Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Anger Management

As wonderful a being as my son is, he has also developed a fiery temper.

He has the ability to demonstrate tremendous kindness and awareness. I am often moved by the way he shows concern for others, and how he can adapt a situation based on the circumstances around him.

A knack of including people in what he is doing, at just the right time.

I have witnessed him lift those around him, while remaining blissfully unaware himself.

Those are great moments.

Times that are not so great are when he stamps his feet in anger, smacks what is in his way, or shouts horrible tirades when his ducks do not line up just as he likes them.

This is passed the tantrum stage, this is anger.

Anger that is sometimes an act, but more often, seems genuine.

At present this behaviour seems to be exclusively reserved for me, or at least only when I am around.

I cannot be certain of that, but the nursery says he has not shown form of that kind, and the grandparents also say, although they have seen his worst work, it is generally when I am there too.

I think it is a backward compliment that he feels comfortable enough to express himself, even if that expression is not easily stomached and can sometimes be physically, as well as emotionally, painful.

Angry is a very rare state of mind for me, I hope that is not a false claim, and I do not mean that I don’t get angry at all, but it does tend to be rare.

The problem for me is that when I ‘go’ it can take me hours to get it out of my system.

I remember a taxi ride to the airport, when the driver attempted to renege on an agreed deal, a deal that I had made.

I was moderately upset, eventually throwing the ‘fare’ onto this guy’s passenger seat, while my, then, soon-to-be-wife, called my parents to keep an eye on our house, fearing a reprisal physical attack from the taxi firm, for the verbal assault I had just delivered to their employee.

It was not until much later in that day that I eventually calmed down, and became approachable again. Our friends confident enough to resume the normal teasing-because-we-love-you routine.

Max seems able to change his state of mind very quickly, and is over his irritation very quickly. But he does tend to be more destructive as he gets there.

Like this morning, he was stretching the boundaries, as he seems to do constantly, and me, doing exactly the opposite.

Newton’s third law of motion applied to parenting.

However on this occasion I had no equal and opposite force to that exerted on my shin by my son’s shoe.

More a stern word.

I did not even raise my voice.

More explaining that just because I had decided it unnecessary to take three Power Rangers to nursery, it was not worthy of a kick to the shin.

His anger subsided, via agreement, to upset, and tears.

And for some reason, my explanation that tears were also an unnecessary action, and that perhaps the injured party, me, would be better justified if I thought crying was appropriate, did not seem to quell my son’s sniffles.

Instead our walk through the village was not a pleasant one. He still chose to hold my hand for most of it, but there was a lot of whining, and a few fake tears, and quite a bit of ignorance to queries into his woe from the people we encountered.

Though I quite like the last one, and would expect nothing less really.

His rage is something I will be keeping an eye on, and perhaps researching a bit.

And by that I mean asking a few parents of older children, if it is a good thing to get the anger out now, or indeed, to have the ability to get angry at all, and of course, I expect nothing short of genius amongst the comments left here. Share/Save/Bookmark


ginabad said...

I have YOUNGER kids, so you may want to throw a shoe at me for responding (LOL), but my daughter at 6 can be pretty aggressive. I had to nip it in the bud, and what I've done over the last few years (yes, I said years), has worked.

First, I worked on my own temper. I know you said you rarely flare up, but you've got to get that down to almost nothing. (And yes, I'm still a long way from down to nothing with my own temper.)

Second, I taught my kid to cope. It took a lot of doing, but I managed to get her to BREATHE, meaning a meditation deep breath, when she was angry, and exhale saying "help me God". It's supposed to be 3 breaths (I got this out of some parenting book or other), but right now one breath works.

She resisted this for MONTHS, but I forced her to do it & she got into the habit, and it still works when the toys go flying. Good luck!

Chairman Bill said...

Threats of disinheritance works wonders, but only when they get beyond 18.

Chairman Bill said...

...and you are an older dad who could peg it any minute.

Liz@Violet Posy said...

Well Lily's a bit older at 6 if that counts? But she has an almighty temper on her, so I'm pretty well qualified.

At school she's good and if she is going to lose it she does breathing, counting to 10 and when she was little (3-4) she had laminated hand prints she could go a press her anger into, which she no longer needs. However at home, when she blows my god do you know about it.

She went through a phase between 4-5 where it subsided a lot, but recently it's come back with avengence. It's like she has PMT or is suddenly 14 - I'm not sure which??

Whatever you do don't give in to any of it, it makes things worse from my experience. And give him a safe place to go express his anger, a pillow he can throw himself on, throw it or whatever. If you feel yourself going into one just leave the room so you can gather yourself and get away from it for a bit.

I'm now worrying about teenager years - still there's always boarding school ;)

The Widower Dad said...

The boys in my family often display a revolt on fathers around the age of 2 or 3. I did it to my father, refusing to speak with him or even look at him. My nephew is now doing so to my brother. He will scream and hit at him regularly. Our family has noticed it in first born/only children.

In our experience it has seemed to be a play of boundries. A test of the parental will. But it passes after several weeks or more and normal behavior returns. I hope you find it more a phase in which he's exploring his boundries as opposed to a behavior that needs to be continually managed.

Laura said...

One of the reasons Kiara was sent to the psych was to help her deal with her anger in an appropriate way!

I am very volatile and unfortunately I too have had to learn quickly to deal more appropriately with my anger since she mirrors me!

We both, the psych and I, acknowledge her anger and allow her to feel it. But we try give her options as to how to express it - yelling and throwing and biting etc etc are not appropriate ways!

But we never ever dismiss her feelings - she is angry - wether or not we think she is over reacting she still feels the anger and we allow that just in a calmer way!

dadshouse said...

Is the nursery a very structured environment? The thing that jumped out at me was him getting angry at ducks not lining up. (Funny image, I chuckled) Perhaps you are taking him into unstructured environments, and he is learning that some things are out of his control. i.e. it's normal and healthy, and you are doing a great service to him in all your natural, organic, unstructured outings.

The power ranger thing can be him just testing you to see if you are capable of setting firm limits for him. Kids like their parents to set limits. I think you'll both be fine - you do set limits, and at the same time you are introducing him to the wonderful chaos of the real world. In the long run, he'll appreciate all you're doing.

(My across the pond, armchair analysis, having never met the two of you!)

Chairman Bill's comment is funny.

MindyMom said...

It's probably just a stage. Kids will always push boundaries to see how you react. Sometimes they are emulating someone else. (not you - another kid perhaps)

Momo Fali said...

I have never experienced anything like that with my two kids, but I think you handled it very, very well. Hopefully, it's just a stage.

Not a soccer mom said...

My children are grown and nearly out of the house now. So I hope that my own experience, for what it is worth will be of some assistance.

First, It doesn't seem that his anger was out of control. Although he did kick- not acceptable- as soon as you discussed it, he was able to alleviate it. Even though there were tears. Sometimes the tears come as a feeling of disappointing you. Or need to be coddled, as an infant.

Second- the source. Although it is quick for a parent (single parent more-so i believe) to take the blame on ones own behavior, is a bit assumed. I think that anger can be both learned and internal or genetic. But since he is used to being with you for extended periods of time both in his younger years and also pre- preschool he may be vying for attention now.

third- other outlying factors. Something could have happened at his nursery, others not sharing (reason for wanting to take his own), others acting with anger (either teachers or other children), or it may be a sort of separation anxiety after his break with you.

I am not an expert. I think you handled it beautifully. I think that all children should be able to express their feelings, as long as they are not verbally or physically harming others.

One more side note: the older he gets, the more his mother missing from the picture may be coming into focus for him in its true meaning. Maybe the card incident brought that to the surface.

Take it one day at a time, and listen to him intently. I feel in my own experience, there is nothing in the world of parenting that is more important than communication.... maybe when he lashes out, and has had some time to work it out (like his father) sit him down and see if you can get to the root of the anger. It very well may have nothing to do with power rangers at all...

good luck to you.

Ptolemy said...

My son is 4 1/2. He regularly fires us -- in Donald Trump style -- "YOU'RE FIRED!" It's all flash-in-the-pan and very funny in retrospect and often we can get him to start laughing (usually by saying, "don't you DARE laugh!") while he's still screaming about whatever has upset him this time. He's started some occupational therapy in hopes that we can help him be a lot less reactive. If YOU are modeling calm all the time, then in YOUR case, this is much more likely to be a phase.

Blogging Mama Andrea said...

My kids are 7 and almost 3. Only recently did either start with the anger. The youngest doesn't speak (I mean literally no words, she's in therapy for it) so most of her anger moments come from that but are still fairly normal for her age.
The 7 year old picks up a lot of stuff at school and none of it very good. Anger is normal though. I've read about it being the way kids express themselves is through anger sometimes when they don't have words for what they really want to say. Or they don't have an accurate way of saying exactly what they want.
I wouldn't worry it's pretty normal.

momcat said...

I recently had dealings with a 3 yo old staying with me and when she felt the need to have a temper tantrum, She would be firmly guided to the bedroom where she would have to stay until she stopped crying. And as many times as she came out and started crying again she would have to return to the bedroom. If you are very calm and try to do to much logical reasoning with a 6 yo old its going to be frustrating for him because their is no logical reason for the anger. I like the phrase 'unacceptable behaviour' which I use quite often as necessary followed by the visit to the bedroom for cooling off.

rosiescribble said...

He has a reason to be angry SPD, 'd be angry if I was him. It's good you are keeping an eye on it and I'm sure you will manage it in the best way possible. There would be a proble if he wasn't angry, but that doesn't make it any more difficult to witness. I'm sure he'll be fine in the end.

Single Parent Dad said...

Ginabad - No, 6 is way old. My flaring is more than minimal. Thanks for the tips.

Chairman Bill - I'll keep that in mind.

Liz - Thanks for sharing, and the ideas. Including boarding!

The Widower Dad - I hope so too. You give an interesting insight.

Laura - Yes dismissal wouldn't be helpful.

Dadshouse - Probably more structure than home. I hope your long-term outlook is right.

Mindymom - That could be true.

Momo Fali - Thank you.

Not a soccer mom - Thank you, and for sharing.

Ptolemy - I am, or strive to be, the very model of calm.

Blogging Mama Andrea - Thanks for that, it's reassuring.

Momcat - A consistent message to our children.

Rosie - You get angry if people limit your Power Ranger count? ;-).

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Well I'm no expert but I'd say this was a phase and very much a "see how far i can push daddy" fad. I'm sure he'll grow out of it. When he's about 18.

CJ xx

Kori said...

No advice here; I am a floundering, ineffective parent at best, so nothing I do at my house would work in yours! but good luck, for sure. There is MY word of genius, ha ha.

Kat said...

To quote my old pediatrician to my friend: "Don't worry when he turns 6 you will have your sweet angel back."

T said...

Personally, I think they learn by observing but you're right, much of it is inherited. (Whew, you should see my mom when she gets angry!)

If you remain calm, it will help him to calm down much easier. I PROMISE you that. If you react to him, it will only escalate it.

I also send my girls to their own "safe place" to be angry. Give him a space to be mad so that he doesn't feel that he has to hide his emotions. Let him go to his room and kick and scream and punch his pillow. Tell him that when he calms down, he can come out and play again. Give him an outlet. We all need that.

Well, I'm late to the commenting but it seems like much of everyone is saying the same thing.

You're doing great, Ian. Really good stuff with him.

Zoeyjane said...

The rage stuff, not just mere temper tantrums (though those have been quite hefty, too) have been something I've dealt with, with Zoƫ, since before she was two. Nearly almost after she turned one, honestly.

It sent me running to a pediatrician. And then again, it was a major factor in our revisiting of one this year. For her, she just seems to have some moments, no more important or different than any other, when she just sees red.

And yes, I'm lucky enough to be the only one she seems to 'trust' to share this part of herself with. So what have I done about them?

Explained that violence isn't going to solve anything, that we don't hurt people we care about, that I don't hit her and so am definitely also not to be hit. Then I put her in her own space - which is a different thing from a time out - wherein she can go mental if she wants to. Because I'm trying to teach her that it's all well and good for me to allow her to express every emotion she feels, but she doesn't have to do it in a way that is harmful to other people.

I know, I'm no help. Short-story: I get it.

Cartside said...

My daughter is younger so I'm not even attempting to give any insights (although she does act in anger, if not so violent (yet) so far no broken bones luckily!)

I'm currently reading a book "the youngest minds" and it has a long chapter on anger. It looks semi scientific and very comprehensive, looking at stages and also brain development and anger - I haven't read much yet but it seems that some children need anger for their brains to develop appropriately.

Single Parent Dad said...

Crystal Jigsaw - I don't know, I still know how to push my dad's buttons.

Kori - Thank you.

Kat - Only 600 or so days then.

T - Thanks for your kind comment & safe place reaffirmation.

Zoeyjane - Seems like you are doing absolutely the right thing, and that I should be looking at similar.

Cartside - I haven't read any books, but have a feeling that anger can be a necessary, and if channelled correctly can be a very useful emotion, rather than simply a destuctive one.

Tismee2 said...

Don't believe a word of what Kat says! I am having almost the same problems with my SIX year old. Until a few months ago he was fairly placid and easy going mostly. However, recently he has become really sensitive to people saying 'no' to something and also if he gets told off he becomes very aggressive and tearful.
He has started calling people stupid imbeciles!
The two friends he has played with nicely all day are now not his friends.....!

Post a Comment