In a recent blog post I discussed how anger can be depleting a child from the necessary emotional fuel to manage school. Many of the typical “ADHD” style behaviors such as avoiding responsibilities, procrastinating, not sustaining mental effort, may be due, in part, to anger that remains unexpressed or misunderstood.
Children do not tend to be very clear about their anger. In fact, most of us have difficulty with anger and its expression. Most of the time, children are angry because they feel over-controlled and over-punished.
Ask yourself, are your punishments reaching their desired goals?
Punishments tend to be reactive and usually result in a great deal of resentment. They rarely succeed in helping kids become more motivated. Usually, the anger that is underneath the surface needs some type of release, some type of understanding. It is through the understanding that the anger is often dissipated.
Rather than wait for your child to come out directly and state their feelings, which is often very difficult to do, one approach that may work would be to take a few educated guesses:
• You think I am being too hard on you, huh?
• I bet you are real angry with me right now, right?
• You think I am over- controlling, right?
Watch for the child’s nonverbal reaction to see if you are on to something. If you get a lot of head nodding, you probably are hitting the mark.
You may ask, “So how do you see me as over-controlling” or “Why are you angry with me right now?”
Perhaps in the car, when is just you in your child (with no siblings), it would be a good time to give it a shot. You don’t have to agree with what the child says, but listening can have powerful effects. Releasing some of the anger may lead to less of a desire to “stick it to you” and a perception that both of you are on the same team-not opposing ones.
Take Away Point
Anger is a strong force that can undermine all of your efforts with your child. Find ways to show your child to you understand some of his/her feelings, and he may find that there is greater energy for tackling some of the more difficult tasks, like schoolwork.