Back in the Anger River

November 15, 2019

I’ve said it to parents many times over the years –   “Below the ADD/School Struggling Swamp, lies the “Anger River.”

The Anger River results in much school resistance, avoidance and lowered motivation

Parents will do various back flips to address meltdowns and school avoidance.    Mostly parental interventions are reactive, delivered in the heat of the moment (e.g., “That’s it!!!  You’re not allowed on your iPad for the next two weeks,” after the child has not completed another homework assignment.)

At the risk of some redundancy (Hey, I’ve written over 350 blog posts in 10 years so you will hopefully cut me some slack), here’s what I said a while ago on the topic:

“Punishments are 99% reactive delivered in anger.   Most of the time they (the reactive punishments, like yelling) don’t work,  yet  we persist, largely because of ‘Parent Brain’ going into its automatic response.

If reactive punishments are misguided, what reduces the Anger River?

Not biting the bait.

Let’s take Sam, an 8 year old child, who has a “soup pot” of different issues, frequently melting down over his homework.  “I hate writing,”  Sam screams.  “It’s so stupid…why do I have to do this ????!!!!! (while throwing his papers around in a full-blown rage).

Based on a strategy we discussed, Mom, Beth, decides not to engage him, get pulled in, or bite the bait,  as every time she does it only increases his raging meltdowns.

Instead, while Sam pulled out every reaction to try and get out of doing his homework, Beth  went about her business, effectively not biting any of the bait.

After about 10 minutes or so of being left alone at the dining room table with no input from his mother, Sam started to calm down, still sniveling and whimpering some, but no longer raging.

At some point when the whimpering had subsided, Beth spoke to Sam in very matter-of-fact tones, “Look, Sam,  I get it.  Writing is not fun and it’s hard for you. You’re frustrated.  But here’s the deal, even though you’re angry and frustrated,  you still need to finish your homework with decent attitude.  I can offer you some help, but there’s no screen time until you’re finished.  Let me know if you need any help.”

It may take time, but when left on their own to work it out, most of the Sam types will work through their anger  and come around when handled calmly and directly (and with the looming concern of not having the iPad available).

The Anger River needs managing, not feeding.  The messages, body language and words you choose convey something to the child that will be interpreted one way or another.

One way (the reactive engaging, “biting the bait” approach) usually results in increased anger with ongoing meltdowns.

The other (not feeding the river) results in the anger being reduced considerably with the perception that the parent is in charge.

Through nonverbal and measured verbal communication the parent conveys a message and  a level of confidence that the child can handle it even if he will need some support.

Takeaway Point

Don’t bite the bait.


Copyright, 2019 www.shutdownlearner.com
Questions or topics email Dr. Selznick.  Not in the South Jersey area? For a free 15 Minute Consultation, contact Dr. Selznick: email – rselznick615@gmail.com

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