My little sister’s best friend, Judy, is always so sweet to her. She likes to eat lunch with her and gets her various gifts every year she celebrates her birthday. In truth, when my sister got sick and did not manage to school, her best friend would come to our house to let my little sis copy her notes and so that they could do their homework together.
“Anger reactions in some children are quite frequent and troubling to parents and teachers who witness them.” Says David Gottlieb, Ph.D., in clinical psychology at Northwestern University
For this reason, it genuinely shocked me when I heard that Judy’s behavior when we are around is the opposite of how she treats her parents. I witnessed an example of that one time when my mom was too busy to drive my sister’s best friend back to their house. She was still so lovely when it’s only the two of us in the car, telling stories about her projects at school and whatnot. However, when Judy saw her mom in front of their gate, her facial expression turned sour. The girl bid me a quick goodbye, got out of the car, and pushed past her mother without as much as a hello.
Before I could pull out of their street, I heard the girl’s mother say in a loud voice, “You are extremely rude again, Judy. If you keep that up, you’ll be grounded this weekend.”
“Oh yeah? You can try!” Judy yelled back.
The last words I caught from the girl’s mom was, “Why are you always so angry at me?!”
In case you have your version of Judy at home, and you don’t know how to deal with them without pushing them farther away from you, here’s what you should do.
1. Know The Kid’s Wants
The first thing you may try is to figure out the things they want. Kids are usually the same, in the sense that they feel an instant connection towards the people who grant their wishes. In my sister’s best friend’s case, for instance, a part of the reason why she goes to our house is that we have an Xbox with her favorite game on it. You may look for another material object that your child likes and surprise them with it.
2. Find Out What The Kid Needs
“Children who come in for counseling and children of divorce frequently express anger inappropriately because they do not know how to express their emotions safely,” says Richard L. Ward, LPC, LMFT. Parents often tell their children to separate their wants from their needs, but they often talk about tangible items alone. Say, “Do you truly need that lesson now, or do you only want to try it?”
The reality is that kids can require intangible things as well, which only their moms and dads can provide. E.g., attention, love, and time. After all, busy parents tend to neglect such needs because they assume that the children will be happy if they can buy anything they want. So, at this point, find out the non-material stuff that your kid needs.
3. Lengthen Your Patience
Another thing you can do is to avoid butting heads with your child. Understandably, you want to show them who’s the boss in the house, but you can’t do it by shouting. That will merely make the kids dislike you even more, which is something that you undoubtedly do not wish to do.
There’s nothing you can do but lengthen your patience and look for other – calmer – ways to discipline your angry kid.
If all else fails, perhaps you have to sign up for family counseling so that you can resolve your issues in a safe space. According to Jasmin Jourdenais LMFT, “The outbursts are becoming not only more frequent but maybe also scary.” Whatever you do, though, don’t give up on your child. They may not be saying it out loud, but they still need you now more than ever.