The wrong jam on toast…
The wrong response ….
The laugh at the wrong time …
The raised voice …
Not enough sleep last night …
And a million other things are potential reasons for anyone to be angry. Being told to calm down can be the LAST thing you want to hear when you are angry and may well inflame a child even further.
Like snowflakes, every child is different and just to keep you on your toes every child will respond differently on different days! The secret to helping your child to calm quickly is quite simply to know your child. Know the things that trigger their anger.
You will already know that all behaviour is communication and all communication is made up of body language, words and voice tone. But did you know that the words we actually use only account for 7% of our communication? The rest is made up of our body language 55% and 38% the tone of our voice.
So how can we use this information to help calm an angry child? Be aware of your body language and that of your child. Observe your child’s body language and use mirroring and matching to build rapport and understanding with your child making sure to do so without sarcasm or mimicking your child in a way that makes them feel foolish. Match a right hand raised to the forehead by raising your right hand to your forehead too. Mirror a left hand on the hip with your right hand on the hip. Match your eyes blinking. Match your voice and if they are being loud start loud and get quiet very quickly – you can use your forefinger and thumb showing a small gap to gesture a small (quiet) voice.
Be aware of their breathing – they will most likely be breathing through their nose, rapidly and not very deeply. Match your breath to theirs – in and out, in and out starting at their speed and slowing down as quickly as you think appropriate moving towards breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. If appropriate you can guide your child through this with simple instructions like ‘breathe in… and … out’. Using simple phrases like ‘take a breath and relax’ whilst watching their breathing and matching it are a great start to calming a child (or even an adult!).
The key to it all is knowing your child. We all see the world or hear the world or feel the world in different ways through our senses and everyone has a preferred mode of experiencing the world. Knowing how your child thinks helps to choose the right language patterns to use to connect with them on an unconscious level and build the bridge that shows you understand how they are feeling.
Listen to your child talk to you about things and spot which of the language patterns they use most often. Know your child’s preferred sensory mode – visual (sight), kinaesthetic (touch, feel), auditory (hearing) or gustatory (taste)/olfactory (smell). This will help you to skilfully acknowledge their emotional state and swiftly move towards a calm resolution of the issue. Using these phrases can help you get started:
- Visual I can see you are angry…. It appears that …. It looks as though ….
- Kinaesthetic I get the feeling you are upset by ….
- Auditory I hear what you are saying …. (you don’t have to agree with them just hear them!)
Depending on the reason for their anger if your child sees you ‘throwing a strop’ in an exaggerated, humorous way over the same thing saying something like ‘Well would you believe it….’ it can help them see what they look like and can break their angry state into one of humour and laughter especially if you put on a comedy voice!
We all get angry from time to time and helping your child manage their anger in different situations will help them in their adult life. If you have concerns about the reasons for their anger, the frequency or the magnitude of their anger and would like additional advice and support contact me at Soo@NLP4Kids.org or on 07851 447612.