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A while ago, C got in a total rage after school. Not all that uncommon. But this was pretty extreme. Eventually it culminated with her running into the road without looking. I was really scared to think about what could have happened and it has made me reevaluate a few things. So I just thought I’d write a quick post about dealing with child anger and what I’ve learned from this experience.
What actually happened?
So C was absolutely fine when I collected her after school and was excited to show me a treasure map she’d made. I asked her to go back in quickly to find her jumper and when she came back out she didn’t have the map. She only realised when we were about halfway home. So clearly we couldn’t go back for it as we wouldn’t have been able to get in the classrooms or anything.
She completely lost her shiz and was screaming that she wanted to go back and get the map. I explained why we couldn’t and that she could show me tomorrow, but she wasn’t having any of it. Now at the time I was laden down like a flipping packhorse with book bags, water bottles, junk modelling (don’t get me started on that!) and various other crap. Also H chose that moment to start kicking off about something as well, so it was all a bit fraught.
We caught up with our neighbour and his kids and at that point C decided to turn back and march up the road back towards school. Now I assumed she wouldn’t go far. She’s stomped off before but would never usually go far.
But this rage was more extreme than ever before…
It soon became clear that she had no intention of stopping. I then thought she wouldn’t go round the corner, as she’d never normally go out of sight. But round that corner she stomped.
At that point, I basically threw everything I was carrying at the neighbour, along with H, and pegged it up the road as fast as I could. I totally expected she’d have lost her nerve and stopped just round the corner. So I was shocked to see her halfway up the road, heading towards a bigger road.
I did start to panic now and had to absolutely sprint to catch up with her, while shouting her name. God knows what other parents must have thought! I was so out of breath I was worried I wouldn’t be able to catch her in time but thankfully I did. She was still raging and shouting but I managed to get her back down to where the neighbour was waiting with H.
Then she ran into the road…
When we got to opposite our house, I let C’s hand go for a second while I thanked the neighbour for his help. Suddenly she just bolted and ran across the road without looking.
Thank god there wasn’t a car coming!
Our road isn’t the busiest but does get a fair bit of traffic and some cars go down quite fast. So I hate to think what could have happened. It scared me because I felt like C knew what she was doing – it was calculated. Again, she would never do that when in a normal mood. But in the rage she was in, it was like she just didn’t care about the risk or the danger.
After we got in, I gave her some space to calm down then talked to her. I ended up getting upset as the whole thing had just been so horrible. I think seeing me cry made her realise how serious it was and she then got upset too. We had lots of cuddles and talked about it.
But the whole experience has really made me think. So these are the things we’re going to try to do moving forward:
1. Drum road safety into the twigs more
So this is probably the most obvious point to learn from this. C should have known better than to run into the road.
But to be fair, we do teach the twigs about road safety. And when we cross roads, we practise looking both ways, listening, checking it’s clear etc. And the fact is, I’m 99% sure that she would never just run across a road without looking if she was in a normal mood.
I think the problem is more that when she really loses her temper, she does things on purpose and just doesn’t care about consequences, danger etc.
2. Teach C strategies to help her manage her anger
This brings me onto probably the most important point. We need to help C to manage her anger better. She seems to be increasingly losing control whenever she gets in a rage and that really scares me.
Normally she’s fairly sensible and has a very good understanding of risks and so on. But when she loses her temper, it’s like she just sees red and doesn’t care about anything. I worry that something really awful is going to happen to her one day unless we can help her stay in control a bit better.
So I’m researching strategies to help children calm down. There are some lovely ideas in this CBeebies post but I’m not sure I can imagine them working when she’s in a blind rage. I think we will try some of the strategies in this NHS article.
3. Explore if there’s a deeper reason for her anger
Usually the trigger for C to get in a rage is something seemingly insignificant and minor. It’s normally to do with wanting her own way about something.
C has always been incredibly strong-willed and very stubborn, but I do wonder if there could be some underlying reason for the extreme anger she sometimes shows over tiny things. Like maybe she is feeling some anxiety, perhaps about school, but can’t really express it?
I’m sure a lot of it is to do with after-school restraint collapse. Since starting school last September, C has been particularly prone to tantrums and so on straight after school. It almost feels like as soon as she sees me, all the pent-up emotions that she has worked so hard to control all day, just come tumbling out in an avalanche of sh*ttiness towards me! Now I know this is because she feels safe to express her feelings with me and that it’s ultimately a healthy thing. But it can still be hard to deal with sometimes!
I’m still undecided as to whether to speak to the school about it or not. They may have an ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) who could talk to her about what to do if she feels angry. My initial thought though was that as it doesn’t happen at school, they might just say it’s not for them to deal with. But someone pointed out that if she’s behaving in a dangerous way then they might. I’m still thinking about that one…
4. Manage my own anger better
This is a really hard one to admit. I too have a temper, and I feel that I probably don’t model managing my own anger very well in front of them. I sometimes become shouty mum far too easily. And how can I expect a 4-year old to manage her anger if I can’t??!
So I need to set a better example. If I start getting angry, I need to model what I’d like C to do when she’s angry. Like by saying ‘I’m feeling really cross right now so I’m going to go in the other room and count to 10 and take some deep breaths.’
One of the worst times for me getting cross with them is in the mornings. Somehow it invariably ends up that we’re running late and I’m shouting at them to get their shoes on while they merrily ignore me. So I’m going to try really hard to make more time in the mornings. For example by getting up a bit earlier than the twigs so I can get myself ready. Hopefully that might help things run a bit more smoothly.
I think all of us could do with taking the time to do calming activities that relax us. This post, with 100 simple ways to calm down, is really useful for ideas.
5. Have more one on one time with the twigs
We’ve never been great at fitting in one-on-one time with each of the twigs. It’s just always something we’ve struggled to find the time for. Weekends are precious family time, the weeks are crazy and the other half is working in the school holidays.
However, I really think it’s something we need to make the time for. The twigs have never known any different, but I do think 1:1 attention is invaluable. I wrote about how important it is in this post. It’s impossible to even have a conversation with one of them without the other interrupting or needing their bum wiped or demanding a snack.
But when we do manage it, they are like different children. Without having to compete for attention, both of them are so much easier to deal with. Also it’s really enjoyable spending a bit of quality 1:1 time with them! All the kids’ parties this year are giving us more opportunities for this. As one of us can take one twig to the party while the other parent does something special with the other.
6. Definitely don’t call her bluff when she’s angry again!
I have certainly learned a lesson from this, which is that when C is in a rage like that, I will not let her go away from me. I can’t help but feel guilty that I let her get so far away. But the fact is, in a rational state, I’m quite sure she wouldn’t have walked that far. She certainly wouldn’t have gone round a corner out of sight.
Now that I know how unpredictable she can be when angry, and that she might do something dangerous, I certainly wouldn’t call her bluff by assuming she will come back to me if she’s walking away. I won’t take that risk again and will catch her before she gets any distance away next time!
So those are the things I’ve learned from this experience about dealing with child anger. Hopefully we can help C to manage her anger better to prevent anything like this happening again! Have you ever found it hard dealing with your child’s anger?
Thanks for reading. Til next time,
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Check out some of my other posts on child behaviour:
- Bedtime battles with twins
- Disciplining twin toddlers
- Four year old behaviour: the struggle is real
- Destructive behaviour in toddlers
- Why labelling children naughty isn’t helpful