How to help your child learn to manage their anger
It is important that we start by understanding our own anger, where it comes from and how we handle it. Then we need to help our children understand what creates angry feelings within themselves and ways of managing/controlling the anger so that this energy can be channeled into a positive direction. When our children are able to manage their anger they develop stronger self-control and personal restraint. You can start by talking about what anger is. You can discuss situations in your child’s life or use story books such as When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry . . . or Happy Hippo, Angry Duck: A Book of Moods (Boynton on Board).
Steps to teaching children to manage their anger
1. Teach your child “triggers” that cause anger within themselves and in others
- External triggers: cultural events, family events and individual events
- Internal triggers: one’s thoughts and feelings
2. Teach your child to notice the physical “warning signs” that tell us we are getting angry
- Knitted eyebrows and frowns
- Clenched teeth or fists, head hurts
- Knots in stomach, shoulders hunched
- Feeling cold or hot and tense
- Heart beating fast and out of breath
3. Practice and teach your child a variety of practices to reduce the physical sensations created by anger
- Deep breathing or meditation
- Counting backwards
- Visual or physical relaxation
- Positive self-talk
- Solution building process
4. Practice ways of managing anger in different situations with your child
- Bullying, name-calling or teasing
- Criticisms, accusations, being lead about
- Being left out or not invited
- Changing the rules
- Invasion of privacy or violation of personal space
Example of learning to manage anger
Zoé gets very upset at school if she hears other kids talking about her. Last week her mother had to go to a conference with Zoé’s teacher because Zoé hit another girl who called her a name.
After the meeting Zoé and her mother had a talk and used a solution building process. Zoé explained how she felt emotionally and physically when she heard someone making fun of her. They made a list of the anger triggers she felt. Together they devised a plan to handle the situation in the future.
Zoé said that she would try counting to ten in her head and use deep breathing. She would then calmly tell the person she heard talking about her that she did not like it and she would walk away.
Zoé and her mother then used role-play to prepare her for any future situations. Zoé played herself and her mother played another child who called her a name. Zoé practiced her relaxation techniques to handle the situation. Zoé felt much more prepared for any future encounters.