Anger is a normal healthy emotion that’s difficult for adults to process much less children. It’s critical that children are taught that anger is normal and healthy and given effective tips for managing it. Left unchecked childhood aggression like fighting, arguing, yelling, spitting, and teasing can lead to additional issues. Here are some ways to equip children with anger management skills.
Teach children how to verbalize their feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment. Verbalizing will help them understand why they are angry which can be the first step in calming down. It will also help you understand what is going on. Introduce them to emotional vocabulary and words like furious, irritated, frustrated, nervous and more. Encouraging them to speak up also creates a safe space for them and keeps them from learning to bottle up their feelings.
Differentiate between feelings and behaviour
Let them know it’s okay that they are angry while reminding them that they have to remain in control of their actions even when they’re upset. Aggressive behaviour sometimes manifests because the child cannot put words to how they are feeling.
Model appropriate anger management skills
Children learn more by replicating what they see you do than from anything express directions you issue. Let them see you deal with your emotions without losing control. If you ever lose control, take responsibility for it, apologize, point out why it was wrong, and talk about what you should have done instead.
Recognize that they are angry
Parents sometimes fail to acknowledge their children’s emotions. It’s important to recognize your children as full people capable of a whole range of emotions. Learn to recognize the signs such as becoming quiet or refusing to participate in activities. The signs vary from child to child. When you see the signs, try and calm them down and get to the root of what has set them off. Identify their triggers and avoid them.
Set guidelines and limits
Set rules about what behaviour is acceptable and what isn’t when they are angry. These should be house rules that everyone adheres to.
Don’t give in
Do not give in to tantrums. That just rewards behaviour you don’t want to encourage. This will just teach them that temper tantrums are effective. There should also be consequences when the rules are broken. This can be things like loss of privileges and time-outs.
Teach them how to repair relationships
Part of helping them manage their anger is teaching them how to fix relationships when they did not behave well and hurt other people. It’s important for them to know how to apologize and take responsibility for their actions.
Offer tips for managing anger
Give them practical tips for managing their anger and preventing meltdowns like screaming or even aggressive behaviour like hitting. It’s important to give them techniques to calm themselves down.
Encourage the child to take deep breaths to calm themselves down when they feel themselves getting really angry.
Teach them to walk away from what is triggering them. Putting some distance between them and the problem can help start the calming down process.
Teach them to count backwards to 10 to take their mind off the upsetting situation.
Teach them the 1+3+10 activity
This is a formula for helping children calm themselves down. Step one is reminding themselves to calm down, then taking three deep breaths then counting to 10 or backwards from 10. The activity takes their mind off their anger and helps them calm down.
Encourage them to keep a journal where they can express their many, sometimes confusing feelings. The act of reflecting and writing can help calm them down and also offer a different perspective on the situation.
Telling stories can help children learn how to manage their anger from the characters. There are many children’s books with stories dealing with anger, fear, frustration and more, all of which can help children identify the emotions and learn how to handle them from the characters.
Develop a calm-down plan
You can offer suggestions about what to do when they feel angry. For example, instead of throwing their blocks in frustration, they can go to their room, to the calming corner and do something else until they calm down. You could prepare a clam down kit in advance such as a colouring book, or other engaging activity they can engage in when they go to the calming corner. For older children, it can be listening to music or taking a walk to distract themselves.
Make sure they understand anger is normal, everyone experiences it and there’s nothing wrong with them. Model behaviour like stopping and taking deep calming breaths when you’re angry. As with all other behaviour you want to see more of, reward children for calming themselves down and not losing control of their anger. It could be something like extra screen time or a trip to the park or more of whatever activity they enjoy. Positive reinforcement always wins.
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