Dad Advice: How to Defuse Anger in Kids
Dad Advice is a collection of fatherly hacks and parenting ideas that we decide have the potential to be useful to our readers. We like to tackle parenting topics that we’ve personally dealt with in our home and - through trial and error (lots of error) - have developed a system that has worked for us. If you have a parenting question or a topic you’d like a second opinion on, e-mail Ryan@DadSuggests.com.
It’s shocking how angry even the kindest little kids can get. It’s like - where’d you come from? Kids are full of very strong passion and excitement about life, and that passion can easily be turned to the dark side of the Force. What do you do when your child is so upset that their anger leads to bad decisions - like saying hurtful things or even hitting? Yelling just fuels the fire. How do you calmly get them to snap out of their anger and think rationally?
I’ve developed a powerfully effective dad hack with my son that has literally never once failed me. And now I’m offering my most-prized piece of mind voodoo to you to try with your kids. First of all, there are a few prerequisites to make this work:
Your kid has to be a good kid with a moral compass and an actual sense of right and wrong. This is a strategy for quickly pulling good-natured kids away from the occasional wave of anger and bad decision-making - not tips for performing an exorcism.
Your child must have a rough working knowledge of Star Wars. My 6-year-old son has never seen Star Wars, but we’ve read the picture book and he’s aware enough of the characters and the good vs. evil themes to do light saber battles in the backyard.
Make sure your child is familiar with the following quote from Yoda:
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate to suffering.”
Here’s how it works. When my son shows signs of impulsive, overwhelming anger, and I think it might lead to poor decisions, I turn on my very best and most dramatic Darth Vader voice. “Good! Gooood! Give in to your anger! Join me on the dark side!”
“That passion can easily be turned to the dark side of the Force.”
That’s it. Something just clicks in my son’s head. He always shouts out “Never! I’ll never join you on the dark side, Darth Vader!” All of the sudden we’re happy and playing. Even better, if he did something mean, he quickly rectifies the whole situation to prove he’s on the light side. While he’s making amends and doing good and nice things around the house I say things like “NOOO! Don’t take a shower!”, “Don’t hug your sister!”, and “Join me and we can rule the galaxy!”
I like to imagine we’re speaking a secret language and he realizes how his initial impulse was a negative one - perhaps even irrational. But the most important thing in the moment is that the situation is calmly defused, and all of that awful hormone cortisol goes away.
For fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory out there, we’ve found that this strategy works great with comparisons to Veruca Salt vs Charlie Bucket as well. Nobody wants to be Veruca Salt, right? Do you have any creative ways to defuse anger? Let us know your ideas in the comments, and please let us know if Darth Vader (or Willy Wonka) ever works for you!