As the situation escalates, you are tempted to to turn to one of two options to bring a quick end to it all: rewards/punishment or disengaging.
But there are other strategies available that will help you better understand your child’s anger and reduce the intensity of future outbursts. Holding and containing are both such strategies. Let’s explore them here.
Applied to our gaming scenario, holding would involve staying calm, being present with the child, and understanding his concerns by asking questions. Not “fighting back” with punishment and/or disengagement is key, rather, parents must seek to understand why the child is reacting in this angry manner.
Through the process of holding, we discover the underlying cause of the anger and understand that children have reasons for their outbursts. These reasons, whatever they may be and how juvenile they may seem to us, are very real to the child. As your child matures and develops a wider awareness of the world, holding helps them understand, articulate, and manage their anger.
A very simple example of containing is with a child who has fallen down. The child begins to cry, scared by the fall and perhaps feeling a little bumped up. Their parent picks them up, dusts them off, and asks calmly, “Did you fall down? Was it scary? It was a little scary. Here we go, up again!”. The parent has taken on the experience, reframed it and reflected it back in a much more manageable form.
Coming back to our gaming scenario, you could say, “You are angry because you feel that the time spent playing the game has been wasted as you did not get the item you want. You feel angry at your lack of control against the person who developed the game. I understand that you are getting angry at me because at least I am here, and I can react to your anger, unlike the person who created the game.”
Having been introduced to the ideas of holding and containing, try using them the next time your child has an angry outburst. Learn more about why they are angry, and then help them reframe and understand their own feelings.