I've been working with several students on their anger outbursts and how to regulate their intense feelings. Then I happened on THIS from Ahaparenting.com about how parents fight in front of their kids has a neurological effect on their children. The strength and ferocity of the argument can cause a child's stress hormone levels to escalate, which takes some time to diminish after an argument (this flight-or-flight stress response.) A few tips for managing anger and keeping it from turning into a full-blown argument, from Dr. Laura Markham: "Is it ever okay for parents to disagree in front of kids? Doesn’t it model the resilience of relationships, and how to repair them? Yes, if you can avoid getting triggered and letting your disagreement disintegrate into yelling or fighting. For instance:
1. One parent snaps at the other, then immediately course corrects: “I’m so sorry – I’m just feeling stressed – can we try that over? What I meant to say was…” Kids learn from this modeling that anyone can get angry, but that we can take responsibility for our own emotions, apologize, and re-connect.
2. Parents work through a difference of opinion without getting triggered and raising their voices. For instance, if you and your partner have a good-natured discussion about whether to buy a new car, your child learns that humans who live together can have different opinions, listen to each other, and work toward a win/win decision – all respectfully and with affection. Having these kinds of discussions in front of kids is terrific, as long as you agree to postpone the conversation if one of you gets triggered and it becomes an argument.
3. Parents notice that they have a conflict brewing and agree to discuss it later. Hopefully, this happens before there’s any yelling -- or you’ll be modeling yelling! And hopefully, you can close the interaction with a big, public, hug. If you're too mad, take some space to calm down and then prioritize the hug in front of your child, with some little mantra like “It’s okay to get mad….We always make up.” This takes some maturity, but it models self-regulation and repair."
When we teach our children and students how to handle their emotions, we want to make sure we are providing an appropriate model to back it up. It is healthy to express emotions and not keep them bottled up inside, but we need to show our children a productive way to handle that anger. An angry child can turn that passion into a quest to change to world, with the right guidance and structure.
For tips on teaching your child to self-soothe, read my previous post here about essential tips for self-soothing.