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Supporting a Child Through Rage

June 8 2016


Rage is something many of us have experienced on more than one occasion. It is more than just anger, it normally comes from a feeling of gross injustice; a feeling that boils our blood and we literally feeling like inflicting pain on someone or something in order to satisfy that raw emotion that threatens to undermine our normally level-headed composure.

Children experience the same sense of rage that adults do. In fact, their emotional and social immaturity makes them even more susceptible to experiencing this strong emotion as they lose reasoning and logic in their interactions with others. They come from a self-centred view point and therefore genuinely feel great injustices on an almost daily basis.

Supporting a Child Through Rage

Thankfully, as adults, most of us have developed enough emotional regulation to stop ourselves from fully expressing our rage. We might complain, yell or scream but most of us pull up short of causing physical or emotional destruction to those around us. Over time, we have developed strategies for managing impulses which include taking deep breaths, walking away, making other physical efforts to release steam etc.

Our children are still developing this level of control and so, when they rage, more than anything, they need us to love them and support them through the intense hurt they are feeling.

Like adults, there are a huge range of differences in the way children react to rage. Some children scream and flail in their parent’s proximity, others take themselves to their bedroom, slamming the door and vocalising their disgust to noone in particular and others take a more physical approach which can include screaming and shouting whilst hitting, kicking, pinching, scratching, throwing objects and generally causing destruction to those around them.

As a parent of a child who engages in physically destructive behaviours when she rages, I have considerable experience with managing it – some good and some not so much.

It is hard, possibly one of the hardest things both physically and mentally I have had to deal with as a parent in recent years. But I acknowledge that my hard and her hard are not comparable. Understanding how SHE must feel in those moments of being completely out of control, feeling that level of pain and anger, has made me reevaluate how I am helping her through these moments.

I had thought, staying calm and level-headed whilst she rages (most of the time) was enough to give her the space she needed to work through her emotion. I had also confidently (read: sternly) let her know that it was not okay to hit/ hurt etc and I had helped both her and me achieve success with this by putting a door between us and staying close by until she calmed herself.

Recently, however, these raging moments have been more frequent and more escalating as she has had to deal with some significant changes in her life. It has forced me to really think about the impact of my interaction with her during these hard times and made me realise that simply giving her time to work through it falls short of what she needs.

RIE Associate, Janet Lansbury has always taught me to show understanding and acceptance of my daughter through all her behaviours and I was finding it increasingly difficult to demonstrate that I accepted her whilst managing these strong behaviours.

READ MORE articles by Janet Lansbury