All children get angry sometimes — even babies express anger and frustration through crying. By learning about anger in children, you will be better able to handle your child’s outbursts, making your home a more peaceful place to live.
Here are 11 tips to help you deal with anger in children and help them manage their feelings:
- Ask Them What They’re Hoping to Gain
When your child acts out in anger, you should ask the magic question, ‘What are you trying to get by acting like that?’.
Once your child has identified why they have engaged in the unwanted behaviour, which may include hitting, yelling or throwing a tantrum, you should ask, “If we can find a way to help you get what you want responsibly and respectfully, would you be willing to follow the rules?” Once your child agrees to these conditions, you should figure out a solution together.
For instance, if your child was acting out because they wanted to play with a toy that a sibling was playing with, you could encourage them to take 10-minute turns playing with it. This process encourages your child to learn problem-solving skills.
- Teach Appropriate Expressions of Anger
You don’t want to communicate to your child that it’s bad to be angry. Instead, you need to teach your child how to handle their anger appropriately so they don’t feel overwhelmed and create problems for themselves. For instance, you should explain to your child that talking about angry feelings is safe and appropriate while acting out in violence is not.
- Teach Self-Soothing
Coping mechanisms play an essential role in dealing with anger in children. Help your child find a soothing behaviour that they can use to calm themselves down — for instance taking three deep breaths, counting to 10 or snuggling their cuddly toy or blanket. Once they find a behaviour that works for them, remind them to engage in that behaviour in moments when they are angry.
- Shift Your Energy Onto Something More Positive
When anger escalates, you and your child should engage in an activity that has nothing to do with the source of conflict. For instance, you may want to dance it out or go for a walk together as a way to take a step back from the problem at hand. A simple distraction may be enough to resolve the anger and move past it.
- Be a Good Role Model
Children mirror your behaviour — both good and bad. It’s therefore important to manage your own anger effectively to set an example for them to model.
- Take a Break
If tensions are high, don’t be afraid to walk away and come back to the negative situation later. By giving both you and your child an opportunity to calm down and reflect on your own, you will create a situation in which you can discuss the problem at hand without hostility, hurtful words or tantrums.
- Avoid Negative Reinforcement
Punishing your children for an angry outburst tends to be less effective than encouraging them for appropriately dealing with anger.
- Use Positive Reinforcement
Reward your child when they manage their anger appropriately. For example, you may decide to reward them for using words instead of throwing something when they’re angry. You could even keep track of this positive behaviour through a sticker chart. By allowing your child to work toward earning incentives like a family dinner at a favourite restaurant or a special toy, you can keep them motivated and on track until the new skill becomes a habit.
- Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Sometimes simply acknowledging your child’s feelings can help them understand where the anger is coming from and calm down. For instance, if your child is acting out because their favourite toy is broken, you could say something like, ‘I see you’re angry that your toy is broken. That would make me angry too. Talk to me when you have calmed down, and we will come up with a solution,’ and then walk away. As long as your child is in a safe environment where they can’t hurt themselves or others or damage anything, you should allow them to cry or have a tantrum for a period of time. You should not try to talk to your child until they have calmed down.
- Stay Calm
When your child’s anger escalates, it’s easy to feel angry and frustrated yourself. However, approaching the situation with negativity will only make matters worse. Be calm; don’t respond to anger with anger.
- Seek Help
If you feel that your child’s anger is out of control, you should seek professional help. If they are punching walls, damaging property, hurting themselves or hurting others during tantrums, intervention is necessary. Likewise, if you can’t control your own anger, especially when dealing with your child, you should seek help. Anger is a family affair. As such, anger management skills will benefit your entire family.