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Norman M.
Norman M., Principal psychotherapist in private practice. Newspaper contributor, over 2000 satisfied clients on JA
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2568
Experience:  ADHP(NC), DEHP(NC), ECP, UKCP Registered.
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My 10 year old daughter has become a little agressive in the

Customer Question

My 10 year old daughter has become a little agressive in the school yard. Pushing, shoving, causing cut knees to others etc. Alledgely did an abusive hand gesture, and denied it. Denies pushing etc, get upset, and cries. She sometimes is unsure of herself, and I encourage her and praise her school work. She is very sporty and competitive, likes to win! Any suggestions to help her stay calm when her blood boils!!?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Norman M. replied 7 years ago.

Hello, and thanks for visiting JA.

First off, your daughter needs to be confronted with unacceptability of her behavior, and made to understand while you care for her, her behaviour is unacceptable and has to change.

She also needs to understand that any continuation of deception or aggression will have unpleasant consequences. They need to be spelled out to her very clearly, with clear emphasis on the fact that they will apply immediately should she lie or get aggressive again – even once.

We humans only indulge in behaviour that brings reward of some kind. Only when that reward (whatever it might be) disappears, or the consequences of our behaviour promise to be unpleasant do we consider changing what we do. She needs to be given reason to change

Here is the clue to sorting things out. When you are faced with non-co-operation – give her choices, and make sure she understands the consequences of her choice – and always follow through.

Never get angry, stay cool and in control, matter of fact and stick to the facts. Avoid drama.

Ask her too, what she is prepared to do to change his behaviour in future – tell her to research what might help her, what help she feels she needs, and even consider a ‘contract’ between you. In other words, involve her in her own change, with a prospect of a small reward for success and dire consequences for failure.

I would also suggest that you help her to understand that being first, and being best is not the most important issue – of course it feels good, but in later life she will almost certainly find that there is always someone faster or brighter than her.

Insofar as dealing with her anger is concerned, the following should give you some good pointers.

Every day, we experience a whole range of emotions, and we can all remember times when we have been annoyed, irritated, angry or downright enraged!

The biological basis for anger can be found in the well known ‘fight or flight’ response, and a common trigger for anger is feeling endangered. This danger does not need to be physical – the threat may well be to our dignity, belief system or self esteem, but the end product is the same.

It used to be thought that venting our anger on an inanimate object was an acceptable way of dealing with it, but while that may be cathartic, and give a temporary sense of satisfaction, it can also lead to broken windows, holes in walls and other unwanted problems! More importantly, it does not help the individual to manage anger effectively in the future.

Anger produces considerable physiological change – our heart rate and blood pressure increase, and there is a sudden release of hormones, particularly

adrenaline and noradrenaline. Triggers for anger can be internal or external – remembering a missed appointment, getting stuck in a traffic jam or a tradesman not turning up.

While anger is our natural response to threat, it in turn triggers very powerful emotions and often, aggressive feelings and behaviour. Anger is to some degree necessary for our survival, but inappropriate or excessive anger can be literally life-threatening, either our own or someone else’s.

Social convention (and indeed the law) usually inhibits us from lashing out at the person or object that enrages us, but sadly, this is not always the case. Some of us are more prone to anger than others. The more obvious ones may scream and shout, but I’m sure we all know others that are chronically grumpy, irritable, withdrawn and sulky.

The goals of anger management are learning to control our reactions to situations and events, to recognize our own particular anger triggers at an early stage and in the end, to minimize the negative emotional responses and physiological arousal that anger engenders.

People who are easily angered often have a low tolerance of frustration of any type. They often feel that they should never be inconvenienced or subjected to experiences that annoy them, and are often incapable of seeing at situation from another viewpoint. There is evidence that some children are born with a low frustration tolerance, so some of us may have a genetic tendency towards anger.

Often children are often taught not to express their anger, and this can become an ingrained habit, with unwanted consequences. When emotions are simply suppressed, we do not learn to deal with them or channel them in a constructive way.

Even something as apparently negative as anger can be put to good use, or at least,

Poor health, failed relationships and problems in the workplace are all common consequences of anger which has got out of control, so let’s see what we can do about it.

We need to recognize, though, that anger is a perfectly natural feeling. If you experience anger, you are not weak, nor have you failed in some way.

When you recognize this, you are well on the way to learning to manage your anger, or even to turn it to your advantage.

If you are prone to anger, it is useful to examine those angry feelings, to understand what it is that makes you in particular angry. Keeping a note or a diary of times, situations and places which have affected you badly is a good guide.

There are several ways in which anger can be dealt with effectively – by acknowledging it, expressing it appropriately, and by self-calming measures.

By far the best way of dealing with our anger is to express it. This does not mean shouting and screaming, being rude and aggressive. It really means recognising our feelings, acknowledging them, communicating them CALMLY and perhaps by being assertive.

The essential elements in doing this effectively are respect and communication.

In angry situations, it is a great help to try to be respectful, not just of the other people involved, but especially of ourselves. After all, whose body are we hurting most when we work ourselves up to screaming pitch?

On the communication front, taking the time to clearly express what we are feeling does two thing for us – it explains our needs, and leaves the other party in no doubt about how we feel and expect to be treated.

For this to work, instill a sense of calm in yourself at an early stage. Breathe deeply and use calming imagery, making sure that your internal self talk is calming and not inflaming the situation. Control the pitch, volume and speed of your words. Low and slow are ideal ways to keep your anger under control.

Always, when you feel anger coming on, do a reality check. Try to keep in mind what you really want out of the situation, and direct your efforts towards that end. Remember, if you blow up, you’ll probably lose out!

Cognitive restructuring is an excellent way of dealing with anger. It simply means changing your behaviour and feelings by changing your inner thoughts

When you are angry, things can become exaggerated and blown out of proportion. In the heat of the moment, it might seem that ‘Its awful, everything’s ruined, I might as well give up, get a divorce, move back to the UK” and so on.

However, if you take a mental step back and review the situation calmly, you’ll find that it is possible to acknowledge that ‘It’s a setback, but I can deal with it.”

By doing this, you are actively reprogramming your mind to look for solutions rather than dwelling on disaster. This prevents anger from escalating and becoming totally irrational.

It’s very useful to be able to identify and accept when you are getting angry, because doing so can give you a breathing space during which you can begin to put some defences into place.

Angry people tend to demand fairness (as defined by them!), appreciation and agreement, and have a need for things to go their way. The real world, however, does not operate to meet with our desires. When we learn to accept this, we get less angry.

Angry people also tend to indulge in all or nothing thinking, such as “I must do this ‘ or ‘I never get things right’ – this simply fuels anger. Likewise, they are prone to jumping to conclusions – ‘I know what she’s thinking’- without actually looking at the evidence. All of these thought processes are anger generators, and yet, they are completely under our control. Learn to adapt them to serve you rather than to hinder you.

Other common anger generating thought patterns are ‘He must not talk to me like that’, ‘How dare she look away when I’m talking to her’

‘I should tell him where to get off’,’ This shouldn’t happen in a fair world’

‘This is awful –I can’t stand it!

Any one of these scenarios almost inevitably leads to anger, either expressed explosively at once, or left to simmer internally.

However, let’s pause and look at them for a minute – “He must not talk to me like that!” Is there a universal law which says he must not? Is he not free to express himself that way?

Try to remember that there are few, if any, absolutes.

Humour, of course helps to dispel anger. If some one is really getting to you, imagine them as a cartoon character perhaps, or a baby wearing a nappy. You’ll probably find that you start to smile, and that in itself is a great defence against anger. One of our clients used to imagine his boss sitting in a corner wearing a dunce’s cap. It worked for him!

Try to avoid situations – and people – that you know might start you feeling angry. It’s not always possible, but at worst, you can learn to change the way you think – trying to be more flexible, less demanding and more rational. It’s hardly ever the reality of what is happening to us that pushes us into anger, but rather our responses to them.

Best wishes, NormanM

Part of the problem is of course, that you need to decide just how hard a line you are going to take on this. If you do nothing, she has no reason to change, and will not. If you take avery hard line, there is a good chance that you she might get stubborn.

Finding a compromise between those extremes would be best, ***** ***** since only you, know her, her history, and your situation intimately, you are the only one who can decide where to draw the line.

I’m going to suggest that you get a copy of the book “How to talk so teens will listen, and how to listen so teens will talk”. Its ISBN is 13: 978 1 85340 857 1

Not only will it help you turn things around round it is also a good read!

Best wishes, NormanM