I write this post with great trepidation. Rage is very common to one of my sons and this is difficult for me. Rage, often coming from the seemingly smallest of things, is such a difficult trait to deal with in children. Angry outbursts, destruction, name calling and more can just drain a parent, and make a parent feel exhausted and out of control, totally hopeless.
In the case of my own son, his rage has a hair trigger, but often subsides fairly quickly, and he is usually very remorseful afterwards. But this doesn’t negate the difficulty of dealing with the rage when we are in the middle of it. And thankfully, my son isn’t terribly destructive, but it’s not abnormal for children who experience rage to destroy their toys, furniture, appliances or anything else that is in their path. I heard of a particularly rage-filled boy kick in the windshield of the family car. It can be really scary because a raging child is generally unaware that he can seriously hurt himself. It’s also something that is worthwhile to try to deal with before the child is an adult, as these angry outbursts become less and less acceptable the older a person becomes.
I have often looked at my son in wonder, totally unsure what to do about the by fact that he will spend 45 minutes screaming and calling names because someone brushed against him accidentally.
So, this is an ongoing challenge in our house, but I believe that it can be overcome. I believe that we must, as parents and caregivers, give our children the tools they need to succeed.
Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child, compares this to a person who needs eyeglasses to see better. We don’t fault the child for needing glasses, instead, we recognize that he simply needs a tool. It’s just as bizarre to try to “teach lessons” because the child knows very well that his behavior is not ok. We don’t take the child to the eye doctor only for the doctor to say no, no, come back when you really can’t see. As in, when you’ve really learned your lesson. These children usually know, they simply don’t know how to handle their frustrations.
One way to help a child overcome this is to try to anticipate potential triggers. This could make the atmosphere in your home a lot more peaceful, as can choosing your battles. You may feel like you’re letting your child win, but power struggles truly help no one.
Recognizing and verbalizing the good in your child is a good idea for everyone. Children who go through these rages are often hurting a lot underneath.
Of course, it’s crucial that the parent always remain in control. This is usually easier said than done, but you truly can’t control your child, only yourself. Don’t say or do anything that you will regret later.
Try to let natural consequences take the lead. And get support from other parents when you can.
Anger and rage are sometimes attached to other disorders, such as ODD, or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Sometimes these children need medication or even hospitalization, if they injure themselves.
There are some nutritional tricks that may help a chronically angry child. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in meat and fish, can help reduce symptoms of ODD. 1 This nutrient is needed for proper brain function.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant. This powerful nutrient can protect the brain from oxidative stress and cognitive decline. Vitamin E also works together with omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamin E.
The great Dr. Kenneth Bock didn’t coin the phrase “no zinc, no think,” but he did bring it into consciousness for me. Zinc regulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is the center of emotional responses, pleasure and pain in the brain. Many of us don’t get enough zinc, which can also help with impulsivity and behavioral abnormalities. 2 Good sources of zinc are seafood, beef, lamp, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews and chicken.
1. Richardson, Alexandra J. “Omega-3 fatty acids in ADHD and related neurodevelopmental disorders.” International review of psychiatry 18.2 (2006): 155-172.
2. Akhondzadeh, S., Mohammadi, M. R., & Khademi, M. (2004). Zinc sulfate as an adjunct to methylphenidate for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children: a double blind and randomized trial [ISRCTN64132371]. BMC psychiatry, 4(1), 9.
How do you deal with rage and power struggles in your home? Do you deal with children and rage in your home? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.