Chapter 20: How to Keep Your Cool and Keep Kids from Erupting
The Parents Toolshop® Guidebook:
5 Easy Step to Effectively Respond to Any Parenting Challenge
The Parent Problems Toolset!
- Chapter 20: How to Keep Your Cool and Keep Kids from Erupting
- Chapter 21: Ten Tactful Talking Tools to Get Your Point Across Without Lectures or Threats
- Chapter 22: Practice Keeping Your Cool
If you read the Prevention Toolset chapters and the Child Problems Toolset chapters of The Parents Toolshop® Guidebook, you have discovered and had time to practice the five five-star tools taught in those chapters. They are the most important parenting tools. You’ll be using them again soon, to redirect misbehavior. But first, we need to pick up the PASRR Formula where we left off, so you know how to express your concerns calmly and assertively.
So, here’s where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula:
You’ve already learned how to:
Prevent Problems from starting or worsening, with the Prevention Toolbox: Cooperation Toolset
Acknowledge the child’s feelings, with the Child Problem Toolbox: F-A-X Listening Toolset
Now you are ready to learn how to:
Set limits and express concerns, with the Parent Problem Toolbox: Keep Your Cool Toolset
The Parent Problems Toolset focuses on managing anger– both yours and your children’s.
Pam is a grandparent raising her grandchildren. One day, she went to pick up her four-year-old grandson at a party. She thought he was going to be supervised but when she arrived she saw him running around the front yard, darting into the street, and then rolling under a van parked in the driveway of the “party house.”
She was scared for her grandson’s safety, angry that the chaperone’s weren’t supervising him, and angry with her grandson, who knew better than to play in the street or around cars.
As she pulled up, her grandson hopped in the van. She was steaming, so she just left and decided not to let him play there again unless she had a chance to talk to the parents.
In the car, her grandson was excitedly telling her about the party. Pam interrupted him and started to scold him for playing under the van. He started to get upset. She remembered what she’d learned in the T.I.P.S. class and said, “I’m too angry to talk right now. We’ll talk more after we get home and I’ve calmed down.”
Then, she said she counted to 10 … about 20 times, the whole way home. When she got home and had calmed down, her grandson came to her, apologized for his behavior and said he knew better. She reviewed the safety rules with him, by asking him questions (using F-A-X Listening), and got an agreement for his future behavior. He was still not allowed to play at that house without her present, but she didn’t need to yell, scold or punish him, like she would have in the past.
Not knowing how to manage your anger can sabotage your overall parenting, because even using effective parenting tools in anger can turn them into weapons that can highjack your best intentions.
What Is Anger?
- Anger is a natural physical and emotional reaction to a perceived threat. It is also a secondary emotion, meaning that it’s a result of other emotions such as frustration, hurt, annoyance, resentment, etc.
- Anger is not caused by people and events, even though it may seem to be! Rather, it is your belief about or interpretation of the event that determines your feelings about and responses to the event. For a powerful pictorial explanation of what goes on inside the body when you feel emotions, check out a handout I use for my Stress-Free workshops. Understanding the biology of your emotions can support you in effectively managing them, and you’ll better help your children do the same.
- Anger can be either healthy or unhealthy. (Yes, there issuch a thing as healthy anger!)
- Unhealthy anger is destructive, hurtful, controlling, and revengeful. Over time, unhealthy anger loses is effectiveness and can become more severe and affect your relationships. The poisonous bodily chemicals it creates can cause serious problems to your health.
- Healthy, constructive anger separates feeling angry from acting angry. It channels the energy that anger generates to resolve the conflict in a healthy way. For instance, when you feel a tightening in your stomach, you recognize it as one of the first signs of anger, take a breath to relax the stomach muscles and get some oxygen to your brain, then choose a helpful response.
There Are Two Types Of Anger Eruptions:
- “Smoldering embers” are caused by multiple stressful situations that slowly build up until they spill over or erupt. Use stress management techniques regularly, like deep breathing, exercise, meditation/prayer, or creative visualization, to help reduce or eliminate this type of stress and anger eruption.
- “Flash fires” are caused by events that push an emotional trigger button, which sets off a sudden eruption. These trigger buttons are programmed in through your belief systems. So becoming consciously aware of your beliefs, seeing how they influence your emotions, and choosing healthier more accurate beliefs can reprogram or eliminate these trigger buttons. You can use an Anger Log to reprogram your trigger buttons.
What To Do When You Are Angry (And Teach To Your Child)
Not everybody handles anger in the same way. What works for one person might not work for someone else. People experience their anger/stress energy in just a few common ways, however, which leads us to a formula for finding the best place to go and activity to do when you (or your child) are angry or stressed.
Where to Go?
Your “recharge style” determines where to go when you are angry or stressed. If you (or your child) are an:
- Internal recharger, you get your energy from within and will want to be by yourself or go to a peaceful, calm environment when you are angry or stressed.
- External recharger, you get your energy from outside yourself and will want to be around other people or go to a stimulating environment when you are angry or stressed.
What to do?
The type of “anger energy” you experience determines what kind of activity you want to do, to channel or release your anger/stress in a healthy way: If you experience:
- Verbal anger energy, you may feel like yelling, screaming, cussing, or saying things you regret later. Take this energy and channel it into a positive expressive activity.
- Physical anger energy, you may feel like hitting, throwing, stomping, or slamming doors. Take this energy and channel it into a positive physical activity.
- Verbal/Physical anger energy, you may feel like yelling and cussing while hitting and throwing things. Take this energy and channel it into a positive physical activity that is also expressive.
When you combine these differences in how people (adults and children) experience their anger and stress, you can see that each person will fit into one of the following six categories. While there are many options for what you can do, I’ve listed the most commonly helpful activity for each style:
- Internal-Verbal: Get away by yourself and write in a journal.
- Internal-Physical: Take a walk or exercise by yourself.
- Internal-Verbal/Physical: Get away by yourself and do an artistic project that involves movement (like painting or sculpting).
- External-Verbal: Call a friend and talk.
- External-Physical: Take an exercise class.
- External-Verbal/Physical: Go for a walk with a friend and talk.
As parents, you can’t always get away by yourself. That’s when you need to be the grown-up and control your thoughts, emotions, energy and responses until you can get away and have some recharge time. If you really think you are going to blow, make sure your child is safe and go to the bathroom for 2-5 minutes. Turn on the fan, do some deep breathing, and talk yourself through the situation. Then call a spouse or friend and arrange a time soon when they can watch your children and you can get out and relieve the anger/stress energy, before it builds up into a full-blown eruption.
The formula above can help you plan your “time out” as well as a healthy time-out for your child. The biggest myth about time-outs is that they are discipline tools; they aren’t. To be most effective, they are cooling-off tools, so both you and the child are calm enough to discuss the discipline.
To use self-control time-outs with children, figure out what each child’s recharge style is (where they can go) and what type of anger energy they experience (what they can do when they get there). Then teach them where to go and what to do when they are angry or having an emotional meltdown. When they are calm, it’s over. (No timers! They turn time-outs into a power struggle.)
Over time, you can learn to release the pressure of anger/stress through appropriate, healthy outlets. So, in the short run, at least start by changing what you yell/hit until your healthier responses become habits.
Once you master all the tools in the Keep Your Cool Toolset, you will:
- Get less angry less often, think clearer, stay calmer and respond more effectively.
- Avoid blow ups, which make problems worse, start new problems and can cause unintentional (PU) misbehavior to mutate into “on purpose” (PO) misbehavior.
- Yell and overreact less, which leads to better parent/child relationships. Being less stressed leads to better health and longevity.
- Avoid using effective parenting tools in anger, which turns them into weapons.
- Be aware of the unhealthy thoughts and beliefs that lie beneath your anger, so you can change them to healthy, helpful beliefs.
- Know how to reprogram your trigger buttons, which eliminates future blow ups and puts you in control of your emotions, not your children.
- Have a personalized plan for where to go and what to do when you do get angry.
- Know how to channel and use your anger energy in healthy, constructive ways.
- Have children who use effective anger/stress management, so they have fewer tantrums and outbursts.
- Have children who express their anger appropriately and can manage their stress, which helps them as adults.
- Use “time outs” most effectively, not as discipline, but as a tool for teaching children self-control and anger/stress management.
- Know when a problem is the result of factors you can control, when it is a sign of a deeper problem and when to seek professional intervention.
- Identify your “recharge” and “anger energy” style and brainstorm at least one possible activity that would be helpful for relieving your anger.
- Sit down with each of your children and do the same thing (number one above), so they have a plan for where to go and what to do to calm down when they are angry or falling apart.
- Use an Anger Log to reprogram your trigger buttons. Optional: if you want support in rewriting your unhelpful beliefs, post your log in the forum and invite others to offer possible different ways of interpreting and talking yourself through the situation.
- Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
Here is a list of the recommended resources in this lesson:
- Check out a handout I use for my Stress-Free workshops to get better understanding of what goes on inside the body when you feel emotions.
- Download the Anger Log to use to help reprogram your trigger buttons.
- Learn how to eliminate stress by taking the Relationships Come F.I.R.S.T. (Formula for Improving Relationship Success Tools) Course.