How to manage anger

This weeks’ post is a follow-up email to a mum I visited last week (she okayed this!)…

Dear Liz,

Thanks for inviting me over to help Felix (aged 10) with his anger.

Here is a list of what we covered:

  1. It is okay to feel angry
  2. It is okay to express your anger as long as you follow the ‘Feeling rules’ – Don’t hurt yourself, don’t hurt others with your words or actions and don’t hurt stuff that isn’t supposed to get wrecked.
  3. Feeling angry is a signal that Shady wants to be heard (and wants you to take some action to fix the situation).

Here is what I recommend you do with Felix whenever he gets angry:

  1. Ask, “What level?” This question is a signal for Felix to show you with his fingers what level his anger is, 0 is calm – 10 is explosive.
  2. If it is above 8 (or he refuses to show you which indicates his anger is high) ask Felix to go to his room to bash his pillow (or whatever physical release works best for him). If he won’t go or he starts yelling or throwing things at you, quietly leave the room (maybe go outside for some fresh air – tell him where you will be and that you will be gone for 5 to 10 minutes)
  3. When Felix has got some of that anger out of his physical body or if he indicates with his fingers that he is a 7 or under, take a Shady short cut with him…

Shady short cut

Hold up your tall finger, touch it and encourage Felix to ask his Shady, “What’s wrong?”

Listen to everything Felix is saying from his Shady point of view. It will probably be irrational, selfish, violent or not true, but listen anyway. Don’t censor it just let it come out. When he stops ask, “What else?” Encourage Felix to voice everything his Shady is saying in his head (talk of ‘killing’ and ‘dying’ is totally normal so let it out without reacting to it – better out than in)!

Once Felix has finished, ask if he wants to let go of any of the anger from his body by bashing his pillow, or whatever works for him (remind him of the ‘Feeling rules’ if necessary).

If it’s a new problem he is angry about, like the internet dropped out when he was playing a really cool game on his computer and going for his highest score, this short cut won’t take long and it will prevent him getting baggage (or Shady beliefs like, “Nothing works out for me”).

If he still feels bad after listening to Shady and getting his feelings out for 10 – 15 minutes or more, then he probably already has baggage about something and this incident triggered it (which means – set off his anger). Either way, take a Sparky short cut next.

Sparky short cut

Hold your ring finger and get Felix to ask his Sparky, “What now?” Which means, “What do I do now Sparky?”

Encourage him to listen to Sparky’s answer in his imagination, and say it out loud to you.

If you agree that the advice came from his Sparky and not his Shady, encourage him to go and think, say or do whatever his Sparky told him to.

If you think the advice came from his Shady, or his Sparky told him he needed to get rid of his baggage about a past event then you will need to support Felix to take a Pit Stop. Go here for a summary of the Pit Stop.

Also as we discussed…

  1. If Felix starts bashing his head against the wall or punching himself, you have two choices; ignore it and leave the room (in which case he will stop when you leave if he is doing it for attention) OR you could give him something more fun to do to release his anger, like a baseball bat and an old piece of furniture you keep in the backyard or garage (maybe a bedside chest of drawers that you picked up from kerbside collection). This option would have to be pre-arranged prior to his outburst.
  2. To prevent outbursts – ask Felix each day what level his anger is when he is not obviously angry. If the  bottle of anger inside him is getting full, over 5 then encourage him to bash something or whatever works to reduce the build up inside him.

Finally IF none of this works and he totally loses it in an inappropriate way and hurts himself, you and valuable stuff then FORGIVE him and his Shady. Talk about how it wasn’t good but it is forgivable and, “How about we come up with a better plan for next time?” And get his input into a better plan. Write it down together and put in on the fridge or wall. Do not punish him or make him feel ‘guilty’ or as he said, as though he will ‘go to hell’ for his anger problem. Felix’s level of self-control is not at the point where fear of the consequences will stop him losing his temper. What he (and his Shady) needs is unconditional love! “I love you even though you haven’t learnt to manage your anger in a safe way yet! Just like you would say to a different kid, “I love you even though you haven’t learnt to read yet!” (the basis is the same – Felix hasn’t learnt the skill of managing his anger in a safe way yet!)

That’s it for helping Felix – yell out if you want a hand to let go of your fear of Felix being ‘uncontrollable’ or that he might end up in gaol for his anger problem. I say this because there are two ways we can change our kids behaviour – support them to change with all the above and/or let go of our own fear that their behaviour is a problem! What we focus on grows stronger and more obvious in our life. That applies to things we love and things we fear! If you are scared of Felix’s anger being a problem and him never being able to control it (just like another parent might be scared that their child will never learn to read) then you attract the very thing you are scared of into your life!

Love Kathy

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