5 things you can do when your kid is mad at you

Jan 12, 2015, 5:45 PM | Updated: 5:45 pm

You’ve probably seen this scene before. Daughter is ripping her hair out, son is stomping his light-up kicks on the ground with furor. There’s screaming, shouting and red faces. It’s a hectic mess. And though it may last seconds, it lasts for what feels like a lifetime.

You can see that scenario in the trailer for “Inside Out,” an upcoming film from Pixar that Deseret News National’s Joe Peacock wrote about earlier this month. The trailer also shows how parents react when their child is frustrated.

And while the trailer makes light of the situation, what parents should do when faced with an angry child is a tough question. Here are five things parents can do when their son or daughter is angry with them.


As the “Inside Out” trailer shows, one easy way to handle the situation is to discipline the child.

“Your responsibility as a parent is to help your child become self-reliant, respectful and self-controlled,” according to WebMD. “Relatives, schools, churches, therapists, health care professionals, and others can help. But the primary responsibility for discipline rests with parents.”

Some parents are more authoritative and strictly punish without leniency, where as other parents will show some affection and provide very little discipline. Choosing how to discipline depends on your child’s age and the reason that they’re upset, according to WebMD.

Any form of discipline will show children there are consequences to their actions, a lesson they can apply later in life, too.

Teach kids to calm themselves

What may be more beneficial for the long haul is teaching kids how to calm themselves down, according to The New York Times’ David Bornstein. This is especially true for kids who often have temper tantrums and act out because of trauma they’ve suffered in the past.

So, parents can teach kids to recognize when the child is angry and start fixing their problems on their own, Bornstein wrote. Parents should ask their kids what would make them less angry, which would allow the children to think about why they’re angry and how they can find better solutions for themselves, Bornstein wrote.

“Many adults are skeptical that kids can learn to respond to themselves,” Lauren Clithero, a therapist from Missouri, told the Times. “It’s a big paradigm shift in how adults think they are supposed to take care of children. We think our job is to jump in and take control, but it’s much better to give kids choices and control over themselves.”

Talk about bad behavior ahead of time

Bad behavior will find its way into your kitchen or dining room at some point. So one method for stopping it may be to prepare your child for future tantrums, according to Slate magazine’s Alan Kazdin. Kids should be told from an early age what bad behavior is and how to act appropriately, Kazdin wrote. This way kids will already have a clear picture of how they should act and what bad behaviors to avoid.

Parents can prepare themselves, too, for what they want to see their children do in times of conflict, which will help them steer their child toward a more positive resolution.

“You begin by deciding what you want the child to do, the positive opposite of whatever behavior you want to stop,” Kazdin wrote. “The best way to get rid of unwanted behavior is to train a desirable one to replace it. So turn ‘I want him to stop having tantrums’ into ‘I want him to stay calm and not to raise his voice when I say no to him.’ ”

Parents can better themselves

New research suggests that children who are at least 15 months old model their behaviors after their parents, according to a study from the University of Washington. This is because their brains are still in a growing phase where it absorbs the scenarios they’re in, the study said.

Parents, then, can take the extra step to avoid conflict with each other to make sure their child doesn’t get the wrong idea about what’s acceptable when angry, according to Focus on the Family.

“Self-control ranks as one of the single most important skills that children acquire in the first three years of life,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff of the study to Focus on the Family. “We measured the origins of self-control and found that most of the toddlers were able to regulate their behavior. But we also discovered huge individual variability, which we think will predict differences in children as they grow up and may even predict important aspects of school readiness.”

Avoid violent material from the media

According to a study cited by Fox News, children are angrier and more combative when they’ve watched violent movies and television shows. These types of content will make children more aggressive, desensitize them to violence and make them believe the world to be a darker and more violent place than it is, according to Fox News. So by watching violent material, kids will be likely to engage in arguments with their parents.

One violent movie probably won’t lead children to suddenly have these aggressive behaviors. But over time, enough violent material will change the way kids think about the world, as described above, Fox News reported.

To avoid this, parents can look for safe material for their children to watch, which I wrote about last summer.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @herbscribner

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5 things you can do when your kid is mad at you