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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!

Helpful Tips on How to Get to Know Your Students



Getting to know your students is one of the most effective ways to create a harmonious classroom environment. Teachers and teaching assistants alike know how different each child is from his or her peers. Similar to adults, they all have their own set of attitudes, beliefs, biases, likes, dislikes and coping mechanisms. Knowing all of these can be the difference in developing a fun, yet respectful atmosphere in the classroom. For instance, if you know that a particular student dislikes being praised publicly, you can give praise subtly either through writing a note in his book or speaking to him/ her one to one.

Getting to know students in an individual level can be challenging especially if you have a huge class. But, however large your class is, there is always a way to get to know them. You just have to be willing. Here are some ways that I have found useful over the years:

  1. Ask pupils about their weekends every Monday morning: Find 5 to 10 minutes on a Monday morning to ask what your students did on the weekend. This is a relatively simple task that can reap such huge rewards. They may tell you that they have watched a sports game or a movie, and who they watched it with. From this conversation, you would know what sport they love and which player/ team they follow. Such wealth of information can be used as ice-breakers when they become unresponsive in lessons. For example, if a child who supports Chelsea and love Fernando Torres struggles with addition, you can give hypothetical examples such as ‘Torres scored 1 goal against Arsenal and 2 against Liverpool. How many goals has he scored altogether in those two games?” 
  2. Join in on their games in the playground: Being able to join in on the kids’ games in the playground can make them feel comfortable around you. By playing their games, you are showing that you are also capable of following their rules, as they follow yours in the class. It shows them that a person can both be respected and be fun to be with.
  3. Crack some jokes once in a while: Similar to the previous tip, this one shows that you can be fun. Most teachers fear that once they crack jokes, students will not take them seriously. But my experience suggest otherwise. Having shared a joke or two with my students (particularly when I worked with teenagers), I began to be accepted even more. One student commented that I became the person they approached the most because I can relate to them.
  4. Find out what music, TV programme, sports, etc. they like and familiarise yourself with them: As a person from a different generation, they may think we are out of touch with the current trend. Surprise your students by knowing more about their favourite artists, films, etc.
  5. Listen actively to your students: Use body language effectively. Allow your students to finish what they are saying and concentrate on their points of view. Make sure that you clarify anything that you do not understand.
  6. Use a ‘Free Expression Box’: There would be more than one student in any given class who prefer not to say anything due to anxiety. Make sure you have a box (call it whatever you like) in the classroom in which the students are allowed to put notes in. These notes may contain their thoughts about you, their peers, the school or their family. Be very clear about the rules for confidentiality and disclosure, though.
  7. Use these positive words and phrases:20130708-124901.jpg
  8. Ask them for feedback: Do not be afraid to ask them how they felt about your lesson or activity. Ask them what they enjoyed and what you could improve next time. One may fear that this gives complete control of your class to the students, but I disagree as this promotes harmonious and inclusive atmosphere in your classroom. It makes your students feel that you consider their thoughts and opinions.
  9. Use Golden Time and Free Play times to speak to your students: Spare 5 to 10 minutes of your marking/ planning time to speak to kids during relaxed/ unstructured times such as free play and golden time. Ask them about their day/week, how their pets are, or anything that they are interested in.
  10. Let your students know you: Communication and relationships are a two-way street. Let your students know a bit about you. Tell them what music/sports/TV programme, etc. you like. Just like you, they will find some similarities between you that would build a foundation to a stronger bond between you.

Stephen Conti: ADHD as a Difference in Cognition

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has been known to be characterised by an ‘inability to focus or concerntrate’, ‘restlessness’, ‘constant fidgeting’, and short attention span’. It has been found that between 2-5% of the population have ADHD, and to date, there is no known cure for it (although medications such as Ritalin are prescribed to suppress sympotms).

In the video below, Stephen Conti argues that people should change how they view ADHD. Instead of seeing it as a deficit in attention and activity, Conti proposes that ADHD is a difference in cognition. For instance, people with ADHD can hyper-focus on things that excite them. Stephen alludes to the fact that kids and adults with ADHD should be allowed to flourish, instead of giving them drugs just to keep them quiet.

Getting off to a good start: Useful advice for teachers meeting students with ASD for the first time

nervous_teacherAutism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects people’s Social and Communication development. In addition people with ASD exhibit Restricted and Repetitive Interests and Behaviours. Since ASD affects 1 in 88 of individuals, there is a big chance that every teacher would have at least one student affected by the condition in his/ her career.

Although people’s awareness of ASD have increased over the years, and teach training nowadays provide an overview of what Autism is, and how it affects individuals, meeting a student with ASD for the first time can be a cause of anxiety to teachers (and the students, of course!).

(See also: Practical Tips To Make Your Classroom Autism-Friendly)

Here are a few strategies that I have learned over the course of my working years with ASD students:

Preparing the student before the first day:

There is a huge chance that you will know in advance that there will be a student (or students) with ASD who will be joining your class. Here’s what you could do:

  • Gather as much background information as possible! Information about students should be available from medical professionals, previous schools and parents. Find out what triggers anxiety and problem behaviours.
  • Questions you should ask: What does he like to talk about? What is he afraid of? Does he respond better to a man or a woman? How is his speech? Is there a colour, sound, smell he does not like?
  • Take pictures of the school, dining hall, your classroom, yourself and if possible, the other students. Give these photos to his parents or his current teachers and ask them to let the child know that this is the environment that they will be in very soon. This helps prepare the child mentally and will reduce, if not eliminate, anxiety.
  • Invite the parents and the child to the school ahead of transfer. If the children are moving up a year/ grade in the same school, invite them to your classroom. Have a one-to-one meeting with the child to allow them to familiarise with you and the classroom.
  • Let the children know EXPLICITLY what is expected of them. Give a paper copy of your classroom rules to the children and display a copy of it on your classroom.
  • If at all possible, provide the parents with the school year’s curriculum plan. This way, the parents would be able to tell their children what topic areas will be discussed at what week/ month.
  • Create a picture schedule/ timetable to help establish a daily routine. Students with ASD prefer a predictable day-to-day routine. A change in any subject or teacher or activity must be relayed to the child.
  • Prepare your classroom. Give the student his own desk and give him the freedom to decorate it to make him feel that he is in control of at least some aspect of his environment.

During the first meeting:

  • Avoid drinking coffee and wearing perfume. It may sound ridiculous to some but there are students with ASD who are extremely sensitive to certain smells. Drinking coffee and wearing perfume are some of the things that you can control which may potentially lessen the child’s anxiety.
  • If the child is capable of talking but is not responding to you initially, try to be in the same physical level. In other words, if he is sitting down, sit on a smaller chair, so that his eyes are parallel to yours. If he is playing on the floor, sit on the floor. Make him feel as comfortable as possible.
  • Let him talk about Spiderman or Star Wars at the beginning, if he wants to. People with ASD who are verbal have the tendency to talk a lot about their interests passionately. You must let them do this, again to make them feel comfortable.
  • 10 Second Rule- some people with ASD need more time to process information, especially during conversations. Wait for at least 10 seconds before repeating an unanswered question.

There you have it! Good luck!

More articles on Autism:


Being Proud of Having Autism

What Would You Do If You Witness An Autistic Person Being Insulted?

Never EVER say these things to people iwth Autism!

He flaps his hands and screams a lot but he doesn’t mean to annoy you

Optimum Outcomes for people with Autism

DSM 5 and its implications to ASD diagnosis

Diagnosing Autism: What you need to know

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What does Autism mean?

What is PDD-NOS?

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Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper: Asperger’s Syndrome’s Poster Boy?

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DSM-V and Autism

The Autistic Me: BBC Documentary

Temple Grandin: The world needs all kinds of minds

Autism in the classroom:

Guide to parents of students with ASD on coping with the first day back to school

Common signs of Autism in the classroom

First day back to school: Top tips for parents of children with Autism

Practical tips to make your classroom Autism-Friendly

Inspiring People with Autism:

Dr. Temple Grandin

Jessica-Jane Applegate (British Paralympian)

Satoshi Tajiri (Pokemon creator)

Carly Fleischmann

More on Savants:

Simon Baron-Cohen on Daniel Tammet

The Psychology of Savants: Memory Masters

Artists with Autism

The Einstein Effect: Is there a link between having Autism and being a genius?

First day back at school: Top tips for families of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

September is here again which for some countries including the UK, marks the start of the new school year and the end of the summer  holidays. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), changes are particularly challenging to deal with and a new school year brings about a number of changes which could potentially be stressful. Students could have new teachers, classrooms, classmates and subjects which could take time getting used to. They too have underwent physical and emotional maturity over the summer which could impact on how they settle-in this school year. Here are some of my advice to parents and/ or caregivers of students with ASD who are about to come back to school:

  1. Remember that the students have an active role in their education. I have read many articles that give extremely good advice but forget to mention that students should be a part of planning and implementation of strategies- after all, it is their educational well-being that we are concerned about. It is important for parents to ask for the opinions of the students on everything before setting any targets and/ or routines. Students have their own opinions and not considering them may lead to frustration on all parties involved. They also have their own strengths and weaknesses which should also be accounted for.
  2. Develop a routine for everything and remember to keep these routines as consistent as possible throughout the year. It is well known that individuals with ASD prefer consistency. Having a routine for almost everything enables them to predict what would happen next, which allows them to prepare themselves for it. Routines could be made for getting up in the morning, the commute to and from school, break and lunch times, homeworks, and even bedtime. These can planned with the help of the school. It is also important to note that plenty of time should be given if any changes are to be made during the year.
  3. Organize a day to introduce  your child to the new members of staff and/ or classmates that he/ she will have this school year. If at all possible, do this during the first day back to school. Some schools may send information about the children’s new class teacher(s) during the summer, which allows parents and caregivers to inform their children of any staff changes. As with the point above, this helps children prepare themselves and reduce any potential anxiety when they return to school. Some students may benefit from having a photo album of the new teaching staff and/ or students that they may encounter and with the help of the school, this should be made available to the students.
  4. Develop and maintain a positive relationship with the school. From experience, I know that this is easier said than done. There are times when parents and teachers disagree on things like punishment, rewards, targets and the allocation of resources, which potentially damages the relationship between them. However, it is important to keep in mind that both parties have the well-being of the students in their minds and that working with each other can help bring out the best possible outcome. Schools and parents should agree on the best way(s) to communicate, and also the acceptable frequency of doing so. Most schools operate an ‘open-door policy’ which means that parents can ring or send emails at any time they want. It is important to note however, that parents should not abuse this and take into consideration that schools have other children on their Special Needs Register as well.
  5. Develop a reward system. Everyone loves getting rewards. We all know that it is one of the most important sources of motivation and resilience. Having agreed on this year’s targets, students and their parents/ caregivers should have a reward system in place. Again, parents/ caregivers could copy what the school is doing in order to have some consistency. For instance, star charts and stickers could be used at home just like in the classroom. What should be important is that stickers and rewards should not be given too easily or too difficult otherwise, they may lose their value or student may lose their motivation.
  6. Allow your children to relax. They are under enormous amounts of pressure during these times and forcing them to work at extended amounts of time may be detrimental for their well-being. Some students may struggle to adjust during the beginning of the year which may lead to the temptation of making them do a bit more work at home. Give them time to go outside, play or do whatever they want (within reason, of course), especially if they are having a difficult day/week.
  7. Reward yourself. Parents and caregivers like yourselves, who devote countless amounts of time in looking after children with any Special Needs are alsoo under a great deal of stress and in my opinion, you are not given enough credit. Just like your children, it is important for you to take a break and relax. Arrange for a sitter to look after your children and have a night off. You should not feel guilty for doing so because you need, and quite frankly, deserve a bit of a break.
  8. Ask for help. Not every parent/ caregiver is well-equipped with the background knowledge and intervention ideas when it comes to looking after children with ASD particularly in matters concerning their education. Asking for help shows that you are willing to learn more.

I know that most of what I said may not apply to every single student with ASD. I should emphasise that every child is different and as a consequence, interventions should be tailored to the individual child. Nevertheless, I will point out that preparation, working together and considering the children’s opinions, strengths and weaknesses, are the most important factors in producing the best possible educational outcomes for them.

For more information on Autism, click HERE.

Related post: Communication Difficulties in Autism


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