Dealing with Anger
Don't "Flip Your Lid"
"Don't flip your lid" is a child-friendly model of understanding how our brain and emotions function. We use our hands to model our brain. Hidden beneath our "thinking brain" is the "emotional brain"(in our model, this is represented by the thumb).
Our thinking brain is responsible for our self-control, our problem solving, and our rational thought.
The emotional brain is reactive; it is our primitive alarm center responsible for our fight-or-flight responses.
When our thinking brain is in control, we are able to make smart choices. When we "flip our lid" and let our emotional brain take control, we react without thinking of the consequences. This means it is important for us to self-monitor where we are at with our emotions- are we in control of our thinking brain, or are we in danger of flipping our lid?
The time to act and de-escalate our emotions is BEFORE we flip our lid. Once someone has "flipped," their emotional brain is in control and they are unable to think rationally.
Talk with your child about what helps them calm down when they are feeling angry or stressed. What are some coping skills they can use to make sure they do not flip their lid? Is there a safe space your child could use to calm down when they feel they are about to flip their lid?
Awareness is Key
Sometimes we forget that kids are still learning about their emotions. While we may see those obvious [to us] signs of anger, the kids themselves may be unaware of what they're feeling until it is too late and they flip their lid.
The first step in combating this explosive anger is to help the child become aware of how it feels in their body when they are angry or upset- they cannot control it if they are not aware of it. When we are aware of physical signs of an emotion, that is a cue to start using coping skills to calm down. Without this awareness, our anger escalates until it is too late to think rationally or use our skills to calm down.
After your child has calmed down (and have returned to their thinking brain), talk with them about how their body felt when they were angry.
- Were their fists clenched?
- Was their face hot?
- Was their heart beating fast/breathing fast?
- Were their hands tingly?
These physical cues look different for every person, and it may take some time for them to learn their personal indicators. Helping them understand these physical signs from their body is crucial for the ability to self-monitor their emotional state. Once this awareness and ability to self-monitor has been established, the child can build on this knowledge and begin practicing calm-down strategies in the moment.