Does Your Child Have a Problem With Anger?

Reflections on How to Motivate Your Child - Daniel 

      - by Dr. Scott Turansky

This article is one in a series of ways that you can implement the teaching presented in the book Motivate Your Child.

Daniel, a ten-year-old pitcher on a Little League team, had a significant problem with anger. He would get angry on the mound and either explode or just give up. The problem wasn’t just during baseball games though, it happened other times too when he got frustrated with his homework or when his parents asked him to do something that he didn’t want to do.

His parents had tried all kinds of things to help him make changes. Nothing seemed to work. When he came to us he was discouraged. But, as we described our plan for change, he became hopeful about implementing the new strategies. In just a few weeks he made major changes in his life. In this case, we used three Cs to help him change. Here’s what happened.

I told Daniel, “We first have to figure out what the problem is. Let me ask you some questions so that we can understand exactly where you’re getting off track. What sparks your anger? Is it just when you make a bad pitch?” Daniel appreciated the fact that I listened to him.

With some dialogue we discovered together the first C, the cue. In order to help Daniel change, we knew that we needed to help him see the triggers in very practical and specific ways. These couldn’t be general but had to be something that he could see as his anger began to develop. Daniel identified that the cue that sparked his anger was a series of bad pitches. One bad pitch wasn’t the problem. It’s when he had several in a row.

He was now ready for the second C: conscience. I explained to him that the conscience was placed in his heart to prompt him when he started to get off track or when the energy associated with anger started to build inside. Our goal was to identify that promptings and train his conscience so that he could know what he should do and say to himself when he faced the challenge in the moment.
Since the conscience makes a person feel comfortable or uncomfortable and because it prompts us to do what’s right or correct wrongs, Daniel needed a bit of training to take advantage of this new found asset in his heart.

We helped him identify some things he could say to himself while on the mound. When his pitching wasn’t going as well as he liked, sometimes he would just laugh it off. Other times he would tell himself to focus on the next pitch. Other times he would critique what he did wrong. Maybe he dropped his shoulder or started with his feet in the wrong place. As he developed a plan to coach himself, his anger diminished greatly.

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The key to this part of Daniel’s plan was that he helped develop it. He decided what things would be helpful to say to himself. The list he wrote down would be used and adjusted over time. It took some practice for him to tie the cue to the conscience prompting, so he needed the coaching of others for a bit to get things started. But it worked, he began to slow down his anger and choose other responses.

But the two Cs are not complete without the last one: character. We explained to Daniel that the conscience doesn’t control anger, character does. In the same way, the conscience doesn’t clean his room, character does. And furthermore, the conscience doesn’t get his homework done, character does. Daniel was in process. He needed to build character in his life to meet the challenges he was facing. If he did, then these same character-based solutions would help him all through life.

The idea of the 3 Cs gave Daniel a plan, but it did much more than that. It gave him perspective to see that the current challenges he was facing were part of something bigger. He needed to respond well to these problems he was facing right now, and they would help him do better in the future. That thought alone gave him more drive to master his anger, and learn to respond better to his challenge of feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

We could see the hope in Daniel’s eyes. He seemed eager to get on the mound and try out his new plan. It took some practice, but he embraced the challenge in the same way he practiced his pitching skills. All we needed now was time for the plan to work itself out.
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The plan worked for Daniel and he was able to make significant strides in his maturity in just a few weeks. In fact, it wasn’t long before Daniel was telling the rest of the players on the team that they needed to go see Dr. Turansky. We ended up conducting an anger workshop for the parents and the players. Parents and students found the solutions helpful and that they could use them on the playing field and elsewhere. Essentially, we helped them develop self-control by introducing a personalized plan.

You might want to check out the book Motivate Your Child:The Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids who Do What They Need to DoWithout Being Told and it’s companion book the Motivate Your Child Action Plan.

Let's start a discussion today in the comments section - 

Does Your Child Have a Problem with Anger? Where and When Does It Happen?

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12 comments:

  1. My children tend to get angry when they ae overtired or have too much sensory input. So, prevention of these situations is important to us. When prevention fails, well, that's where other strategies come into play.

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    1. It's great that you're aware of that. As Scott shared, it's very helpful to identify the situations and the cues. That's half the battle right there.

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    2. Martianne, yes, we see that when thresholds lower in any of us, we tend to act out in ways that aren't helpful. Thanks for sharing. It's important to have plans and help kids have plans to help themselves in those challenging times. --Scott Turansky

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  2. I like that this gives some objectivity to the whole idea of making better choices. I tell my son that he needs to make better choices but it sounds harsh and full of blame. Talking about building character sounds more positive and easier to grasp emotionally. I'm trying this for sure!

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    1. That's great. We like to say that firmness is not the same as harshness. We can be firm and not harsh. We need to learn how to be "gentle" and yet still firm as we instruct and correct our children. Focusing on character and heart change makes all the difference. Let us know who it goes!

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    2. I find that when parents have a coaching attitude with their children, then instead of the problem being between them, it's "over there" where the parent and child partner together to address it. --Scott Turansky

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  3. My children have developed angry hearts over the years and I have realized it's because I have been parenting with the same "my way or highway" mentality that I was raised. It's taken time for me to realize that it's no supposed to be my way but God's way. To thankful for this amazing resource so that I can fix myself and help my children feel better and fix themselves.

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    1. Yes indeed. When I dealt with my anger problem, it made a huge impact on how I related to my children. It is so worth the effort. Raising kids is HARD!! It's such a valuable investment though. Watch the top 2 videos on this page for some inspiration and hope. https://www.biblicalparenting.org/commercials.asp

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    2. I appreciate that perspective. I think if we all have that attitude of humility and a willingness to grow ourselves and follow the Lord, then good things happen in family life as well. Thank you. --Scott Turansky

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  4. I'm so thankful this article came up today! My 7 year old has a significant problem with anger when he's told to do something he doesn't want to do and it's really wearing on our family relationships. We had hours of conflict last night over something as simple as sweeping the kitchen floor! Part of the problem is often he needs a long time to calm down and get control of his anger before he's able to move on, but sometimes we don't have hours to do this. Then we come back he still has to do the original chore plus now he's behind on his homework and everything else that needs to take place. He's a very smart kid, but very stubborn and strong-willed at the same time (he gets it from me so that in itself causes problems!) and I'm having trouble getting him to see that he just needs to do what he needs to do whether or not he wants to at times. I've tightened up my action point to where I'm standing next to him quite often to try to make him uncomfortable, but sometimes he still would rather be angry than just finish his task and move on. He has a few extra consequences this week (read:chores) as a result of some very poor decisions he's been making lately so I have a feeling that it's going to be a pretty uncomfortable week for him. I'm just praying we can make it through to the other side and he can start to figure out that life goes much smoother when he learns to motivate himself in the right direction! I was reading last night in the book about making sure relationship doesn't get lost in the shuffle so I will definitely be taking deliberate steps to make sure we're still connecting and his heart isn't being hardened in the midst of the painful trial of extra chores. I think when he gets home we will be going over the 3 c's and see if we can help him get a handle on his anger.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Bernadette. You're doing some vital work with your son. I'm praying that the Lord gives you wisdom and strength. Definitely help him understand his emotions and anger. Let me know if you need any additional input. Watch the top 2 videos on this page for some inspiration and hope. https://www.biblicalparenting.org/commercials.asp

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    2. If I may, let me add something else to your plan. Maybe instead of adding chores per se, it might be better to say, "Son, because you're having some trouble following instructions with a good attitude, we're going to practice that a bit. In fact, each afternoon, after homework is done before you're free to go, I'm going to give you three tasks to do, one at a time, and practice the instruction process with you. If you have an idea about how I can give instructions better, I want to hear, but I still need to tell you to do things sometimes. So, we're going to practice that. If you're doing well, then we can back off on the practice sessions. If not, we may have to add some extra practice sessions on the weekend as well." I'm suggesting here that the consequence is practicing doing the right thing instead of simply having more work. There's nothing wrong with your approach but this suggestion might hone down your goal a bit, because it's really the process that's the challenge. I hope that helps a bit. Hang in there and let us know how it goes. --Scott Turansky

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