How to Help a Child Deal With Anger
Negative emotions are a normal part of growing up and facing the world. Most children will first get angry at a very young age, usually when they’re overwhelmed, tired, or hungry. Because they lack the ability to verbalize their feelings, they’ll react by getting fussy or even throwing a tantrum. These first angry outbursts are difficult for parents to cope with, but they’re actually pretty common and to be expected during toddlerhood.
However, as children mature, they should adopt the ability to self-regulate and calm down when they face triggers. For example, a school-aged child should be able to express their dissatisfaction verbally and overcome it in a healthy way, without getting into a fit of rage. Parents can do a lot when it comes to teaching children to manage their anger. Here are some of the ideas for you to try out.
1. Talk about their feelings
The first step toward effective anger management is knowing how to identify this emotion. In order to be able to correctly recognize it and prevent an angry outburst, your child needs to know how to name this feeling and talk about it. You’ll teach them this by discussing their emotions as well as yours from an early age. When you spot the first signs of anger, acknowledge their feelings calmly and offer them help. For instance, if you see them getting angry, tell them: “I can tell you’re a little upset, would you like to go home now?” If they know how to recognize anger and tell you about it, the chances are they won’t act on it.
2. Anger thermometers
The problem with strong emotions is that they make children feel overwhelmed and confused. They feel something’s wrong but can’t verbalize it. Anger thermometers can be a useful tool to teach kids how to recognize the signs of anger. Making the thermometer can turn into a fun and creative activity because you can draw it together. Mark it from zero to five and explain what each number means. You can also draw emojis next to each number. Then you can talk about how they feel at each level. When they get angry, they’ll be able to explain their feelings to you more easily.
3. Anger management techniques
Classic anger management techniques most adults use can be used by children too. For example, they can count to ten or take deep breaths before they act on their anger. Something that might also help is to repeat a calming phrase when they start getting upset. This can help them regain control when they become angry before things escalate. You can also teach them to channel their anger into something healthier, like jumping on a trampoline and engaging in other physical activities.
4. Consistent discipline
Every household needs rules for expressing anger in a healthy way. For example, let your children know that slamming the door shut or breaking things when they’re angry isn’t acceptable. Also tell them that there will be consequences if they break these rules and impose them consistently. At the same time, talk to them about healthy expressions of anger and reward them when they follow positive models.
5. Limited screen time
Violence in movies and video games has been shown to make children’s anger issues worse. They make young minds desensitized to aggression and prone to fits of rage, which can lead to behavioral problems. Even children’s animated movies can feature violent images, so pay attention to the kind of media your child is exposed to and how often. When they come across disturbing scenes, talk to them about how they made them feel and explain the situation they witnessed.