Thursday, February 19, 2015

Active listening for angry kids

As adults it may be easy to discount the emotions of children. After all our problems are much larger and more complex than theirs. But to a child, not getting their favourite toy, going to bed early or losing a board game can be devastating. Too often we find ourselves responding to their problems with "adultisms" like,

"When will you ever?
"Don't be silly.
"I keep telling you.
"You know better than
"When will you grow up?
When will you learn?..." And others.

Responding like the above will leave a child feeling sad, confused, frustrated, shamed, or with thoughts of low self worth. This kind of talk can cause an argument or power struggle with you. Sometimes kids don't need to be fixed, rescued, lectured or saved. Sometimes they just need you to listen without judgement. They need to be an active listener.

What is does an active listener sound like?

Active listening may sound like this:

"You sound really angry right now,"
"You look very frustrated that you have to wait."
"Sometimes I'm afraid to go the dentist too.
"Sounds like your feeling left out?
"Are wanting to plan some special time with me today?"

Or a simple, "How can help you right now?"

Guessing at their feelings and thoughts may help direct the child misbehavior to deeper understanding of themselves.
Sometimes they are still too angry to hear your words and a "cool off time" may be needed for them or you or both before you can have this active listening talk.

Like adults children sometimes just need you to listen and understand. This kind of active listening will help your child learn about their feelings and help focus in what is important.

Some cool off ideas:

An angry box - a box they stand on where they are allowed to yell, cry jump or rant.
(Parents can use it too)

A large pillow or bed to scream in

Bop bag or punching clown

Playdough or clay can help release aggression too

Teaching yoga, meditation or just deep breathing exercises

Feeling charts to point to when words fail them.

Books like "hands are not for hurting"

Create an anger wheel when they are feeling good and discuss what options they want for cool off time.

My favourite cool off is a bath. When my oldest was angry he would take a bath and wash off his angry thoughts feelings emotions and see them go down the drain and dry off with a chance to start over in new skin. It worked a lot. Mostly bubbles and toys worked. :)

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