Before I go any further on this topic, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help with a child or teen who frequently becomes explosive and angry when told no. Keep in mind that this column is not a substitute for psychotherapy or family counseling. The advice that I offer is supplemental parent coaching that can help in many situations.
The subject of today’s article is a common issue that many parents bring to me in my parent coaching practice. Generally, the child is usually anywhere from 7 to 14 years of age and often explodes at the smallest of problems, especially when they are told they can’t have or do something. The child is also likely to take out their anger on the parent or a sibling. So while you’re waiting for the appointment with your therapist regarding this problem, here are four things you can do immediately.
Help them find their place in the family. A large majority of these children tend to be first born. For many years, they enjoyed being in the family ‘spotlight’ and getting all of their parents’ love and attention. But as other children joined the family, they lost their place and don’t like it. By getting angry with limits and boundaries, they found a new and inappropriate way to fit in by becoming vocal and angry.
Help them regain their position as the oldest child by seeking their help, their advice, and their assistance. Find purposeful ways for them to be in charge of activities that helps with the other children, such as reading to them, teaching, or mentoring. Allow them to have a few more privileges than the others so they will feel special and valuable to you.
Stop doing too much for your child. The triggers that cause the explosive episodes are sometimes over the parent trying to get the child to wake up in the morning, dressing them, controlling laundry, or getting them out of the house in the morning. If you’re trying to control the outcome of everything, stop. Some parents struggle with turning some responsibilities over to their children and many children or teens don’t like being controlled.
Acknowledge good behaviour more often. It’s unfortunate that it’s normal for many parents to point out when their children aren’t doing what they should, more often than pointing out when they ARE doing something good. Make it your mission to make a bigger deal of when your children are behaving or doing as you’d like them to do.
Spend more time with the explosive child. His behavior may be his way of telling you that he doesn’t feel loved by, or important enough to, you. Schedule a date with each of your children (especially the explosive child) every week, even if it means for just a few minutes. Avoid taking him or her out to buy them something. The date should be about the experience of being together, not showering them with material things.
Finally, when the anger comes out, don’t give it value by trying to stop it or by fighting back. Remain calm, stay quiet, and be ready to listen.