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How do you help an 8 year old boy control their anger? I really need strategies....

(28 Posts)
IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 20:14:26

My 7 year old (nearly 8) is having anger issues at the moment and I am at a loss as to how to deal with it. He is a sweet, caring and helpful boy most of the time. But when he perceives that he has been "wronged", he explodes with anger.

We had an incident in the park today (which I did not witness but another parent told me what happened) where a mum told him off (wrongly) for doing something and he shouted in her face that he did not do it and then burst into explosive angry crying. When I tried to tackle him about it and calm him down, he hit me! I was so shocked by both the things he did, I had no idea what to do.

In the end, we have taken away all his books (he is an avid reader and loves them) and he is going to be able to earn one back each half day for controlling his anger.

But the thing I am asking for help with is HOW to teach him to control it. I spent ages talking to him today about how life is going to be full of incidents where things either don't go to plan or something happens to him that is unjust. And it is ok to be angry about it, but it is NOT ok to react in the way he is doing.

I desperately need to teach him strategies for dealing with his anger and welcome suggestions. Mostly, I need help for when we are not at home as at home it is so much more easily dealt with as he either takes himself off to his room to read (stamping all the way there) or if things are bad enough, I send him to stand by the front door until he calms down. When out, things just seems to escalate so quickly.

Jajas Sat 25-Apr-09 20:18:12

Sorry I'm afraid I don't have any answers but have a rising 7yr old with much the same issues. You have my total sympathy and I will watch this thread with hope and interest!

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 20:19:26

Do you think it is developmental then? Do they all go through it? Or is it a personality thing?

Jajas Sat 25-Apr-09 20:23:11

Interesting this.

My boy is a twin and so it's a fascinating test in personalities. One of them is totally laid back and just pootles about quite happily (although he does do a neat line in wind ups), the troublesome one just explodes constantly and I find it utterly exhausting. Sadly I do think that it is a personality trait but there must be ways of helping them to deal with it.

To my shame I sometimes tell the angry twin to watch how well his angelic twin is behaving which is probably storing up all sorts of resentment for the future!

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 20:42:37

I have done the same - telling him to look at how his 4 year old brother behaves.

plimple Sat 25-Apr-09 20:54:58

He'll have to learn how to control what his natural feelings are and the only way to do that is to actively "teach" it e.g. count to 10 at the instant you want to fly off. It's part of the fight or flight part of our brains which is the most basic and therefore hardest to train.
Give him ways to vent his frustration e.g. ripping up paper, stressball, hitting water in the garden, boxing thing to punch. But also talk to him about ways to deal with his feelings as they occur e.g. at the park. Role play is good as "acting" angry can actually make you feel angry but in a controlled way so is a good way to retrain natural instincts. Also "acting" angry can make you really laugh so it connects the 2 things in the brain and this is another way to retrain emotions.

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 20:58:37

I think role play is a good idea. Does anyone know of any books that deal with this? Counting to 10 may work, but surely that also requires a degree of control that I don't think he has as he would have to stop him self exploding long enough to count?

plimple Sat 25-Apr-09 21:04:44

Stress that his natural instincts aren't wrong and he may well have a point when he gets angry, but he has to revisit those feelings to try to get a solution of what to do.
Here's a funny game to try:
You offer pretend cup of tea saying angrily "would you like a cup of tea?" He has to accept it, but in an even angrier way and offer you something e.g. "Thanks it's just what I need, would you like a biscuit?". You accept getting EVEN angrier and offer him something better than a biscuit e.g. "Thanks, would you like this chocolate cake?" Continue until you're either so angry your heads explode or you fall about laughing.
The point is, you're exploring anger while still in control and being reasonable which is a pretty good trick to know!

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 21:21:18

Good suggestion - thanks!

I do try to acknowledge his anger is valid sometimes. He hit a friend's 3 year old yesterday at their house and I was furious. They were upstairs (he was playing with the 3 year old's older brother) and the 3 year old jumped on his back and wouldn't get off. He shouted at him to get off and also tried pushing him off (the 3 year old is huge for his age). So he hit him. I understand why he did it and tried to say that I could see why he was angry. But hitting just isn't the way to deal with it.

colette Sat 25-Apr-09 21:31:40

I got this book out of the library It is very good a lot of it is aimed at 7+ (my ds is 5) and aso working with groups. But some great ideas . hth

plimple Sat 25-Apr-09 21:34:54

That's the thing, anger is allowed, but hitting, shouting at people etc is unacceptable and achieves nothing, so what else could he do? Ask him. Ask him what a better solution to last night with the 3 year old would be.
Let him know when you are angry and you're controlling it. e.g. I am so angry you've hit him that I want to hit you (Maybe true, I always want to smack my child when she smacks/bites someone else - but don't!!), but I won't because hitting is wrong, and I am twice the size of you. Instead I'm going to...
whatever his punishment is make sure he knows it's the action you're punishing, not the anger.

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 21:38:28

What an excellent suggestion plimple. I often have to control my own anger at him.

I am also just about to order that book from Amazon Colette - thanks.

Shylily Sat 25-Apr-09 21:51:19

Have you read 'How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk?'
found some really useful things in there about how to talk to them about things like that (as plimple says 'angers allowed but hitting's not). It's easy to read and good ideas.
Good luck

IlanaK Sat 25-Apr-09 22:24:00

Thanks. I will try the other book first as I just ordered it and may try to get your suggested one from the library.

plimple Sat 25-Apr-09 22:42:18

I'd speak to school too as they probably have strategies and you ought to be sharing ideas that work.

IlanaK Sun 26-Apr-09 18:49:39

Actually, he is home schooled (though please don't make this into a thread about that as I really think it is irrelevant).

I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of that book from Amazon.

chocbuttons3 Sun 26-Apr-09 19:33:13

My 8 yr old is going thru alot at the mo, she erupts with uncontrollable anger at the least thing, won't listen to any1 esp her younger bro and sis, she is trying to control evthing, I dont knw if it's a growing up thing as she is extremely mature and very accademically clever, but is very anxious and nervous when in social situations. What doesnt help in ur fam is that my son has autism and we also have a 3 yr old so I dont know if its just rebellion withe our situation. We are trying to give clear and fair boundaries and be consistent telling her what will happen if she doesnt do as we ask, we have also wrote a list of behaviours we dont want and put a list of behaviours we do want - then they are there for her to look at when she is having a moment. I really would love to know if it just her growing up - v int 2 hear about other ppl children at this age xxx

ahundredtimes Sun 26-Apr-09 19:48:52

Why does he get angry? If you think it's valid - which it is - but he doesn't deal with it well, then look perhaps at what makes him so angry? Do you think? Is it frustration or impulse or other people in his space or telling him what to do? Has he talked about what makes him cross? It's quite a good conversation because if he makes a list of what makes him steam, then he's already ahead on knowing what's going on and what way he could do it differently. You could make a similar list, and say what you do, bite your tongue, breath deeply, walk out the room etc?

(btw if you took all my books and told me I had to earn them back by controlling myself, I'd be FURIOUS wink)

neolara Sun 26-Apr-09 20:03:58

A few ideas....

When you notice him getting angry, where possible, try distracting him or getting him away from the stressful situation.

Get him to try to identify what it feels like when he is getting angry but before he explodes e.g. funny feeling in tummy, feels legs and arms go stiff etc.

Actively teach self-calming strategies for this stage e.g. count to 10, think of a calm place, walk away etc.

If he explodes, give him a place he can go to to calm down e.g. his room, the garden etc.

When he is in the middle of an explosion and probably for at least 30 mins afterwards, there will be absolutely no point trying to have a rational discussion with him about what has happened. It will just set him off again as he will still be physiologically aroused.

Usually there is an emotional dip about 30 mins to an hour after any outburst. Your ds may cry and seem remorseful, but this is most likely to be a physiological response to the previous surge of adrenaline. It does not mean he is genuinely sorry. Wait until after this to have a discussion about what has happened.

After the event, when you are sure he is calm, try to identify what triggered his outburst. See if he can think of other ways he could have dealt with the situation. See if there are different ways he could think about the situation (e.g. instead of thinking "She told me off, she is a stupid old hag and I hate her", try to get him to think "She told me off, but she just made a mistake. We all make mistakes sometimes. It's no big deal.") He may need a bit of prompting. If necessary, role play it with him.

In the long term, it can be helpful to explicitly teach him to talk about his feelings so that instead of hitting out, he gets used to saying what the problem is. You may find that you need to start talking about your own feeling a lot more explicitly so that he gets the hang of it.

Good luck.

milkysallgone Mon 27-Apr-09 10:30:43

Am watching this with great interest. I could have written this about my dd, except she is only 4!!

I agree that is feels impossible because we talk to her after the event in a calm and rational way, but then all of that goes out the window when she is in the throes of rage and appears to have no control over herself.

booyhoo Mon 27-Apr-09 11:28:39

i agree with all these posts, you need to talk with your sona bout how to express anger.

however could i also suggest introducing him to a physical activity that would drain alot of his pent up energy. my OH became quite explosive at around the same age and ended up hurting his younger sister one day, his parents took him to a judo class and tell me that the change in his temperamnet was almost instant. he contiued the weekly classes until he met me at 16.

boys tend to have a more pronounced need for daily physical activity than girls. even if its just a twenty minute burst on his bike or with the dog. you might find just giving him a daily chore which taxes his brain is enough. im sorry this isnt more helpful but it is something to discuss with him. what he's going through must be very difficult. i hope you can find a solution together.

asteamedpoater Mon 27-Apr-09 13:02:33

There is a book called "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship" which has a chapter in it on "the short fused child." It deals quite well with strategies for children who lose their tempers quite quickly - viewed, as you would imagine from the title, from the perspective of helping them maintain friendships when their tempers tend to upset their friends!!! Obviously, though, the advice would help generally with temper issues. I don't normally go for self-help books as such, but have found some of the advice in this book quite helpful.

plimple Mon 27-Apr-09 14:36:19

Totally agree booyhoo.

IlanaK Mon 27-Apr-09 17:52:05

Thanks everyone.

I totally agree about the physical activity thing. I have three boys and live in a flat so we go out for exercise everyday. They ride bikes, scooter etc. They also do swimming once a week which he excels at. In addition, they have an enormous bedroom where they have ladders on the wall to climb and are allowed to play football against the walls.

I did talk to him this afternoon when all was calm and we were relaxing on the couch. We talked about the things suggested here: how it feels when you get angry, what you can do about it, the fight or flight phenomenon in our bodies etc. We have friends coming here to play tomorow so it will be a real test of it all and we did discuss that.

booyhoo Mon 27-Apr-09 17:57:19

good luck for tomorow, i wouldnt consider it as a test but the beginning of the solution, you have addressed it with him and even if you need to remind him a few times while his friends are over, it doesnt mean you've failed to sort it. it wont be an overnight fix. its somethig he's going to have to be working on for a while before it becomes second nature. best of luck

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