Do you frequently have a difficult time managing your angry child? Are you unsure on what you can do to help calm your child when they are angry? To help understand what are common mistakes parents make when dealing with their angry child and for tips on what you can do to help your angry child to calm down, I have interviewed psychologist Igor Davidson, Ph.D.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a child and adult psychologist and father of an 8-year-old girl, who lives and works in Brooklyn NY. I received my Ph.D. in Clinical-School psychology from Hofstra University in 2003. I am an evaluator for the Early Intervention program and the NYC Department of Education. I formally served as the Senior Psychologist at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, and evaluated many adults and children who came into the Emergency Department for psychiatric reasons. I was a clinical instructor of psychiatry at New York College of Osteopathic Medicine in Westbury, NY. I have evaluated in excess of 1000 children in the past 7 years. I have served as an ‘expert in child and adult psychology’ in court. I currently evaluate and treat children and families in Brooklyn private practice.”
What are common parenting mistakes parents make when their child is angry?
“Here is a little background:
If a child is angry, it is a signal they cannot or will not take control of their own emotions. They either haven’t learned to do so, have a history of gaining rewards with their angry behavior, or have some physiological or metabolic abnormality, which renders them emotionally out of control. Before a psychological explanation is applied to a child’s behavior other potential causes should be ruled out (i.e. drugs, tumor, other physical illness, etc.). Once these are ruled out we can then address the problem from a mental health point of view. If your child is angry it is usually not advisable to look for the historical cause or reason why he/she is angry. Not only can you usually not pin point a reason for a child’s anger, you cannot go back in time to correct the situation even if you could. Parents should not blame themselves; rather commit to a course of action today, to remedy the situation. Anger is considered as a ‘negative emotion’ with harmful consequences by most informed professionals as it is related to social, health, and legal problems. The goal of most treatment programs is to minimize the intensity and frequency of the negative emotion, and hopefully reduce the typical angry response to mear infrequent annoyance or irritation (two emotions without severe negative consequences attached).”
What are common mistakes parents make when dealing with their angry child?
“The most common mistakes parents make:
1. Letting their children assume too much of the role of ‘parent’ in the house.
2. Trying to be their child’s friend.
3. Giving in to their child’s unreasonable demands (even worse is giving in after a long struggle).
4. Not sticking to their word (No means no, and Yes means yes).
5. Being inconsistent or worse yet neglectful.
6. Hitting or spanking a child who is already angry or aggressive.
7. Allowing their own personal problems interfere in being an effective parent (substance abuse, excessive guilt, co-dependence with a partner, or other mental health problem ).”
How can a parent help their angry child to calm down?
“The following are 8 ways a parent can help their angry child to cal down:
1. Strongly and confidently give yourself permission to be the parent of your child. Your child is not your friend or your co-parent, they are your child.
2. Forget what or why things happened, focus on the here and now.
3. Be consistent, be structured.
4. Do not go back on your word no matter what. It is much more important to be consistent, then it is to be ‘fair’ or ‘right’. You are the parent and you set the rules and consequences.
5. Never ever allow your child to manipulate or punish you with their anger. Most angry children have learned that they will eventually get their way if they persist with their anger. You must break this cycle. Giving in to your angry child will only make them (and you) angrier.
6. You should only respond to anger in one of two ways. a. Ignore it completely or b. Punish it. Anything else will likely perpetuate the cycle.
7. Make sure there is no danger to your child or others, and if there is, summon appropriate emergency personnel (dial 911).
8. If you feel that you just cannot handle the problem on your own, consult a professional.”
What type of professional help is available for a parent that frequently has a difficult time calming down their angry child?
“Your regular pediatrician is a good first step. They are most familiar with your child and usually know lots of appropriate resources in the area. For a problem that is deemed psychological or behavioral in nature a psychological that is versed in behavior therapy or behavior modification is your best bet. This is a person with a Ph.D. or Psy.D degree and some training or experience conducting behavior therapy. A very good self-help reference, which I use with patients, is ‘SOS Help for Parents’ by Lynn Clark Ph.D. It is a practical how-to guide for carrying out your own behavior therapy program at home, which is grounded in science, but presented in a very easy to understand format. Some children with difficulties such as ADHD or Tolerates Syndrome would benefit from a consultation with a pediatric neurologist or pediatric psychiatrist.
The above discussion is not meant to diagnose of treat any disorder. It is intended for general information purposes only and may not apply to any particular child.”
Thank you Dr. Davidson for doing the interview on 8 ways to help your child to calm down. For more information on Dr. Davidson or his work you can check out his website on www.Boutiquepsychology.com .
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