How To Teach Your Son To Handle Rage
Do you struggle to teach your son to handle his rage?
Have you tried different techniques, only to find your son raging out of control and throwing things or hurting people?
This is common, as all boys go through stages where their emotions exceed their ability to handle them.
Fortunately, dealing with anger is a skill that can be learned and that you as a father can pass along to your son.
In this article you’ll read about the practical steps I’ve used with my own son to help him stop hitting family members and being destructive when he gets angry.
The Problem of Uncontrolled Rage
Uncontrolled rage is one of the biggest problems facing boys and men today.
You’ve all seen the out-of-control man at the grocery store or on the freeway raging at people.
There’s also a silent form of rage that kills more men every year than do unhinged lunatics – depression.
Depression is a form of rage that has turned inward.
How many men die each year from suicide?
How many are on anti-depressants?
How many live without purpose?
Learning to handle rage is a critical skill that most of us aren’t taught.
We’ve had to learn on our own.
The alternative is to fall into one of the categories above.
As fathers we have an obligation to teach our sons to handle anger and rage so that they can lead the life they want instead of being overpowered by their emotional states.
Ignoring or Suppressing Rage Doesn’t Work
Almost all the advice you’ve heard about how to deal with rage simply does not work.
Most of it is a variation of suppressing or ignoring the emotion.
Cheer up, think about something else, stop yelling, go to your room.
These are common commands parents issue to their son when he’s in the midst of a rage tantrum.
But you know instinctively that there’s no way to really suppress an emotion.
Yet you act as though you can because the advice above is all you’ve ever heard.
There’s a better way to help your son.
Teach Your Son to Let Rage Pass Through Him
Instead of suppressing his rage, you’re going to teach your son how to let it pass through him.
First of all, get him to buy into the idea.
It’s best to catch him after a rage episode when he’s feeling bad about it.
Ask him how he feels about how it turned out. Odds are that he’ll admit to feeling bad about it.
Ask him if he’d like to learn something that will help him when he’s angry. If he agrees, start talking to him about these steps and agree with him that you’re going to help him with his plan for dealing with bad, angry feelings.
Use words that he’ll understand.
“Bad feeling” works for a five-year-old, while a teenager will understand “rage”.
Emphasize to him that it’s ok to feel rage. It’s not a bad thing.
Teach him to truly feel the anger.
Encourage him to let himself feel the rage and feel it fully.
Feeling it fully doesn’t mean he acts out physically.
Emphasize that punching, throwing things, or breaking things are NOT acceptable.
Help guide him to concentrate on what his body is feeling.
Does his skin feel hot? Are his fists clenched?
Does he feel a knot in his stomach? Are his eyes bulging with anger?
Does he feel tension in his neck or a tingling in his head?
Transition From Feeling to Observing
Now guide him to picture himself from the outside, observing these physical reactions.
Guide him to imagine anger and rage flowing like a wave. It builds up slowly, reaches a peak, and then flows away.
As the wave comes, he bobs up with the wave as it lifts him and then bobs back down when it passes.
Start when he’s not angry.
Talk about it with him when he’s not in the grip of anger. This will help him start to understand it rationally.
Put it into practice when a situation comes up that causes him to get into a rage attach.
Emphasize that it’s absolutely fine to feel what he’s feeling and that he has a right to be angry.
Tell him about times that you’ve been angry and you’ve lost control. This will help him feel that he’s not alone in what he’s feeling.
When Anger Strikes
Then, when there’s an anger episode, but it into practice.
Go through the steps of helping him fully feel the physical response to the anger in his body.
Help guide him to imagine the emotion washing over him and through him, leaving him again in a state close to normal again.
Afterward, praise him for working hard to handle the anger. Be honest and tell him that it’s not easy and he’s done something that most people never even attempt.
It’s going to take several episodes of rage for you and your son to start to see success from this.
The first few times may not work, but don’t lost hope; you’re planting a seed.
Case Study From Yesterday
I was inspired to write this after my son’s rage episode yesterday.
My son’s almost 8 years old and we’ve been working on anger ever since he started hitting people last year when he would get really angry.
Yesterday, my wife and daughter were working on an art craft project and he wanted to be part of it.
My wife tried to tell him to wait for a minute before joining in, but he apparently thought she told him he couldn’t participate at all.
He stomped off, yelling that it wasn’t fair and slamming a toy he was holding to the ground.
My wife and daughter tried telling him that he could join in a minute, but then he yelled more and they started yelling in a pleading manner to try to help him understand.
Then my wife started shouting that he wasn’t being nice by yelling at them.
I heard the commotion from another room and came out to see what was going on.
Once I understood what was happening, I called my son over.
I could see by his body language that he was in full-on rage mode.
He had a scowl on his face, his arms were stiff as he was hugging his elbows across his chest, and he stomped over to me.
I asked him what was going on and he threw his arms down by his sides with his hands clenched into little fists.
He leaned his head forward as he began to shout/tell me how mom and sister weren’t letting him join in on the fun.
I let him finish and then I said, “Ok, it’s ok to be angry. Thank you for not hitting anyone, I know you don’t want to hurt people even when you’re angry, and you’ve worked really hard on that.”
I asked him to focus on what he was feeling. To focus on his clenched fists, the hot feeling in his face and the angry feeling in his head.
I asked him to imagine the angry feeling like a wave that was washing over him.
I asked him if he remembered when we went inner tubing on the river last year, and how it felt when he was bobbing up and down on the waves.
“Yeah” he replied, and his face started to soften slightly.
“Remember when we went to the river earlier in the year, when it was too high to go inner tubing, and I went out into the river and it was so strong that I could barely stand up?”
“Yeah” he laughed. “You almost floated away!” he was laughing now at the memory.
“I could’t hold back those waves even if I pushed against them, right?” I mimicked the motion of trying to hold back strong waves pushing against me.
“No” he answered.
“It’s the same with the angry feeling you get. It’s ok to feel it, and you can’t hold it back. It’s like trying to hold back a strong wave of water, it’s impossible. But you can float on it like a wave, and the wave will lift you up and put you back down and then the wave is gone, right?”
“Ok” he answered, and by now he was pretty much back to normal. He ran off to go play with something.
He and I have been working on anger for about six months now. When we started, he might have thrown something at my wife or my daughter if he was really angry.
He’s come a long way and I’m very proud of the work and the effort that he’s put into this.
If your son struggles with rage and you’ve tried to help him without success, try this technique.
Empathize with him, let him know it’s ok to be angry, and get his buy-in to try a way of dealing with is that’s not hurtful to other people.
Help him fully feel the emotions and to visualize them passing through him like a wave.
As I’m typing, my son just walked by and I asked him about this topic.
“You know how we’ve been working on this for a while, about how to handle it when we get really angry?”
“How do you feel about how it’s been going? Do you like it better now or do you like how it was before?”
“I like it better now.”
“What do you like about it?”
“I like that when I get angry I don’t hit people, like I don’t hit mom or sister. I also don’t get hurt.”
“How do you mean, you don’t get hurt?” I asked him, thinking that he meant he didn’t feel bad afterward for having mistreated his mom and sister.
“I don’t get hurt because you don’t punish me any more for hitting them.”
I chuckled to myself. So my son’s motivation wasn’t as altruistic as I guessed, but the end result was good, regardless.
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