Anger Management: Helping Children Manage Anger
Let me just say, my young child comes with a lot of uncontrolled anger! She has definitely tested my “hood” characteristics, lol… frequently and on many occasions. Therefore, I am practicing what I preach (as a therapist), day in and out!
But, at some point or another, we have all felt angry. Some may consider anger an unhealthy emotion, when in fact it is a healthy and common emotion. Most hate the feeling of lack of control, in the aftermath of an angry outburst, or interaction. When I hear someone say they are angry, I typically will explore with them to help them identify what’s behind their anger. Often times, anger is a result of pain, hurt, betrayal, etc. It can be trauma-driven, a reminder of a painful life lesson, pet peeves, or an issue-driven home from birth. Those are all acceptable feelings and it is important to understand anger’s possible positive effects, recognize personal anger and maintain composure when dealing with anger. Uncontrolled anger can have an impact on physical health, mental health and relationships.
Children face a great deal of stress and peer/parental conflict. Children are learning to figure out who they are and where they fit in. Helping children manage their anger takes practice on their part but also takes a lot of modeling on the parent’s behalf. This is a huge social responsibility to teach as children are learning to interact with society, through example and guidance from parents and loved ones.
1. Establish A Healthy Relationship
Having a healthy relationship consists of trust and effective communication with your children. Children are typically responsive when they feel heard and understood. Building and maintaining this rapport is essential for growth. Children trust their parents to guide and support them, as a result, give them the tools they need to manage their anger. When healthy relationships are established, parents are more apt to identify early warning signs of anger or triggers. In the event, parents are able to help children recognize anger signs, such as clenched teeth or fist, change in tone or voice, breathing, facial expression, etc. Click this link to read strategies I use to build an authentic relationship with my children
2. Create Anger Rules For Your Home (or anywhere for that matter)
More recently, I have been given the opportunity to teach my youngest child the opportunity to explore healthy boundaries with her anger. She and I have created anger rules for our home and also in public (stores, dance studio, soccer games, etc.). One of the rules her and I have created is to never try and reason with one another when we feel angry. Reasoning while angry is absolutely a loss; losing situation and a disaster waiting to happen. If my child insists on engaging in that anger battle, I will simply walk away. Together, you and your child can identify what constitute acceptable behaviors when they are angry and what won’t be tolerated.
3. Teach Assertiveness Skills
Teaching your child how to use their words teaches assertiveness skills and respect. This may include putting a name to a feeling or if the child is young, use a feeling chart to help the child identify and learn different feelings. “I Feel Statements” are an awesome tool to helps with assertiveness skills. Assertiveness skills help decreases blame and conflict because “I” statements focus on how the child views a situation or how the situation made the child feel. A simple and clear example of an “I” statement for young children is I feel___ because___.
4. Teach and Practice Coping Strategies
Coping strategies are one of the best assets to help manage anger. If you research coping strategies, you will find thousands of strategies and de-escalation techniques. When working with families, I love to provide a copy of 99 Coping Skills. I work with the child and/or the parent to help decipher at least 10 coping strategies. For younger children, you can teach elevator breathing, mindfulness and imagery. Younger children can also use coloring, music, singing and puzzles as coping strategies. Coping strategies must be practiced daily for them to be effective. Telling a child to breathe at the moment of anger will not be as successful as if the child has learned and practiced the coping strategies. Coping strategies are meant to be used prior to a child getting to the point of no return.
5. Be A Good Role Model
The best teacher for your child is you! Be aware of your anger! If you are yelling, destroying and hitting things when you’re angry, guess what? Your child will learn those same behaviors until they learn something different (from someone else). Before you can teach any of the above strategies, you must have practiced them for yourself. If you are unaware of your anger and genuinely interested in awareness, ask a close family member or friend to provide insight. Or pay attention to your own behavior (keep a note of your triggers and reactions). You can model for your children how to express anger in a controlled manner and teach them how to assertively advocate for themselves. Remember as the parent you set the tone for your home.
As always, if you notice that your child experiences uncontrolled anger often, do consider seeking professional help for both you and your child. Do you need mental health and lifestyle resources? Be sure to follow me on FB, I share a lot of mental health and lifestyle resources.
Finding ways to manage anger is the work of a lifetime. Let me know… What has or has not worked for you and your family? Do you struggle with managing you or your child’s anger? If you have questions about helping children manage their anger, share them in the comment section. Or send me an email.
With love, Tren