Handling anger in children can be emotionally and mentally draining for parents and caregivers. Kids may feel anger to avoid painful feelings such as failure and low self-esteem, as well as in situations which they have no control. However, the earlier we teach our children that being angry doesn’t make them a bad person, the better they will learn how to accept the feel of anger and express them in a healthier manner.
1. Teach kids they have the power to manage their emotions. Remind them that it’s normal to feel angry sometimes, but they always have the power to allow themselves to simply feel the feelings and move past it without behaving negatively.
2. Provide physical outlets. I find myself heading outside to take a walk or even hit the gym when I feel stressed or anxious. It is just as important to provide children a safe and healthy physical outlets such as exercise and play to burn off those feelings.
3. Role-play healthy emotional behavior. Children love to play “pretend.” Role play some example situations by having the child act out various responses to difficult situations, then discuss which would work best. This helps kids think things through before the situation actually happens, and shows them they have a choice in how they respond to their feelings.
4. Ease tension with humor. Maybe the child is simply having a bad day. Telling them a joke or a funny story may help ease them out of that negative space.
5. Teach the difference between having feelings and acting on them. Children need to understand that they are not their feelings and don’t have to act on every single feeling they have. Teach them to notice the anger and wait for it to pass like you’d wait for a train to pass through, so it’s free and clear to move forward again.
6. Teach children to express themselves using words. Talking helps children take control and helps reduce acting out. Teach your child to say, “I don’t like it when you take my toys without asking. It makes me angry.”
7. Let your child know that you understand what he’s going through is difficult. It’s important that your child feels you’ve heard them and are on their side, especially when they’re experiencing an escalated level of emotions. Let them know you understand their frustrations, but concerned their behavior isn’t working out for them. They’re more likely to listen if they feel you’re “for” them and not “against” them.
8. Show them unconditional love and support. It’s important for your kids to understand that you will always love them, but you may not always agree with their behavior. This will help kids separate themselves from their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and take power over them instead.
9. Give consequences for inappropriate behavior, not for the anger. If your child calls you a disrespectful name during a tantrum, give him consequences based on his behavior. However, don’t punish him for feeling angry. Instead, acknowledge his anger and discuss how he could have chosen a better way to let off steam.
10. Be an EXAMPLE of appropriate response and behavior. Children learn best by example, so how you deal with your own anger is extremely important to their growth. Sometimes I tell my son, “This is frustrating, I’m taking a time out!” or “Let’s talk about this later because I’m very upset right now; we’ll be able to figure this out better when I’m calm.” This will show your child that taking time to cool off when you’re angry is not a weakness, but a sign of great self control. Remember, children learn what they live.