I know many of you have noticed we have been posting fewer projects and tutorials over the last year. A big part of that has been my family's two cross-country moves in the last 12 months, and the addition of our new baby boy in December. But there has been more to it than that. I struggle with how much of my personal life to share here, but sometimes I think we as women need to do more to reach out and help one another through the challenges of life, especially as moms. I have been working through some serious issues with my children, and I finally realized I needed to set my priorities straight. My children are more important than this blog or any craft project, and I have cut back my time crafting and sitting in front of the computer to be more hands-on with them. I don't want to put my children's personal lives on display, but I feel sharing some of the solutions we've found to help them in their conflicts could bless the lives of other families with similar trials.
I know I can't be the only one out there who has struggled to help their kids through difficulties like anger management, depression, and adjustment issues, right? Or even just the Terrible Twos (or Sixes or Eights for that matter)! Many children in many different situations struggle with anger management and self-control. And learning to deal with that is a part of life. Our family counselor helped us create "tool boxes" to help the boys learn to control their tempers and deal appropriately with difficult situations. They may not all work for your child, but here are some ideas that might help your child learn to manage their anger, calm down, and avoid a fight.
1. Blow Bubbles
As adults we often try taking deep breaths to help us calm down in intense situations. But each time I would suggest that my son take a few deep breaths to calm down, he would get even angrier. Our counselor suggested blowing bubbles instead. Not only is a fun, happy activity for children, but the act of blowing air through the bubble wand requires them to breathe deeply. Soon they've relaxed and calmed down to a point where they can talk a little more rationally about whatever issue is at hand.
2. Blow Feathers
Similar to blowing bubbles, a game of "don't let the feather touch the ground" works wonders for a child who is full of steam. Have your child hold a feather above their head and blow it into the air. Keep it in the air only by blowing--no hands! This again helps children engage in deep breathing to calm down, and the fun of the game helps them adjust their attitude.
3. Glitter Bottles
By the time my kids were 5 or 6, timeouts had ceased to be effective. Especially because they viewed it as a punishment rather than just a way to step away from the situation and calm down. Now, instead of a timeout, I hand my son a glitter jar. He knows to shake it up good, then watch the glitter swirl and spin in the water, slowly settling to the bottom. It really has an amazing effect and it's quite soothing. It can take up to 5 minutes for the glitter to settle, and in that time he nearly always becomes calm and more relaxed. (See my easy tutorial here for these Timeout Glitter Bottles!)
4. Target Practice
During one of their therapy sessions, the boys helped make this target on a piece of butcher paper. Each of them wrote something on the target that made them mad or lose their temper. She gave them each several pom poms (puff balls) to use as amunition. We hung the target on the wall in a quiet area of the house, and whenever they started errupting in anger over something, I would direct them to the target. The act of throwing something as hard as they can is a great way to release angry energy, and helps them to release their anger in a way that is not violent or harmful to others.
5. Model Positive Behavior and Walk Away
What do we do when our children cause us to lose our tempers? Our counselor helped me see that my children were often emulating my reaction to difficult situations (like yelling or rolling my eyes). She suggested I model the type of anger management techniques I wanted to see my children use when dealing with feelings of anger. And the best way to do that is often to walk away. Instead of showing my anger and frustration, now I tell my children, "I am feeling really upset right now, so I'm going to go to my room for a minute to calm down and we'll talk a little later." After I've had a good cry or screamed into a pillow, I am usually able to gain control of myself and deal with the situation in a better way. After doing this just a few times, my 6-year-old tried them same thing on me! As we began to argue, he told me he was going to his room to lay down and he'd talk to me later. I couldn't believe it. After all the times I had tried to send him to his room to calm down and being met with an even bigger tantrum, he had decided to do it on his own. Probably because I didn't mention it--he came up with the idea himself!
Both a friend and our pediatrician suggested a great therapist, so I swallowed my pride and made an appointment. Each week we met with a family counselor who first spoke with me, then met with each of the boys separately to help them address specific issues. She used some play therapy, talked to them about their feelings and behavior, and would often give them homework assignments to work on during the week. And for me it was such a relief to have someone to share my frustration, sadness, and helplessness with, who could not only listen, but actually help me improve the situation and become a better parent. Within just a couple of months, we saw such an improvement in the attitudes and behavior of our children, and I felt a new-found confidence in my parenting that has helped even after the sessions ended. I would strongly encourage anyone who is struggling with similar issues to seek out help from a professional like a family counselor, and don't feel badly about it for one minute! You don't have to do it on your own!