10 Ways to Help Children to Manage their Anger

Anger is one of our primary emotions. We all feel it regularly, but very few of us know how to manage it. Just like us, some children also find anger management challenging. Children’s failure to appropriately manage their anger could lead to negative consequences such as being involved in physical altercations, damaged relationships, and/ or depression. What follows are what adults can do to help children manage their anger:

  1. Recognise and validate their feelings – Instead of telling them to stop being angry, say ‘ I know you’re angry because (for example) she called you names. That would probably make me feel angry too’. Validating their feelings can reduce the likelihood of them hiding their feelings from you. Let them know that it is alright to feel angry so that they don’t have to feel defensive. Also, not recognising their feelings may cause their anger to intensify as they bottle it up inside. Furthermore, talking to a child about their feelings will help build a trusting relationship between you.
  2. Empathise – Listen to what they say. Some incidents may appear less serious to you, which could lead you to discount their interpretations. This could lead to confusion or feelings of isolation on the part of the child. Encourage them to say what they feel.
  3. Teach children to self-monitor – Not all children would develop an understanding of the causes and cues of emotions. A lot of aggressive behaviour can be prevented if children are able to correctly recognise that they are feeling angry. Explicitly teach children about the sensations that accompany anger, such as being sweaty, clenching of jaws, shaking, dizziness, stomach ache, etc. Teach children to use a scale (e.g. 1-10, with 10 meaning they are about to hit someone), which can be used as a communication tool.
  4. Allow them to express and communicate their feelings in different ways- Some children may find speaking challenging as they might not have the necessary vocabulary to articulate what they feel. Allow them to express their feelings through drawing/ painting, writing, and/ or other ways which are safe.
  5. Teach them ways of calming down – This can be done by modelling. Whenever you get angry, talk to them about the reason and talk to them about how you would deal with it. For example, when driving you may say ‘I feel angry because that driver nearly hit our car. I am angry because we could have been hurt. But I will try to calm down by counting from 1 to 10’. Deep breaths, and other methods should also be taught.
  6. Bond with your child – This should be a given, but due to the busy lives that many of us lead, the opportunity for ‘bonding’ may be limited. However, it is important to bond with your child as it allows you to have a conversation which should be mostly positive. Reflecting on both of your days, on what you have just watched, read or heard can be a source of laughter.
  7. Look for and praise positive behaviour – If you’re reading this, it is highly likely that one or more of your children/students are behaving inappropriately due to poor anger management skills. Such children are prone to behaving aggressively which causes them to be told off most of the time. This may have created a negative image of certain children in your head, which causes you to only look for the bad behaviour. Change that now. Look for positive behaviours and appropriately praise them. Let them know that you are not there to criticise their every move. Let them know that you are there to help them.
  8. Establish clear standards for appropriate behaviour – Tell them what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. It is also important to be consistent with your standards.
  9. Collectively decide on reinforcements – The child(ren) and you should decide on the rewards and negative consequences of behaviour. Including children in the planning increases their likelihood of abiding by the rules. In addition, always remember that they are looking at you. You also need to behave appropriately and the rules should also apply to you.
  10. Remember that it takes time – Teaching children to manage their anger takes a long time. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that one can take to solve such a problem. However, your positive attitude and willingness to help them will go a long way!
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