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When the li'l one is angry

FARIDA RAJ
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Issue ‘Externalising problem' is a best way to manage anger in children

Put back the smile Help them deal with anger Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
Put back the smile Help them deal with anger Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

I was busy making worksheets for my students when I felt a presence but before I could look up, I heard a small voice, “teacher aunty, it is coming back”. I raised my eyes and looked straight into the clear brown eyes of Tina. What is coming back dear I asked. The snake!! She replied.

Seven-year-old Tina had a problem with controlling anger. At the slightest excuse she would throw a tantrum, scratch and hit her peers, generally disrupting the class. Her anger outbursts were the topic of discussion in the staff room. Almost every teacher said that she was a terrible child — pampered, stubborn and spoilt. But was ‘she' terrible or was it the ‘anger' that possessed her and made her do bad things?? I tried the technique of ‘Externalising Problem' .

Tina was told that she was a good girl but the habit of her getting angry was bad. She was asked to visualise anger. She said it looked like a snake. I told her to come to me the moment she felt the snake coming towards her. Together we would chase the snake away. It took a fortnight for Tina to be free of anger outbursts.

Anger and temper outbursts are frequent during early childhood. Many times, adults over-react to the child's outburst because they see his anger as a reflection of an emotion they still struggle with and react to it with anger themselves.  One must understand that getting angry from time to time is quite normal. Using condemning labels such as wicked, stubborn, ‘stupid',  insolent etc. or  improper  punishment   will  provoke  him  further  as  he  is  in   an emotionally excited  state of mind. Michael White, the renowned psychotherapist, talked of “externalizing” problems i.e. the problem is the problem and not the person. He used this technique as a way to objectify or personify problems that intrude in our lives.  When people see themselves as “intruded upon” by problems, they are in control of their actions. Let the child calm down. When he is ready to listen to you, discuss the negative aspect of his actions.  Tell him that he is a nice person but his habit of getting angry and throwing a tantrum is bad.  When he understands that anger is the problem and not him then he will begin to ‘look around' the problem to get back on track.   When an individual feels he is in control, it helps him to move away from the influence of the problem. He begins to understand what life will be without the problem. He then creates an environment in which he feels competent to solve his own problems.

Children respond well to the idea of externalising. A unique way of working with children who are sad, angry or over-energetic is to use stuffed animals as the symbolic “problem” ask the child to choose an animal that represents what the problem “looks like”.  Thus the problem is truly externalised in a playful manner. The children can also be asked to ‘draw their problem' .  This is a way of visually externalising the problem.

The following tips may help teach your child anger management:

*Device ways to help your child recognise when he is about to lose control.

 *Teach him to release anger in a physical way which is not violent like punching pillows but spot jagging or drawing a picture of an angry person.  *In order to understand himself better, you should ask him questions like why are you angry?  What made you angry?  What does your anger make you do? Such questions will give him an insight into controlling his anger.

*Reduce the need to say ‘no'.  Say yes when you can say yes at the beginning it helps in avoiding aggressive and hostile behaviour.

 *Treat your child with respect and accept him unconditionally. Inculcate in him a sense of discipline.  

 The key to teach anger management is to understand your child's personality type and then convert these challenges into strengths.

  FARIDA RAJ

(Remedial Educator)

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