My son has a small basketball hoop over his closet door that he uses to cool off when he gets upset. When he first started using it I was afraid that I was rewarding him for his angry disposition. But at some point over the last nine years, I stopped trying to control his emotions. Instead, I now focus on helping him process them. Regardless of the situation, I’ve realized I can’t control what my angry child gets upset about. To be honest, I’m still learning how to control what I choose to get upset about.
When our kids’ anger reaches its peak, it can be difficult not to match their anger levels with our own. They have a way of testing our patience and often, they get the best of us. Here are 3 of our family’s proven tactics (like upstairs brain) that I think will work for you too.
Teach your angry child upstairs brain and downstairs brain.
When your kids get angry beyond the point of being able to reason, it’s important for them to have space to process their anger.
When your kids get angry beyond the point of being able to reason, it’s important for them to have space to process their anger. One of the most helpful visuals we have given our kids is the idea of having a “downstairs brain” and an “upstairs brain.”
When they feel like they are losing control of their emotions and are reacting out of anger, they are moving into their downstairs brain. They are unable to see the situation clearly—kind of like being in a dark basement downstairs. The purpose of taking a time-out is to move them from their downstairs brain back to their upstairs brain. Their upstairs brain is where they can see the situation more clearly. Upstairs, they can respond with control and choosing forgiveness comes a little easier.
Try adding a little humor.
Cracking jokes in the middle of a tense situation seems contrary to what you actually feel like doing. However, using a little humor can help crack the tension when your angry child is unable to get away from the situation. Humor is one of many coping mechanisms, but it just happens to be my favorite. Coping mechanisms help us before we get to a breaking point. It’s important to help your child find healthy ways of coping with anger. When you use humor to make light of the situation, make sure the humor you use isn’t ridiculing your child in any way. Stay away from mocking or any type of humor that puts your child down. Focus on humor that can help your child crack a smile.
Come up with a plan.
Talking to our kids about anger at a time when there is no anger gives us the opportunity to come up with a plan. Create a relaxed environment to talk through what makes them angry and how they can cope. That will help them feel more prepared for the next time they get upset. Identifying triggers and healthy coping mechanisms enables you to remind them what to do in the heat of their anger.
What are some ways you help your child move through big emotions?