By: Lynne Namka, ED D.
I’m getting so many letters from baffled parents with angry children. Some of the parents have a background of abuse from childhood. Others have a child with an anger prone temperament. Other angry children have a history of sexual abuse the parents may not know about. Some children have a combination of these three factors. If your child has a change in behavior for the worse, ask him or her if someone has touched their private parts or has hurt them in any way.
I call these kids who are different from your ordinary type of discipline kids the Industrial Strength Kids. They require Industrial Strength Parenting. Even more than the ordinary garden variety type of child, Industrial Strength Kids need to learn the skills talking about feelings instead of acting them out, containing their anger, handling criticism and being able to see things from other people’s eyes.
So after you read this letter, sit down with your (older) child and read the parts of it to him or her that could be understood. Then work together in making a plan to address the various aspects of what I describe.
Children who talk about their feelings decrease their anger. As they grow up, they are less likely to turn to alcohol or drugs or join gangs. One of the MOST IMPORTANT skills for children with anger to learn is to talk about their feelings instead of acting them out in anger outbursts. Children who talk out their hurts and disappointments have an outlet for their stress.
Some other skills that can be taught and reinforced are taking turns, listening to others, inhibiting behaviors that threaten others, following directions, stopping sarcasm and egging others on. Some of the higher level skills are resolving conflict, listening with empathy when pain and hurt are described, giving support and encouragement and creative problem solving.
Social skills are easy to teach. Children can learn the positive values of treating each other with respect and taking responsibility for their own behavior. The steps to teaching social skills are similar to teaching academic subjects except that play and group activities and discussion plays a stronger role.
- Identify the skill that needs to be learned.
- Introduce the skill through discussion and modeling of the desired response.
- Give the rule and alternatives to the rule.
- Cue the child what to say and do regarding the new skill.
- Have the child cue himself through self talk.
- Provide practice of the skill through modeling, games, puppet and doll play, and role playing.
- Reinforce the new skill during practice.
- Teach the child to reinforce himself using self talk for using the skill. (Feel good about using the skill!)
- Provide opportunities for generalization and reinforcement of the skill in daily play.