Handling a child’s anger outburst can be puzzling, distressing and emotionally draining for an adult or a caregiver. One challenge that is significantly witnessed while dealing with an angry child is that often, similar feelings get stirred up in the person dealing with the child. This makes it harder for the parent to react in the right manner that encourages the child to behave better. To help yourself the next time you witness an anger outburst, here are the 10 essential rules for dealing with an angry child with special needs you should know.
- Don’t shout or challenge your kid in the middle of an anger outburst: As per a research published by Attwood in 2006, “The rapidity and intensity of anger, often in response to a relatively trivial event, can be extreme.” Quite understandably, the child while showing an intense anger outburst is not in a position to pause and think rationally. Amongst a swirl of emotions going through their minds, shouting or challenging them will only add on to the problem. In such a scenario, you can say something like, “I understand you are angry right now. I’ll let you sit and relax for some time and we’ll later talk about this.”
- Understand and act with empathy: Teaching about emotions can be a lot more challenging with a child with special needs. However, remember that a child learns best by what he/she sees. Showing empathetic emotions to your child will not only help in dealing with the anger outbursts but will also help them learn to empathize with others. Demonstrate your kid that you do understand their feelings and emotions. This will help them analyze the situation, taking your point of view into consideration. If you see that your child is cranky in the wee hours, which increases the probability of an anger outburst, say this- You aren’t a morning person and I do realize that you are feeling frustrated. We’ll have a conversation after you have had your breakfast.”
- Never hit your child: Hitting a child is wrong, be it a special child or any other child. Hitting a child leaves long term negative implications and shows them to deal with difficult situations aggressively. It has been witnessed that children with Autism display their aggression by hitting themselves. Thus, it becomes even more imperative to set the right example.
- Approach younger children differently: When a small kid is upset, you can help them learn that they can play a vital role in calming down on their own. Say, “I wish that I was able to help you cool off. Maybe you would want to lie on the sofa for some time.” This way, you are making them pay attention to their emotions.
- Don’t give too harsh punishments: Think about this scenario- Your child is shouting and screaming. There are guests at home, which is creating an embarrassing situation, and you want them to stop shouting right now. You say, “If you don’t lower down your voice, I’ll not let you watch your favourite cartoon for a day. Okay, now it’s 4 days. Now it’s for a week!” Chances are that your child would still not lower down their voice. You need to understand that your primary goal is not to punish your child but to help them handle difficult situations in the right way.
- Don’t try to reason out while in the middle of an outburst: According to a research by Attwood, 2006, “When feeling angry, the person with Asperger’s syndrome does not appear to be able to pause and think of alternative strategies to resolve the situation. There is often an instantaneous physical response without careful thought. When the anger is intense, the person with Asperger’s syndrome may be in a blind rage and unable to see the signals indicating that it would be appropriate to stop.” In such times, trying to explain will not help, as the child won’t be able to grasp it well. Keep it for later, when the child is feeling calm and can think rationally.
- Notice the reasons behind trigger: Closely analyze the scenarios each time your child reacts aggressively. This will enable you to understand the root cause of the stress that acts as a trigger for an anger outburst. This will help you better deal with the situation and minimize stress for your child.
- Minimize the triggers: Once you understand what triggers an anger outburst or a meltdown, you’d be in a better position to keep them at bay. As a matter of fact, Children diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are prone to exhibiting dramatic meltdowns. Often, these children like to live by a consistent schedule and so an unexpected change in their routine can trigger an outburst of emotions. Try to maintain the schedule and if the need arises, try to let them know about the change beforehand.
- Have a conversation about it later: Some children with ADHD or any other neurotypical disorder have a difficult time being reflective, while in the episode. Allow your kid some time to give the episode a thought before you talk to them about it.
- Be the right role model: As mentioned earlier, children learn best from seeing. No matter how much effort you put in to help them learn the right way to handle difficult situations, if you display your feelings aggressively, it won’t help them learn. Try to be the right role model from whom they can naturally pick up right behavioural skills.
You can follow these rules, the next time you deal with an angry child. If you are facing too much aggression and the situation continues to stay out of your hands, you can consult a certified child psychologist. Opting for a Child counselling is a good solution to deal with challenging behaviours that a child exhibits.