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How can my child control a bad temper?

Michele Borba
Psychology
It may be a great revelation when you to tell your child that her body actually sends out warning signs when a hot-temper attack is approaching. Tell her how it happens to you.

“My face gets flushed. My hearts starts beating faster. It’s harder for me to breath. My voice gets louder and I can’t think straight. Body temper alarms like these happen to everyone when they get angry and begin to lose their temper. But good news! You can stop yourself before the volcano erupts.”

Then teach your child these important steps. The best way to teach any new skill is to show the skill, not tell. So be the model! Repetition, repetition, repetition is how kids acquire the skill so they can use it on their own.
  • Step 1. Hear the bells going off. Listen. Whenever things are getting rough, pay very close attention to changes in your body. Everyone is different but usually alarms go off in your body that warn you that if you’re starting to lose control. So be on the alert for any familiar body signs that you might be losing your temper.
  • Step 2. Hit the snooze control. Stop. Even a few seconds to pause are enough to stop your temper from exploding or doing something you may regret later on.

Find what works for you. Some kids pull a big stop sign in front of your eyes or yell, “Stop” inside their heads. It will help you put the brakes on your temper.

Some kids say to themselves: “Chill out.” Or “I can keep my cool.”

  • Step 3. Turn down the volume. Breathe. Once you’ve told yourself to keep under control you have to take a slow deep breath. You can slow down your heart rate and get yourself back in control by taking slow, deep breaths.
  • Step 4. Get back into tune. Separate. Back off from whatever is about to blow up in your face. You could count to 10 (or to 100); hum a few bars of the Star Spangled Banner, think of a pepperoni pizza or gaze up in the sky or whatever it takes to regain your sense of calm.
Word to parent: Do not expect overnight success! Teaching a child to calm a hot temper and learn to identify his unique body temper alarms will take 3 Cs: Consistency, Commitment, and Calmness. Aim for gradual diminishment of the temper. If temper outbursts continue or escalate despite your efforts then it’s time to seek professional help. Meanwhile, don’t forget to use those four steps yourself:

1. Listen
2. Stop
3. Breathe
4. Separate

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.