us more aggressive, frightened and unable to listen rationally to another person’s words. It takes about 20 minutes for adrenaline to wear off once it’s been triggered, so teach your child useful techniques to diffuse their emotions, such as taking deep breaths or separating themselves from the source of their anger. Walking away from a situation when mad or upset isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of wisdom.

How to deal with angry outbursts:

  • Help your child identify their emotions: Kids are more likely to lash out when they don’t understand how they are feeling, or they are not able to verbalize their emotions.
  • Don’t give in to tantrums: Giving a child a toy or treat to calm them down will only teach them that temper tantrums are effective.
  • Follow through with consequences: Time-out or taking away privileges can be effective in dealing with an outburst. If your child breaks or damages something when they are angry, have them help repair it or do chores to raise money to replace the item.
  • Praise appropriate behavior: When your child has calmed down, commend them for pulling themselves together.

I encourage parents to lead by example. If your kids watch you lose your temper, they'll likely do the same. But if they see you cope with your emotions in more positive ways, they'll pick up on that, too. Extensive research shows that aggression or cruelty by parents — such as yelling, swearing, spanking or hitting a child — teaches them to be aggressive, not only as a child but also as an adult. Abusive words from a parent can cut deeply, leaving permanent emotional scars.

In a world full of so much emotional upheaval, the job of creating peace starts at home, so encourage your kids to talk about their feelings openly and without judgment. If your child struggles with anger and you need support, talk with your pediatrician.