More Ideas On Dealing With That Anger: Wear It Out, Hug It Out

Video-thumb-activity-184I'm picking up on a theme here from the many awesome comments received in response to Bella's last post. A few people mentioned that the empathising-with-the-angry-child strategy didn't seem to work as well, especially for some younger kids. Many of you pointed out that the anger seemed to need to run it's course and that trying to reason or empathize, in the moment, just seemed to make things escalate. Someone expressed concern about the message we send when we immediately act to divert attention away from the anger. Are we teaching our kids that expressing bad feelings should be avoided at all costs? Let me pass on a couple of thoughts.

To "Mom2boys" and others with little ones that start to strike out when they are angry, you might want to get your
hands on "
No Biting" or "No Hitting" by Karen Katz. Fun, light, lift-the-flap books that are great for redirecting toddler misbehaviour. E.g. One page on the left in "No Biting" says "No
hitting mommy" with appropriate picture. On the right page it says, "What can you hit?". Lift the flap and it says "A drum!". There is a great picture of a mini drummer letting rip!.  My son LOVED the whole series
by Karen Katz (the art work is beautiful) but particularly this book and it seemed to work. After a couple
of readings he would run and find his toy drum when he was mad and just have at it.

This brings me to my first suggestion: Wear it Out! 

Perhaps with younger and/or more intense children who are not yet able to self-regulate very well, you can help them wear that anger out and therefore get to a more reasonable place. My son was not actually very big on "tantrums" (I'd know way before that the anger was brewing, which was a bonus because I could move to cut it off at the pass) but he sure is intense and when he did really lose it, it wasn't subtle. He couldn't even hear me, even if I was empathising, so I would try to help him work the anger out. I'd say, "It's fine to be mad/angry, let's go in your room and punch your pillow until you feel better."  Sometimes I would bring the pillow to him and he'd actually lay into it. After a few minutes of me actually ALLOWING the anger, he (or is it we?) wore it out. My take on it is that it is a more action-oriented way (as opposed to psychologically-oriented) way to empathise or acknowledge that anger and then help your child get to the point where other techniques like distraction can take effect. I remember this to be especially helpful at around the 18 months to 3 years age, when kids really are more action-oriented anyway, generally speaking. 

My second suggestion?
Hug it Out! 

Your anger is pretty scary to children -
justified or not, non-maligning or not and we need to acknowledge this. Even if
you are totally justified in your anger (and in parenting, there are MANY times when we are), it's important to repair. 

It's not that different from any other relationship. Lord knows I've had very justified outbursts towards spouse, but even then I think it's good to "make amends" when you've had your say. It puts things on a more even footing rather than having the memory of the interaction being more like that of a powerful-figure-scolding-the-helpless. The repair can help re-establish a sense of partnership and hopefully lead to more co-operation on the issue in the future. It also says, it's okay to be angry and to express it. We'll come out the other side and it'll be okay.

Maybe not right away, but even
when X seems fine after the outburst has subsided and we've moved on, I try to revisit the issue briefly, say at bed time. I usually say that "I don't like
yelling, don't want to make you feel bad…I just get frustrated and then I
don't know what to do anymore. So I yell. Can we please try to avoid that
next time? Can you please try to listen to me when I ask you to….?" Then I usually say, "I think maybe we should hug it out." And we do, and we feel like comrades again.

And on that sweet note…I leave you to a lovely weekend.

–by Tracy

(with apologies for the varying font, I cannot for the life of me, fix it!)

7 thoughts on “More Ideas On Dealing With That Anger: Wear It Out, Hug It Out

  1. @anon: It’s always a good idea to consider multiple sources/opinions on parenting strategies as we all know that some suggestions work well for some kids but perhaps not so well for others. That’s why Is herself draws on and cites multiple sources and acknowledges that successful parenting is also very much a matter of finding what works for you and your child etc.
    The previous post is a good case in point. Several people who commented pointed out that empathising in the heat of the moment does not always pan out for them. Although I have had some success with this, I also had success with the “pound the pillow” route which is why I mentioned it. My own experience was that allowing an outlet for the anger really helped my son get to a more reasonable place. I have no doubt this is not everyone’s experience. But perhaps someone out there might try it and who knows…
    I don’t think either of us would say there are hard and fast rules about these strategies. And like the wonderful readership of the blog, we are different moms, with different kids, who can also bring to bear somewhat different types of expertise. It’s not surprising that we might have somewhat different takes on the topics covered on the blog from time to time.
    Have you tried the “wear it out” approach with your children? Anyone else? I’d be interested to hear about these experiences.

  2. I haven’t figured out how to translate this into something helpful for my daughter yet, but I’ll share my experience with physically expressing my own anger-
    If I do something violent, like hit a wall, it doesn’t really help. I tend to end up even more angry. But I do find that it helps to do something physical to vent the frustration. I use a habit I picked up from my Hubby. I stamp my feet and say “naaaaah!” He does this when he’s programming and getting frustrated by his inability to find a bug. We used to work together, and I picked up the habit from him. And then one day, it clicked and I used the same technique when I was mad at home. And it worked!
    I can’t always remember to do it. In the heat of anger, I often do the exact wrong thing. But when I can remember, it almost always diffuses my anger, whereas my more instinctive reaction of hitting something just makes it worse.
    However, I find directed hitting- like when I used to have time to practice martial arts- to be really good general stress release. I never tried it when actually angry. I don’t have a heavy bag at home or in my office!

  3. On hug it out – I’ve actually used hugging as a way to help my two year old with his anger. Every time I’ve used it, it has worked and I’m afraid to over use it for fear of it losing it’s magic quality. The first time I did it he was trying to kick me and rolling around on the floor and was so angry about something. He just seemed so pitiful – a frazzled ball of emotion – I just picked him up and gave him a hug and he quieted right down. There have been a couple of other times that I’ve actually said “how about a hug” and then picked him up and he always responds by calming down. I think it’s just that I’ve picked the right times to use it. I’m sure it wouldn’t work in every situation. But it is a very nice way to end a tantrum.
    @Tracy – thank you for the book recommendations. I’ll definitely be getting a copy of each.

  4. Oh the days of hugging it out! It worked so well for us from about 1 year to 2 and a bit. He had tantrums as a 12-month-old where he would bang his head against the floor and we could just not let that happen so we picked him up in a great bear hug (sometimes with the extra re-enforcement of nursing). 20 seconds later he was over it… It was quick, close, effective and worked well with our devise that tantrums happen, but don’t change anything. He also had quite a bit of separation anxiety, so walking away from a tantrum was just not a very good idea for calming down emotions. He grew out of this approach though, and sometime between 2 1/2 and 3 it just felt more like restraining than hugging and the tantrums went on for longer than it felt good to hold him.
    Now at 4 years of age we (of course!!!) still hug him, but if he is angry and needs a hug he asks for it himself and we usually ask him for the courtesy to stop hollering first as not to hurt our ears. We also always accept a hug as an “I’m sorry” if the words are too hard to say….

  5. I like the point about bringing the matter up again at the end of the day. My son actually does this himself if we’ve had a particularly dramatic episode earlier in the day.
    We’ll have done bedtime stories and just before I go he says, “Mummy, I’m sorry about hitting you today. I won’t do it again.” And then he holds his arms out for a hug.
    It’s the most amazing part of my day and I try to remember it when we are in the middle of the next kicking screaming hitting tantrumy thing.

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