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Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

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Emotional Coaching Children About Anger - Jul 3, 2005

Emotional Coaching Children About Anger

July 3, 2005

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

This week's on camera aggression by famed Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers has ignited a national discussion about celebrity misbehavior. With psychologists now reporting that American males are committing more violent crimes at younger ages than ever before, many parents are concerned about the example this type of behavior sets for their children. Here to tell us more about this issue is medical expert, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: When this kind of public figure behaves inappropriately in front of kids, what should parents do?

Dr. Sylvia: The first line of defense for conscientious parents is to articulate extreme disapproval of this kind of outburst at the time that your child first witnesses it. Do not wait because your child is processing his or her own reaction very quickly. Reminding your child immediately that this kind of behavioral tantrum is unacceptable in any situation will start your child thinking.

Q: So is it important to state your values on aggression immediately?

Dr. Sylvia: Absolutely it will help because we know that children can "imprint" violent behavioral patterns quickly if they are exposed to it without a parent or teacher stepping in to condemn it. Habits are quick to form and tough to break! There have been tons of studies that prove that aggression is an acquired habit and a learned reaction practiced by people who believe they can get away with it. Most of us learn about aggression in childhood.

Q: How widespread is this kind of hostility in our society?

Dr. Sylvia: Unfortunately, aggression and hostility are rampant. According to psychologists, about 20 percent of the general population has a level of hostility high enough to be dangerous to their health. People who cannot keep their tempers under control and explode in anger double their risk of heart attack. Researchers have also found that hostility alone has as much detrimental effect on health as does smoking and drinking.

Q: So what can parents do to head off a problem with aggression in their kids?

Dr. Sylvia: This kind of emotionally charged situation gives parents a prime opportunity to teach their kids about the choice that is always a part of anger management. Take advantage of this type of public display to warn your child about the problems with this behavior. Discuss Kenny Roger's painful consequence, societal condemnation, and other negative consequences. As psychologists report, this kind of aggression becomes a habit over time. Capable parents literally emotionally coach their children about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

Q: Do all parents emotionally coach about anger?

Dr. Sylvia: There are basically two styles of parenting:

1.) Parents who give their child guidance and input about the world of emotions

2.) Parents who avoid or condemn strong emotions and try to convince their children to do the same.

Unfortunately, as a parent, if you fail to set the example and take advantage of "teachable" moments--such as the Kenny Rogers event--then you leave your son or daughter vulnerable to bad examples and the habits that can naturally develop.

Q: What happens if the parent chooses to ignore these examples of public tantrums?

Dr. Sylvia: Simply ignoring the opportunity to teach your child can be irresponsible. If you run from a conversation about this event, you are setting an example of avoidance of strong emotions for your child. When your child is in a situation where they lose their temper, they are vulnerable to overreacting or under-reacting. Many adults grow up never knowing how to behave.

Q: What should parents do if they see their child showing aggression?

Dr. Sylvia: The worst thing you can do is to ignore your child's aggression or to allow them to continue misbehaving. Too much understanding is harmful. The Emotion-Coaching parent serves as his child's guide through the world of emotion. You must express empathy for their frustration but you also must set limits on their inappropriate behavior and teach your child how to regulate his feelings, find appropriate outlets for his frustration and solve the problem.

Q: Is there anything positive that parents can teach their kids about anger and aggression?

Dr. Sylvia: Parents need to teach children that all emotions--even those we call negative, such as sadness, anger and frustration--can serve useful purposes in our lives. Frustration can cause people to go back to school for a new degree or finally lose that extra twenty pounds. However, when negative emotions are expressed in behavior--especially when they include a violation of someone else's rights--negative emotions become harmful and that crosses a line. Learning that lesson early in life is one of the best gifts a child can receive.