Time to control that temper


How many times have we heard a father yelling at his child to stop picking on his younger sibling? Or a mother losing her temper because her four-year-old keeps whining incessantly?

Anger is a natural emotion for both parents and children but how it is controlled and managed makes a big difference on how it affects the family dynamics.

Parents need to take responsibility for their actions and be careful when they are angry as it can affect the way they discipline and speak to their children.

Child psychologist Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng points out that if parents want their children to emulate good behaviour, they need to set a good example.

Be good role models

Dr Chiam says, “Being loud or speaking loudly should be avoided as you are conveying the message of power.

“A firm, normal voice which conveys that you will not tolerate nonsense is critical. Also, parents must not show they are unaffected by their child’s misbehaviour.”

Parents who blow up often for the slightest thing need to take a good look at their own shortcomings as it can have negative effects on children.

She points out that those who are hot-tempered and cannot control their anger will not be good role models to their children as their actions or reactions are likely to be inappropriate.

Because children emulate their parents, it is important for parents to be calm and focused no matter how angry or emotional they are.

Anger management techniques

What can parents do when dealing with their own anger? Although much depends on a person’s character, Dr Chiam gives a few general tips:

1) Take a deep breath to calm down.

2) Walking away can also calm you down.

3) Stop thinking of your child’s disobedience as it will only increase your frustration.

4) Use cognitive therapy. This is where you reason things out and try to understand your own anger and your child’s temper tantrums. You ask yourself what good it is to be angry and why your child is disobedient. Could she have been part of the problem? What is the solution?

Dr Chiam is also quick to point out that any misbehaviour by a child should be dealt with straight away.

“If the parents are unable to control their anger and feelings, it is not a good idea to deal with the child then. Speak to the child when you are able to think rationally,” she advises.

Sibling rivalry

Children who quarrel often can cause disharmony within the family. Siblings fight due to jealousy or simply provoke arguments to get attention. Whatever the circumstances, each child deserves guidance and parental love. Parents need to be aware that they should not take sides when their children fight as it can cause further conflicts.

Reduce conflicts and name-calling between your children by setting rules. Dr Chiam says parents must make it clear that they will not tolerate teasing, swearing or intimidation in the house.

Regularly speak to your kids separately so they have your undivided attention.

“Parents must also know when to intervene when their kids fight to prevent it from escalating into a huge argument.

“Don’t wait until the child is fuming mad before trying to reason things out. Wait until things have calmed down and then ask the child what made them so angry,” she suggests.


Many parents seek advice and help when their child throws temper tantrums in public places. Dr Chiam believes it is not a matter of guiding or helping children who throw tantrums; parents need to learn how to handle such children.

“Parents need to know the reasons why their child is throwing tantrums. Usually such children want their demands fulfilled and those who continue with such tactics know that such displays will get them what they want.

“Often this takes place in public places and parents, being embarrassed, give in to their child. Therefore, when the child first throws tantrums, it should be ignored unless the child is in danger of hurting herself,” she stresses.

Remove the child from the situation or allow the child to calm down. Be firm and tell the child that she/he has to ask for things appropriately without throwing tantrums.

Reinforce the child by praising good behaviour and not the child. It is the behaviour that needs to be corrected.

Teenage years

What’s worrying is that if a child shows extreme anger, it may be possible that he or she can become aggressive during their teenage years.

“Anger does not only indicate the inability to manage one’s behaviour. It also shows that it can be used as power to control the situation or get what one desires. Aggression involves both emotions,” explains Dr Chiam.

When teenagers explode easily, it can mean that aggressive behaviour had been permitted or tolerated when they were young. According to her, it is most likely that parents themselves have displayed aggressive behaviour, being out of control, or using aggressiveness or force to discipline or force the child to submit.

“It is difficult to change a teenager’s behaviour, once this becomes a norm,” she says.


Parents are the child’s earliest and first educators and, as such, they play a very significant role in laying the foundation of the child’s behaviour.

Dr Chiam wraps up by saying that parents can either reinforce or modify the child’s temperament and be a role model for the child.

“Some people get angry easily. Learning personal stress-reduction techniques is good for them. We need to check our actions when we are angry as it can affect our children’s behaviour,” she says.Taken from ParenThots, thestar online, www.thestar.com.my.