Children get angry. It’s part of being human, and part of your job as a parent is helping your kids learn to handle it.
The reasons for kids’ anger may seem trivial and sometimes even annoying, but it’s important that parents validate those feelings while guiding a child’s behavior. Whether your child is profoundly angry because of a traumatic experience or just expressing frustration over not getting something he wanted, you can help calm the storm.
Sometimes children get frustrated, consumed with emotion that they can’t name. When strong feelings remain unexpressed, an eruption is bound to occur.
Talk about feelings during times when everyone is calm as well as in the middle of the outburst. Encourage your child to name what is happening inside, and ask questions.
Ask, “What are you feeling right now?” or “How do you feel inside?” Kids will often turn the anger into words.
Don’t get upset with your child for telling you he’s angry. Verbally expressing feelings is positive, and he should know that it’s OK to feel anger toward people sometimes.
Keep your cool in the middle of your child’s meltdown, even if the child is angry at you. Don’t lose control of your voice or your actions.
When you remain calm, and in control of yourself, you model that behavior for your child. Over time, your child will follow your example.
Redirect the anger physically
One way of getting rid of anger is to release it physically. It’s a useful technique, but the trick is to release aggression appropriately. Physical exercise is an excellent way to release strong feelings.
Give your angry child a pillow or inflatable punching bag to hit instead of a sibling. Ask your child to run around the yard 20 times, throw rocks at a tree, or jump on a trampoline until running out of breath.
Give positive encouragement
Notice when your child responds appropriately, and say it out loud. Say, “Great job keeping calm,” or “I like the way you’re talking about your feelings.”
It’s important that you praise these good decisions because your angry child will act out for negative attention if it’s the only kind available.
Give as much verbal encouragement as you can. Let your child know you are there.
Be consistent with your expectations
Sometimes it’s tempting to let your child get away with bad behavior motivated by anger. Perhaps you believe the anger is justified or you are afraid that any attempt at discipline will cause the child to become even angrier.
Your child needs to understand that it’s natural to be angry, but it’s not OK to hurt people or damage property. If your child destroys something or hurts someone during an angry outburst, you need to remain consistent in your discipline even if it means escalating the anger. Otherwise, you are teaching your child that bad behavior is OK during a temper tantrum.
Make the anger tangible, and then get rid of it
Encourage your young child to draw the source of the anger. It might just be scribblings on a piece of paper, and that’s OK.
Ask an older child to write about the anger. That can look like a letter to the person triggering the anger, an essay about how it feels or just a bunch of random words. It doesn’t matter, as long as your child is expressing what is inside.
Then ask the child to rip the paper into as many pieces as possible or throw it into a fire. Watching a representation of that anger go up in smoke is mentally calming.
Teach breathing techniques
Take time when things are calm to teach your child deep breathing. It can be as simple as breathing in deeply three times, holding each breath for a few seconds before letting it out.
Younger children can be encouraged to blow out anger like a dragon or fill themselves with air like a balloon.
Encourage positive self-talk during the breathing. Have the child say something like “I am angry, but I am calm” in between breaths.
Managing anger is a skill that everyone must learn, and teaching children to control themselves early in life helps them avoid pain as they grow up. Teach your kids that feelings are OK and that they can control themselves even when they are overwhelmed by emotion. You will be giving them a gift that will serve them throughout their lives.