Monday, January 19, 2009

Anger Management

Rachel went through a period of extreme anger for a while, starting sometime before Ben was born and continuing for several months after his birth. I'm not sure if it was coincidence, her age (4), knowing that a new baby was coming or a combination of several things, but she would fly off the handle over not getting a particular snack, having to turn off the TV, being told "no" or asked to stop doing something she shouldn't be doing, being asked to go to the bathroom, and so on. You never knew what would set her off, but she'd get angry and scream, hit, kick, even spit.

Thankfully we worked through that period and she's been much better. Her anger issues vastly improved once she started back to preschool in September. I don't think they were rooted in boredom, but that definitely contributed to some of it, and school provided enough of a distraction to help break the pattern.

Lately we've been seeing little bursts of it again here and there. For the most part it hasn't been physical, like it was before, but she'll still just burst out and get upset and yell "You make me so angry!" even if it's something that, to us, is a very minor thing. I've been talking with her about not getting so upset about things. I've told her that it's good that she's gotten better about handling her anger, but that there are times when she gets angry when she doesn't need to be, and that she needs to work on not being angry. Hard to get that point across and I'm not sure how to teach it, but this morning she took a big step in making progress.

James had asked her to turn off the computer (she'd been playing some games), and told her no when she asked to watch a TV show. She got upset and raised her fist, but just held it there. She looked around and spotted a chair. Although James warned it that it might hurt if she hit the chair, she did it anyway. No complaints afterward so it couldn't have hurt much, and James picked her up and held her.

A few minutes later, she told James "I've decided not to be angry, even though I'm still a little angry." She came to me and told me the same thing, and when I asked her what helped her to stop being so angry, she said it was when Daddy picked her up. And then "I needed to think for a minute, and then I was able to be calm."

It's so awesome to see steps like this in a child's behavior and attitude. I know the ability to decide to calm down is one that will be of great value to her, and it's also something that can effect a big-picture change in her behavior and not just be a result of Rachel hiding her anger and having it come out in other areas. I hope we see it happening more often as she learns that she can control how she wants to react to things.

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