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Other Emotional Issues

Anger Management

Josh: Building rapport with children--anger & behavior problems.

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

by Gary Craig

Hi Everyone,

On the way back from a recent trip to Southern California I was asked to meet with "Josh" (a 5 year old boy) and his mother at the airport. Josh, it seems, was a very happy, well adjusted youngster until he witnessed his Grandmother being attacked and mugged (purse stolen) several months ago. Since then he has been quite angry and volatile (explosive is the word his mother used) towards his Grandmother. Previously, his Grandmother was a loving figure in his life but, after the accident, he would say things to her like, "I hate you. I hate you. Why don't you go to a jungle in South America and die." His sense of security was apparently severely violated and he would go into tantrums if someone left open the door to the house and he was constantly alert to where purses were located.

EFT is just as effective with children as it is with adults and pets. The challenge, however, is to gain rapport with them and hold their attention. Also, children are not always able to articulate their emotional issue(s) so extra creativity is often necessary.

Josh's mother told me ahead of time that he liked science and airplanes. So, in the interest of rapport, I arrived at the airport ahead of time and asked the airline personnel if Josh could go inside the cockpit of an airplane and speak with the pilots. They were more than happy to comply so, just after Josh and his mother arrived, he was able to have this adventure. He emerged from the airplane with a smile on his face, some candy in his hands (thanks to a flight attendant) and--since I set this experience up--he was a bit more open to having a session with me.

Also, Josh's mother showed him the mice/rat phobia session on our introductory tape before coming to see me. That injected a measure of familiarity and thus aided rapport. Further, I asked Josh's mother to bring some balloons. I blew them up so Josh could squeeze tight on the open end and then release. The balloons zipped all over the airport, of course, and brought smiles to Josh's face. Then, appealing to his scientific interest, I explained that this was how jet engines worked and one of the things that helped airplanes fly. I also explained that the escaping air was like getting rid of "bad feelings" and that's what we would be trying to do. Good segue, eh? He understood.

Now why do you suppose I just spent the last two paragraphs telling you about my rapport efforts? Why not just get to the meat of the session and talk about the tapping? It's because the bottom line here was rapport--no rapport, no session. If I didn't get rapport with this 5 year old boy, I wasn't likely keep his attention. Without rapport, he was likely to become restless, uncooperative and want to leave. He has better things to do than have some strange adult poke at him with his big fingertips.

I asked Josh to tell me about the incident with his Grandmother but he didn't want to talk about it. He kept saying, "I don't know." I needed, of course, to have him "tune in" to the problem so I asked him to sit in his mother's lap while she told the story AS THOUGH SHE WAS JOSH. His mother did a good job detailing the event while I did the tapping. I threw in a few Setup phrases such as, "Even though this bad thing happened, I'm OK" and, to help maintain rapport, I stopped a time or two to do another "balloon thing." This went on for about 20 minutes and Josh seemed OK with it. We had no idea how we were doing, however, because getting a SUDS reading on a scale of 0-10 didn't seem feasible with this toddler. There were no outward, tangible signs of improvement. He just sat there and listened to his mother while I tapped.

We did get a clue, however, after the first 20 minutes. His mother came to a part in the story which caused Josh to put his hands over his ears as though he didn't want to listen. "Hooray!", I said inside my head, "he's tuned into something big." I knew he could hear his mother, despite his efforts to the contrary, so I nodded for her to keep talking while I kept tapping. Within moments, Josh took his hands off of his ears and listened calmly as his mother completed the story. Progress? It seemed that way but the only way we would know for sure is if Josh's behavior changed in the future.

Another clue came as they were about to leave. Do you remember the comment above where I said Josh was constantly alert as to where purses where located? Well, when Josh wasn't looking I sneaked his mother's purse (she watched me do it) from off of an adjacent chair and hid it behind me. We took our time saying goodbye thus giving Josh plenty of opportunity to notice that the purse was missing. He even looked at the chair where the purse formerly resided and didn't notice it was missing. No reaction whatsoever.

As we parted ways, I again emphasized to Josh's mother that we had no way of knowing what progress had been made here. Only his future behavior would tell us. I mentioned that the ideal time to tap in the future would be when he seemed angry or upset about something. At these times, he is "tuned in" to something important and this is where tapping would most likely be effective.

I spoke with her earlier today (4 days after our session with Josh) and learned the following.

1. The door to the house has been left open frequently and Josh has never even noticed. Formerly this was a big deal. On one occasion he was even asked to close the door because it was getting cold. He closed it routinely without any reaction.

2. There have been some temper flare-ups in the meantime and each time Josh's mother administered the tapping. Each problem subsided in moments. This, to me, is evidence of aspects that weren't in Josh's thoughts during our session.

3. While there have been some heated words against his Grandmother, the frequency has been substantially reduced and he recently crawled into his Grandmother's lap in a loving manner. This is major progress, according to Josh's mother.

4. Josh's mother suggested that maybe Grandma should be given a medal for saving the lives of both Josh and his mother. After all, if Grandma hadn't been there maybe the "bad guy" would have come after the other family members instead. This is a classic reframe, of course, but it landed beautifully. The result was the making of a card for Grandma which said,

"Thanks for saving our lives. Love, Josh and Mommy."

The card was Josh's idea and those were also Josh's words.

In my experience, reframes tend to land beautifully after EFT has brought about some quality cognitive change. It's one of the ways I assess when progress has been made. Until the cognitive change, the belief system rejects such a reframe or, at best, gives it a wave of the hand as if to say, "Nice try." But when it lands, as it did here, I take it as evidence of noticeable success. As many of you may notice, this is a different slant on reframes. Many people use reframes as an effort to cause change. I use them as evidence of change.

One final note. Josh has some sibling rivalry issues with his little sister (age one and a half). I don't know if they are directly related to his previous issues or not. But this doesn't always matter. Whatever negative issues come up become tappable events. So just tap and see what happens. Finding core issues is usually helpful in complicated cases but EFT often works beautifully even when we are not able to discern the roots.

Hugs, Gary

Update on Josh

Hi Everyone,

My last message was about "Josh," a five year old boy with behavior (anger) problems as a result of witnessing his Grandmother being mugged. I just received a note from Josh's mother (one week after our session) that gives further updates as to his progress. I hope you find it helpful. My comments are interspersed within the message.

Hugs, Gary


Gary, I just read your email, it's lovely thank you. I wanted to fill you in on a few updates.

I have the identical purse as the purse my mom [Josh's Grandmother] was wearing when she got mugged. It's a big black bag that is specifically designed to be comfortable and safe for folks with back injuries. Josh has not wanted me to carry mine since the mugging, he becomes agitated and upset so I stopped carrying it. As a matter of fact I stopped carrying bags altogether. After you and I talked, I took it out and started using it, saying nothing to Josh about it. He has not mentioned it or seemed even to care in the least. I have hung it on a chair in the kitchen for him to see big deal.

GC: The bottom line--the ultimate measuring stick regarding effectiveness--always involves a change in the client's behavior. Without that, everything else is just theory. Interestingly, Josh is perhaps the finest anecdotal evidence we can find for the effectiveness of EFT because he can't be accused of "going along," wanting to please or having preconceived beliefs. He's just a little boy with anger problems that faded away after tapping. The fact that he doesn't even notice the purse should sound a big trumpet to those who are still skeptical. Some would call this result subtle but I call it powerful--very powerful. Where he used to get very irritated at the presence of the purse, he now considers it a non-event. A result like that would take weeks or months with conventional techniques and, even then, progress may be iffy. Also, please recall that he used to get upset at open doors. No longer. Those are a non-event as well. Subtle? No. Powerful.

JOSH'S MOTHER CONTINUES: Also yesterday Josh and I were driving in the car and someone cut me off, I got a bit upset and said "I'm going to start tapping about it." Josh said, "ok mommy, you tap and I'll start letting air out of the balloon." (he pretended to be a balloon) He kept saying, "you better tap again, I think you didn't get all the anger out." Then he said, "Mom I think we should use a balloon every time we tap so we can watch the anger go away!"

GC: Interesting feedback. Children aren't always able to articulate what is important to them from a meeting like this. I only used that metaphor once (i.e. air escaping from a balloon was like getting rid of "bad feelings"). Apparently, it stuck. Again, we are often unsure of what we did with children until we observe the child's behavior afterwards.

JOSH'S MOTHER CONTINUES: I have two questions I forgot to ask you on the phone. Every time I finish tapping on Josh he always hugs me and says I love you in some way or another. I also noticed that when I tried tapping on myself, I had lots of loving feelings afterwards as well. What's that about?

GC: Many report these loving feelings. I explain it this way. The more we unload our emotional baggage (fears, anger, guilt, grief, depression, etc.) the less resistance there is to experiencing our spiritual birthright--a state of perfect love.

JOSH'S MOTHER CONTINUES: This one is not so positive. Ever since I started the tapping on Josh he's developed this behavior of throwing things. Not out of anger although there have been one or two times when it was related to anger. But he throws things at me even after I have told him not to. Any connection that you're aware of?

GC: Sounds like another issue to me. Again, please remember that the only way we know how we're doing with Josh is to observe his behavior. If he's throwing things then there is more to do. Try EFT using....

"Even though I throw things.....""Even though I throw things instead of letting air out of the balloon...""Even though throwing things is like being angry at my little sister (remember the sibling rivalry issue)....."

JOSH'S MOTHER CONTINUES: One correction in your story. When I told Josh that Gramma may have saved his life, the reason I said was because the crook may have had a weapon or gun on him and may have hurt the two of them. Not that he would have come after any other family members. No big deal, I just wanted to clarify that.

GC: Thanks. I misunderstood.


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