A young father asked: “How do I train my eldest child to manage his anger? He is seven years old, has three siblings and has a violent temper.”
My short answer: Coach the boy to deal with his anger positively. If he is not coached early, it is possible that the violent temper will stay as a habit. It might become a blind spot over time. The boy might grow up into an angry adult, unaware of how his temper is hurting others and pushing his family and friends away from him.
Here is my long answer:
Anger & Responsibility. Anger is a form of energy. The boy could be angry for many reasons, including feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities. Some parents expect the eldest child or older children to take care of younger siblings, no matter their age. It is true that children must be taught to be responsible when they are little, but I have seen little children as young as three being ignored and expected to behave like an older child when younger siblings come into the picture.
Having more children is a decision we parents make, which we should be prepared to be accountable for. Hence, the responsibility of caring for all of the younger children remains ours, not the eldest. Of course, we could ask for help in a limited way from the eldest, but caring for three younger siblings is a lot for a child who is only seven.
Sharing. Don’t expect the eldest child (or older children, for that matter) to share everything with their younger siblings! This is likely to cause resentment to grow. Sharing is a habit that parents must encourage, but respect each child’s right to say ‘No’ to sharing personal items. Be clear on what’s everyone’s property and what belongs to the individual.
Do NOT shout, scream or yell at the boy in front of his younger siblings when he is angry. When you the parent lose your temper this way, focus is shifted to your anger, and the opportunity for the boy to learn how to behave better is lost.
Build a positive, caring relationship with the child. Create elements of joy, love and trust between you and the child, where you can draw out his better side. Find a time when both you and the child are calm. Reflect on the joyful past, which he might not be aware of, or has forgotten. For example, go through photos when he was born and when he was younger, tell him how excited you and your spouse were. Recall vivid moments when he was the apple of your eye.
Share with him how you and your spouse have this dream of him becoming a wonderful, kind, positive, successful person. Then, in a very tactful manner, draw his attention to his temper, express your concern of how it would hurt himself and others. But don’t overdo it. Do it in a way that makes his heart open to your suggestions and wise coaching. Plan ahead what you’re going to say. Remember: The older the child, the more tact you need in your parenting style. You have to do it in a way that makes the child wants to change.
Thought of the Moment
“ One of the greatest lessons we can learn in life is how to keep mute when the boiling ring of anger is dropped within us.”– attributed to Ikechukwu Izuakor