Not having slept well, I woke up with a groan in the morning. No option to sleep in for a little longer, I kicked off the covers and came down to get breakfast and lunch packing going. The respiratory allergies were making me irritable and the knee was a permanent annoyance. Yet, I feel blessed? No, I did not. Not in that moment. I was cranky, irritable and tad angry. In 10 minutes, I was feeling better, even had a smile on my face.

The son just had a showdown with me as I threatened to pull the plug on his video game. As we had a heated exchange, he slammed the door and went out. A few minutes later, he stepped in gingerly, more composed, telling his brother that they needed to make less noise.

These are just two slices of life from my own life. Why am I narrating them? Because, I feel that in our effort to be positive and grateful, we somehow shy away from experiencing or ‘feeling’ the negative emotions and dealing with them appropriately. We judge these emotions and try to suppress them. Some of us brush them under the carpet. We don’t live them, don’t provide an outlet for them and let them simmer under the surface. Sure, we can act normal but we are denying ourselves an opportunity to feel fully and a gamut of emotions. More importantly, is it healthy?

One thing I’ve realised that in themselves emotions are not bad. They just are.

Anger, frustration, grief, pain, sadness and jealousy are all feelings, not bad, just a state of how we feel when we face various situations in life. They become bad when we try to either vent them out without control or don’t let ourselves feel them out of embarrassment and shame. They can be a cause of great angst and pain if kept bottled inside.

I’ve heard of people who file away grief at a loss or a disappointment and never give themselves the opportunity to fully heal. Have you ever felt that way?

I came across this interesting term emotional basement in an article I was reading. I could really connect with it. We must aim for an empty emotional basement. What it means is that at the end of the day, we must endeavour not to take any backlog of emotions with us to bed.

Do we do that? Not really.

how to help child deal with anger frustration

Venting your feelings and showing your kids that it is alright to do so is a very important step in having an empty emotional basement. Venting does not imply yelling at your kids, spouse or random people. It means either talking out the frustration or guilt with someone close to you who will only listen without feeling compelled to offer advice or judgement or actually letting yourself take it out physically on a pillow or crying it out. It helps. You feel empty and significantly better. And it does not make you weak.

Not letting yourself experience or show the negative emotions or worse judging yourself for feeling them will let you carry the baggage till you explode.

I used to be very uncomfortable around tears. I feel inept when someone cries or tears up around me. I don’t know why. But I just stay quiet and try to be with them in that moment. I think it is cathartic to cry. I do it sometimes in the shower or in the privacy of my loneliness. It helps me feel better and more capable to deal with my emotions. I hope my kids can do the same. Cry if it makes them feel better or to handle their frustration. What is not okay is them yelling at me or calling me names. So it is important for us to tell each other to feel what we feel. It’s alright to feel jealousy and anger too. We are human after all. But how you act upon those emotions is what will make you an emotionally secure person. Not acknowledging the emotions or feeling ashamed for feeling them will make you inept in the face of them. And you pass on the same to your children who learn their coping mechanisms in life by imbibing from their parents.

Each child is different

My older son is generally even keeled but tends to lose it with the younger son. I guess it is because he keeps a few of the grievances locked inside till he explodes. He has to learn to safely let out these feelings. Talking it out with me or a friend, going for some physical activity should help him feel closure to the emotions. The younger son can get angry pretty quick. I’ve read that younger kids often struggle to be in control of their emotions. I ask him to move away from the situation at that moment. Talking it out when he is calm helps sometimes. Also addressing the reason for the hurt with the person who caused it is important for closure. I encourage the children to come speak with the parents if they felt aggrieved with our actions or words. There is no sure shot solution but addressing the hurt or anger should take away the bite from it.

Find safe ways to vent the anger

Have you been around people who are difficult to be around? The explode at every minor thing, almost like walking human bombs? It is because they have a lot of unresolved feelings inside that make them so explosive. Also people around them somehow tend to justify their bad temper or behaviour with explanation. That is completely not addressing the problem. Sensible ways like the ones mentioned above can help us all find safe ways to vent the anger or frustration that we feel on a daily basis. I would suggest the following to help children deal with anger and frustration without going nasty:

  1. Sometimes it helps to feel the emotion deeply and then talk out in your mind what exactly is bothering you. Was it the tone, did you feel what was said was cruel or unjust, did it make you feel inadequate or belittled?
  2. Crying really helps. But you can’t cry at the drop of a hat. That can get taxing and annoying. Sometimes kids cry out of frustration or because they feel overwhelmed. It’s okay for them to do that. But as they grow older, we have to teach them to use tears more effectively.
  3. Talking helps, a lot: I have had great perspective from heart-to-heart talks. Talk to your kids when they have calmed down sufficiently after a showdown. Communication helps us mend bridges and soothe heated nerves. It also helps us understand what to avoid the next time.
  4. Convey your emotion: As a mum, there are many times when I am upset with how the children have behaved. They will come back in 10 minutes and try to offer a sorry or a hug and I am not in a mood. Yes, I feel hurt and I need to process it. We don’t have emotional switches that turn off and on. The same works for children. So, we need to give each other time and space to express how we are feeling. When I have processed the feeling and feel lighter, I approach them and tell them what made me so mad. A good way for them to know what not to do in the future. It is important to communicate what we are feeling and that it does not come with timelines. That is why I am against saying sorry for the sake of it.
  5. Do something physical: Yes, it helps. Punch a pillow like really hard. Go for a hard run. Do weights. Cry with large sobs. Close the door and yell. Even 10 minutes and you will feel a world of difference. It is better than bottling it inside and then taking it out on someone you love. I have tried it and it really works. I tell my kids to go do it as well.

It is important in today’s high stress and emotionally fraught world that we teach our kids to be emotionally mature. Teach your child ways to deal with anger and frustration. It will go a long way in making them better people. And while at it, it does not hurt to look within at some of your own hurt or anger issues. Adults often struggle with ego which makes their emotional issues worse. Give it a thought.

Do share with me how you deal with negative emotions? Any tactics that I missed? Also how do you help your children deal with anger and frustration? I would love to hear.

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how to help child deal with anger frustration

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11 Thoughts on “How to Help Your Child Deal with Anger and Frustration

  1. I know that since I’m not a parent, it would not make much sense coming from me, but I could relate to this post so much. I wish I had someone who could understand me this way, when I was younger. Parents often tend to forget to care for their children as they think that since the provide them with the basics and other wants, that’s enough. We all know that is not how it works.

    The pointers you have put out here are so good. This is not only for kids. Us adults can learn so much from it too. Over the past year, I have learnt to let go of my past anger and frustration and I have learnt to be patient. While I still do have bouts of anger, it is not as worse as before and I have learnt to control it. But yes, it is very important to vent. Crying is cathartic indeed. But when others do it around me, I find it awkward and I’m inept at it too.

    I’ll be sharing this post with my friends Rachna who are having it tough with their growing up kids. I’m sure it will help them a lot.
    Soumya recently posted…Book Review: The Time Traveler’s WifeMy Profile

  2. No 5 is very effective because I’ve tried it to. This is a very well written thought provoking post.
    Suzy recently posted…Experimenting and Life Lessons #vlog #chaiwithsuzy #FridayReflectionsMy Profile

  3. All very useful and actionable tips, Rachna. It’s so true that emotions just are. They need to be present and resolved in their own time.

    Teaching kids to handle their emotions and anger is an important life skill and one that we all need to do. Puberty is also a tough time for tweens, as I have noticed. With all the hormonal and emotional changes, they get overwhelmed and take it out on us. And then repent and feel sorry. I’ve been teaching Gy to write down her feelings when she gets overwhelmed or yells at me. That seems to help. It used to help me as a child too.

    Similarly, like you say, I wait for the anger to subside and then have a good heart-to-heart conversation about the incident and how it could have been handled better by her. And in that receptive space, she listens.

    Of course, like you mention, each child is different so we do what works best for each of them through trial and error.

    Very useful post, by the way.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Living with Bipolar Disorder- An ExcerptMy Profile

  4. What a good one there, Rachna! There is a lot adults can learn from this post. Tha emotional baggage that we carry to bed is the worst. We need to let go of that emotion and bounce back. It should not be the person but how to work on the situation.
    Parul recently posted…Trust over controlMy Profile

  5. A wonderful post! Emotions aren’t bad. It only gets out of hand when we cannot control them and they impact different spheres of our lives. It is better to let the emotions out than bottling it up- the consequences may be too tough to handle then. And when dealing with kids, it has to be handled with greater care!

  6. Anamika Agnihotri · Founder and manages at The Yellow Book Shelf
    This is about reality, the real issue not just with parenting but also as a human. I know older women who are prone to erupt at the drop of the hat and they sound completely unreasonable. It is like raising the hurt and anger within them and feeling forever victimized as a result.
    Taking a moment when angry to let it calm down, writing about it later when calm or talking about it with the other person (and never with those women) is what I do and encourage D to also do it. Having said that, I also find myself venting out loud in rage and have been working at this to tone it down. I have also cried like hell in the past and have found it an effective way to release bottled up angst. Once cried and done, I do not visit the angst space again. Visiting and revisiting does not help in healing ever.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently posted…My Birthday Weekend #MondayMusingsMy Profile

  7. You know I was just writing a post on how I keep scolding and yelling at M when she just refused to listen. Or, when I get annoyed at S that he doesn’t have to wake up and rush to the kitchen. I feel so guilty about it but the truth is, these feelings are so natural especially when we have to do so much. And it’s okay to feel so. Keeping it in just makes it worse.
    I don’t know how I’ll teach anything to M really leave alone dealing with emotions because I feel I’m so impatient and reactive to everything. But I’m going to implement your points or try to at least

  8. I agree Rachna and I’m loving the ’empty emotional basement’ terminology. All too often negative emotions get negative press, yet they are emotions that have to be dealt with – especially for the kids. I guess, we as adults, are still learning that it’s OK to sit with the not so good feelings at times. They happen for a reason and they have a place too. They need to be acknowledged and not brushed under the carpet otherwise they do manifest in rather uglier ways than may have been the case if they were aired. Great post and thanks for sharing with #tweensteensbeyond

  9. I agree with the points made Rachna and realize how much hard work I personally need to do to vent out my feeling. I tend to keep a lot inside and this part about punching something really hard…does it really help? Once I read Osho saying to imagine the person we got angry in front of us and vent…that would help. I used to be scared of someone’s tears and someone broke down in front of me, run away to my desk to give her space. Later, the person I hold in extremely high regard told me it’s just tears and why was so scared. I think we need to be comfortable with our emotions as human beings.
    Vishal Bheeroo recently posted…May I know your good name, Sir?My Profile

  10. Rachna this is a great post for all parents of all ages of children. I think it is so important to not hide our own emotions from our children whatever their age and to acknowledge life is just not perfect even for us adults. The most important element in this is that they acknowledge why and how. Why they are feeling like that and how they deal with it. When I say they I also mean we. Life is not perfect and we will respond in an imperfect manner sometimes but that is life in its reality. A big life lesson for us all. Thanks for sharing this with us. A lot of food for though here. #TweensTeensBeyond
    Jo – MotherofTeenagers recently posted…Tweens, Teens & Beyond #50My Profile

  11. These are some really helpful tips and ways to deal with anger and frustration, not only for kids, but for adults too. And it’s an important discussion we must have with our kids, because the norm is to slide negative feelings and emotions under the rug and let the kids deal with them as they will – which to be honest is a frightening prospect. Which is why I am so glad you wrote this post, Rachna. A great way to start the conversation on a very important subject.
    Shantala recently posted…Why Do You Blog? For Passion or For Profit? #ChattyBlogsMy Profile

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