Ep 66: [ENCORE] Three Steps to Dealing With Your Kids’ Anger

Anger is an emotion that everyone has, but it’s exhausting when your kids feel it. You find yourselves refereeing sibling arguments, yelling at them to stop, then feeling guilty for showing up that way, and discouraged on how to help when they are angry.

You are not alone. Every mom,  kid, and family feels anger. Learning the tools to help your kid through their anger will bring more peace to your house. And you’ll feel better because you are being the calm mom you want to be.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Why anger isn’t a problem;
  • How to get curious about your kid’s emotions;
  • How to help your kid deal with their anger better;
  • How anger can be a tool for connection instead of disconnection;
  • How to look for clues to better understand your kid’s anger;
  • When to talk about consequences after an anger episode.

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Listen to the Full Episode:

Full Transcript:

Welcome to the Mom On Purpose podcast. I’m Lara Johnson and I’m here to teach you how to get out of your funk, be in a better mood, play more with your kids, manage your home better, get your to-do list done and live your life on purpose. With my proven method, this is possible for you, and I’ll show you how. 

You’re not alone anymore. We’re in this together. 

Hello, hello. It’s so good to talk to you today. I am so excited I’m pretty sure I say that every episode, because every episode I do get so excited. I love being able to share some of my experiences in motherhood, being a mom on purpose. What we’ve been talking about on this podcast leading up to this is really getting you to where you’re showing up on purpose and with purpose, because laying that groundwork makes everything else that you do with your kids within your home, within your life, so much easier. 

So today I do want to talk about working with our children, specifically when we’re working with our kids’ anger. Well, if you’re going back and listening to this, you might be in a different phase right now, but as of time of recording, we’re in the middle of summer right now and one of the things that I’m finding a lot in mom groups and my clients is that they have this frustration that their kids just don’t get along all the time and that there’s usually one kid that seems to be the instigator that’s what we’re going to call them where they’re almost like picking fights or pestering. 

They require a little more attention. You could even say if you are a Wreck-It Ralph fan, their passion bubble is really close to the surface. And as we’re working with being a mom on purpose and showing up and living life on purpose, it’s so important to recognize that the tools that you have been learning are so applicable to the way that we parent and the way that we work with our kids, and so this episode I really wanted to focus on that because I know it’s such a challenge for us as moms when we are working with our kids in their emotions and these are often very big emotions. So, as we’re going through this, you’ll know this episode is for you. 

If you do feel frustrated with, especially like one kid in particular in your family, you know, if you’ve got multiple kids where they seem to always need a lot more attention, they seem to be bugging, they seem to be bugging the others a little bit more. Or if you ever feel like you are referring to your kids’ arguments all the time, where you feel like you can’t ever relax and just nobody’s getting along. Also, if you find you have one kid that’s more explosive, that tends to go straight to anger a lot quicker than maybe the others, and you’re not really sure how to help this kid. 

You are parenting them the same way, but yet they always seem to be a lot angrier. You’ll also know that this episode is for you is if you find that you’re triggered by your kid’s fighting. Anytime they start to argue, you get really explosive and then you feel so guilty after for exploding at them and you’re laying in bed at night and you’re just thinking about the way that you showed up and it’s just. You feel like you’re missing out on motherhood, but also that your kids are going to remember these explosive episodes from you. 

Okay, so all of these things these are the things that we are going to be addressing today, and I wanted to start by sharing a little bit of history with my oldest. He is incredible. He is such a strong personality and I found when he was younger, I really didn’t know how to work with his strengths. What I saw all the time was the anger, and I couldn’t figure out how to work with the anger. I’m pretty sure I read every parenting book, and he basically broke them all. 

Everything the parenting books suggested. I tried and it just didn’t work. And it was very discouraging because then I started telling myself what a bad mom I was, but also, I was completely exhausted by these explosive episodes. So, then I would talk to the pediatrician and the pediatrician’s advice was often you need to be more consistent. 

I’m here to tell you I am like so consistent and then when I was working with my oldest, I was so consistent, so I’d get really discouraged, like okay, well then, it’s my fault that he’s this way and I’m just not a good parent, so I’d get more discouraged. Or if I would talk to anybody of the older generations, they were talking about timeouts, or some well-meaning people also talked about spanking, and it just became. 

I just knew those things didn’t work for my kid. If I yelled at him, he just yelled louder and would get more explosive, and so it really felt like nothing was working and we spent a lot of years fighting and a lot of years like really trying to find each other’s groove and to the point where I had even taken him to get tested on two different occasions to see if something else was going on. Now, later on this was in the last couple I guess it’s been in the last year he has been diagnosed with autism, but at the time I didn’t know that. I just knew that my kid, the traditional ways of parenting, didn’t work, and what I have found with a lot of parents is that they feel the same thing. 

But I was really left alone for a lot of years where I didn’t have the resources that even that I do now, having like the official diagnoses for him where I can get some of the help with that diagnosis and so I was really left alone to figure this out for so many years and I’m very grateful that I did eventually find connection-based parenting that’s what I call it, but that’s really like if you study any of Magda Gerber or Janet Lansbury, they’re the ones that were really critical, the work that they put out into the world that really taught me how to parent from a place of connection and to parent them as a whole human being. 

You know there’s a couple other really good books that helped me, but those two parenting experts were the ones that really resonated with me. That laid the groundwork, and it did work. It worked better than anything else that I had tried. So, when I combined that and what they taught with trusting myself and listening to the promptings from God that I was receiving and I was observing and learning from him, suddenly we started having so much more peace in our home. 

That was not to say there still weren’t episodes where things would get really hard and there was a lot of anger, but we have found ways to work through that on a much more effective level now and that’s what I’m going to share and teach you today in this episode, so that you can get the help and the resources. 

I will also say that always like if you ever feel, as a mom, getting a therapist for your kid is a good thing, never take that off the table. Always consider that as an option, and it’s important to recognize that we’re just giving our kids tools and their tool belt. They’re learning really great things from licensed professionals. 

Also, that’s not the only solution. What I find is that that is the go-to solution in every parenting group, and when we put all of the responsibility on somebody outside of our home. Yes, they can teach things, but us as moms, we’re the ones implementing things on a very regular basis, and if we don’t have the tools as moms, then we’re not able to support whatever they’re learning in a therapy office anyway. 

And so, I really feel passionate about, as moms, we can take more responsibility than sometimes we want to, and that’s not to say that from a place of pressure, but as a place of empowerment that learning the tools and being a mom on purpose, being able to have these resources at our fingertips, we are the ones that can empower our children in their emotions more than anything. 

And then they are able to get additional resources to help them thrive in that. And I do say that as a mom that has taken her kids to therapy many times and I am so grateful for the things that they’re learning there. But it wouldn’t have mattered had I not also been set up effectively in the home to support the things that they were learning. 

So, the first thing that I really wanted to mention also is that when we’re working with our kids anger remember that anger is not a problem, and it’s so important that we really start to practice and believe that thought anger is an emotion. Now, if you haven’t listened to episode three, where I really go into detail about what emotions are and how we feel them in our body, please go back and listen to that episode. 

Now, that episode was directed to you and your emotions, but it is directly applicable to our children as well, and so in that episode I talk about how our emotions, or our feelings, are like a carousel and there’s all these different animals on this carousel and you get to sit and ride on all these different animals. 

Now, those are all the different feelings. Like the feelings are a spectrum, at any given time you can feel a full range of emotions. Anger is one of those emotions, and sometimes we have a kid that’s more likely to ride that animal of anger more than other kids. That doesn’t mean that the anger is a problem. Now we have to be okay with our kids feeling emotions. 

Oftentimes we have a belief that we want our kids to be happy, but what happens is we start to negate or try and fix when they are in a negative emotion, and what that does is it doesn’t teach them how to process their emotions in a healthy way. It almost creates you know, for lack of a better word, it creates some judgment in us when they are having a negative emotion, and we try and fix it or try and get them out of it as fast as possible so we can feel better because we love our kids. 

Of course, we want them to feel great all the time, but that’s not the human experience. They’re not going to feel great all the time. So, it’s our job as moms to let them be human, to let them learn how to feel their feelings and we can be the ones that demonstrate that and to teach them. 

So also, in that, in that episode, episode three, I talk about how our emotions come on like a contraction. Another way to think about that. If it’s weird to think about your kids having contractions, it’s different when we’re moms. You know we’ve seen the contractions; we felt the contractions. But if it’s hard to explain that to your kids or hard for you to imagine that another way you can think about it is like a wave of the ocean. 

Now the wave will start out really far and it will start to build just like on a, like a bell curve, and then it will get to a peak and then it will start to come down. Now when our kids are feeling emotions, they will feel that wave. 

If we are trying to fix it or try to distract them from the emotion, they are going to stay at the peak of that wave and they’re not going to learn how to feel it all the way through to start to come down. And so when my kids are feeling big emotions like anger, one of the things that I that I do for myself so I can recognize and be there for them without me being triggered, is I often have the thought on like, I wonder how long this wave is going to last. 

Like I get really curious or like really intrigued by it, like, okay, they’re feeling a big emotion right now. I wonder how long it’s going to last. And you will see that wave and it will start to come on and get to that peak. 

Our job is not to get them out of the peak. Our job is to allow them to have a safe place and be a safe person for them to feel that emotion all the way through. So that’s the first thing. I really wanted to lay that groundwork as we talk about anger is an anger is an emotion, it’s not a problem, it’s not to be fixed, it’s to be felt okay. 

So the goal is that we are teaching them how to process these emotions and it’s going to take you learning how to be okay when they’re in this discomfort. It will feel uncomfortable for you, and you get to feel your emotion all the way to. And when you do that, you can show up from a really clean and clear space and be that constant for them in their lives and in your home with all your other children. 

So, in order to deal with our kids anger, I’ve got three, the three C’s of working with anger, of working with our kids anger. So, the first C is calm. The second C is connected, and the third C is clues. Then we’ll talk about the bonus one at the very end. So, when we’re working with our kids anger, that first C, that first step, is to create a calm space. Again, this is not to get them to calm down, okay. 

This is to create a space where they can feel their waves all the way through. So, in our home, my kids rooms, that is their calm space. That is where they can go to feel any emotion without fear of being punished. They can do whatever they need to. They can yell, they can scream, they can throw things at the wall. All of that can happen within their rules, within their room. 

Now, typically, when they start to get angry, I invite them or take them to their rooms. Now, I always make sure that they know this is not a punishment. You’re not being sent to your room. I want to make sure that you are safe and that we are safe as you are entering your room and feeling whatever, it is. At that point, I typically give them the option I am happy to stay in here while you’re feeling this, or I can leave, and you can feel this on your own. And you know, what’s really surprising is that most of the time, they actually want me to stay with them. Now, I can’t do this all the time because I have other children and chances are you do too. 

So, I also want to be clear that as we’re going through these, we’re doing the best that we can. We’re not going to do each of these steps perfectly. We’re not going to do them 150% all of the time, because we are juggling a lot as a mom and that’s okay. Just recognize that something is better than nothing. So sometimes it is like hey, like sending my other kids to their room so they can play, so I can show up for you know, one other kid.

Sometimes it’s oh, hey, I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and you’re going to have to feel this on your own. I’m going to come check on you as soon as I get this thing off the stove. Okay, so just recognize that it’s okay to do your best. We’re not expecting perfection in any of these things, because we are all human. We’re doing the best we can as moms. 

So, at this moment where I have them, I’ve invited them or taken them to their room, and what I’m telling them is at this time, you know there’s a couple of rules. While you’re in your room, you can’t hurt yourself. You can’t hurt others, like, if I’m staying in, the room is not allowed to touch me, or she they’re not allowed to touch me and that I will be there for them no matter what, and it’s okay to do whatever you need to. 

Now, there have been times where I have been in the room and my son has been screaming again. I’m maintaining my column as well. 

Through this, what he is doing is feeling and processing and going to the peak of the wave, and then he comes down. It’s not my job to stop him from doing that. It’s my job to just allow him to be there and to be that support for him, knowing that I’m not judging him for it, that it’s okay for him to feel it however he needs to. 

And this is not just with my oldest. I do this with my other children as well. 

And so, the second step is, as he’s really feeling that wave, and as he’s coming through that wave, he’ll start to eventually come off of it. At that point, if he’s in a spot to communicate, sometimes he’s still angry and that’s okay. But at that point I’m asking him do you want to continue venting about this? Do you want advice about this, or would you like a hug? 

What is so great about this question is that it doesn’t matter how old your kids are. They can be little, or they can be big, like teenagers in college. 

You can use these questions for friends. You can use these questions for your spouse, because when we’re feeling big emotions, it’s hard for us to think clearly. So oftentimes what will happen is, when we’re feeling a big emotion, somebody that loves us wants to come in and fix it. They’ll start giving us advice. 

I don’t know if this has ever happened with your husband or your partner, where all of a sudden, you’re talking to them and you’re just like venting and they’re trying to fix it. You’re like, no, I just need you to listen. So that’s one thing that you can talk about with your kids. Even at a very young age, they can answer this question Do you want me to listen? Do you want advice, or do you just want to hug? 

And sometimes and this is what’s so cool is what we’re doing is we’re helping them not be alone in these big emotions. We’re not trying to fix it unless they ask, but we are connecting with them. We’re building our relationship even when they’re in the middle of a big emotion. 

Now I am amazed at how many times, after my son comes off of a wave, he will literally come and sit right next to me, and I’ll ask him that and he’s like will you just scratch my back? And I’m like, yes, of course, and I won’t say anything. I’ll just sit and scratch his back and I’ll just love on him for feeling whatever he’s feeling. And it is one of the most beautiful moments. 

Sometimes anger pushes each other away, but in these moments, we start to connect, and we start to feel that love and we start to be bonded in these moments. And so, really, that second step of connection that is so critical when we’re working and dealing with our kids anger is we can show up and be that love and that support for them, while still honoring what they’re feeling, and it doesn’t repel us from each other, it bonds us together. So, then the third step is looking for clues. 

It was so integral when I was working with my son when he was younger, before we ever had like his official diagnosis, so what I saw was that he would get very explosive and I was helping to calm him and we were connecting, but I was genuinely confused on why it was happening. And so, what I would start to do is I would start to trace back in the hour or two before, okay, what led up to this, and it was always from a place of curiosity. I’m like, okay, I wonder what could have been going on. Did I miss something? 

And that’s when I started to realize his anger was always a symptom of something more that was going on, and when I traced it backwards, I could usually find what that thing was Once I knew what some of those triggers were. 

It didn’t take away anger, but what it did was allow me to have more understanding and to help minimize some of the anger. So, for him it was always a big deal if he was extra hungry or if he was tired or if he had just gotten off of electronics. 

Now I knew that when he got off of some kind of electronic whether that was at our house, a grandparents house or a friend’s house that he was more susceptible to go to an explosive behavior. 

And if I pushed him like, okay, get off of this at grandma’s house, now it’s time to go, all hell would break loose. Instead, once I started following these patterns that he had, it was like, oh, I get him off 30 minutes before we even need to leave, and that allowed that time for him to feel whatever emotion it was and to come off of it, and he got into the car very easily. 

Same thing with like sugar. I knew that if he was going to have a piece of chocolate cake, I couldn’t quickly get up and leave wherever we were going or try and put him to bed. It was like, oh no, there’s like a 30-minute window afterward where he’s going to run around the yard after having an ice cream sandwich, you know, at whatever event that we were at. 

And so that I started being more strategic about the way that I started to parent, I could see these clues, I could see all of this stuff starting to build up and I then was able to strategically plan the way we were showing up and the way that I was parenting, and that has helped me immensely. And I’ve watched that as my clients do the same thing now too, where suddenly they’re more empowered in the decisions they’re making as a parent because they’re honoring their children’s patterns. 

Our children are not assholes Okay, they are predictable human beings and when we start to follow those patterns, those predictable patterns, we start to plan and know what’s going to happen and we can always be really clear on that, like I know if my son, any of my kids honestly, if we stay out late the night before, we’re not going to get up and do chores first thing the next morning. There is no way I know that behavior. 

That is a choice that I’m making as a parent to allow them to stay out, for us to go and do some family activity. So, the next day I adjusted what our typical plan is so that we can adjust and meet all of our needs. 

Again, this doesn’t get rid of emotions, because emotions are human, but what it does is support each of us in our tendencies to go to an emotion. It helps to minimize some of the big explosions. So, once you get really clear on you know the calm, the connection and the clues, like looking for those clues. 

The bonus step here is consequence. Now, oftentimes when our kids are angry, we will start throwing consequences out to try and get them out of their anger. 

You know, if you do that then this is going to happen. But when they’re non-transcript, when emotions are high, intelligence or low, at that point they will never care what the consequences are. Maybe some will, but in my experience a lot of kids don’t and then the parents are left having to employ you know some consequence they didn’t want to do, and their kid is still thrashing and throwing things. Okay, and that gets really frustrating because in the parents left holding no cards and they don’t know what to do. 

So, in this moment, after you’ve calmed, connecting and looked for those clues, then when everybody’s okay, like after the episode, then you start talking about consequence and sometimes it is necessary, sometimes it’s not. You’re the only one that can decide whether it is or isn’t necessary. And that’s always the biggest thing that I hear. The biggest concern from clients from other moms is yeah, but I don’t want them to think they can get away behaving like this again. 

Ingers not the problem when, when you’re allowing them a safe place to feel their emotion, you’re giving them permission to be human and then, after the fact, yeah, you can have that conversation about consequence.

And that’s when we start to have that conversation, when everybody’s thinking clearly, you’re not triggered, your kids not triggered. Then you start saying, yeah, it’s always okay to feel anger. I am totally in support of you feeling your anger and as humans we are still responsible for our actions in anger. Suddenly, those words sink in when they have calmed down and you can have really intellectual conversations with our children. 

So, a really good example of this is, a while ago, my oldest. He was very frustrated about something. We couldn’t pinpoint what it was, we just knew he was angry. We took him to a safe place. I was in there for a little bit. He started throwing things at me, so I left the room, and I left him in there. 

Pretty soon he smashed his window. This is not uncommon. If you were to see this kid, you would never have any idea that this is the kind of stuff we deal with at home. 

But these are the big emotions, and this is not that uncommon for him to do something like that. So, once we got everybody clear, I didn’t even acknowledge the window, I didn’t yell about the window. It’s like oh, okay, he’s smashing your window, move on, never did anything, okay. 

So, after we, he felt his big wave of emotions. We felt our big wave of emotions. It was probably hours after. We said okay, you know. We said I’m down. We’re like all right, let’s chat about this window. He’s like yeah, I was really angry, I felt really bad about it. I’m like yeah, you know, it’s okay to be angry and I’m like I get it like sometimes we just need things to smash. 

Next time, let me know when you need something to smash, we’ll find some old plates, we’ll go smash them. 

That’s great, fantastic. Let’s find a way to channel that said and you’re going to have to play to replace the window. He’s like yeah, I figured I probably would, and he has. He’s been saving up his money to replace this window and he’s earned enough, and so I mean we went, of course, we didn’t leave the window open or glass anywhere. I mean we fixed it, repaired it and now he’s paying us back for this window. 

Okay, so those are the kinds of things that, as we’re working with our kids, we could very clearly talk about those consequences and he was able to feel that that sadness over, instead of being so emotionally triggered where he couldn’t even comprehend what we were saying or even understand the life lesson there. 

So, as you’re working again, you know getting to a place of calm, allowing them to be in a safe place with safe people, so they can feel the waves and return to that calm. You know being able to connect with them, asking them if you, if they want you to listen, if they want advice or if they just want to hug from you, looking for the clues. You know what are some of the things that you’re tracing backwards that could have contributed to this anger. 

And then, once you know everybody’s calm down, then having those consequences and then having the conversation about consequences. Once you employ these, what you will find in your home is that you will feel more peace, not only because, not only because that the anger will start to become normal, like it’s a normal human emotion to feel, but you’ll also feel peace because you’re showing up very differently for your kids. Suddenly, you’re able to be the mom that you want to be in these moments, without losing your mind and then feeling so guilty after. And this is where you’ll start recognizing that you’re not spending so much time referring. 

Instead, you have a plan in place on what you what to do so that you can quickly implement these strategies and not have to spend so much time navigating these. And as I went through these, you know I went more in detail in this, but what I’ve found is that we don’t have to spend so much time. In fact, they feel the emotion, they move on through it a lot quicker than if I send, then if I engage and I start fighting with them, and then everything gets more explosive for longer. 

So, I hope that these tools you know these threes and helping you deal with your kids anger will be beneficial for you. Of course, always share this episode with other moms that you know. 

What I have found with my, with my oldest, is that we just don’t talk about our kids anger, and I know we’re all being respectful for their privacy. We’re all trying to be good parents. You know we love our kids and we’re all in this together. 

Every single home is dealing with this right now. I guarantee it, and it’s okay for us to have conversations and still protect our children in that process and not make them feel bad for it, because we all experience it and the more that we can normalize that as just part of the human experience, the more we can allow and teach our kids and be an example to our kids that that this will continue to be a normal part of our life and now we get to know what to do with it and how to channel it in a healthy, productive manner. 

All right, well, there you go for today. I will talk with you next time. Bye. 

Thank you for listening. Please share, review and subscribe to this podcast so that together we can live life on purpose. 

How to Connect with Lara:

Web: www.larajohnsoncoaching.com

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Work with Lara: www.larajohnsoncoaching.com/work-with-me/

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