It’s not easy growing up. While many aspects of coming in to your own is exciting, kids have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to expressing themselves. We learn early on that our children are their own people, with bold, unrelenting and beautiful personalities. As parents, it’s our job to help them learn to express those strong emotions and desires in a safe and healthy way. It feels easier to shape their positive emotions, and often we don’t have to do anything with feelings like joy and courage. It’s those less that positive emotions like anger that we often don’t know how to handle. If you’re at a loss for helping your child work through their anger then check out some of these tips!
1. Don’t Respond In Anger
I don’t know about you, but when my child is angry she often does something that in turn, makes ME angry. You know, things like throwing stuff, yelling or being disobedient? It’s SO easy to return the favor and express anger at her, instead of dealing with her anger by itself. As hard as it is, when your child is expressing anger, remain calm. If you need to turn away to gather yourself, that’s perfectly fine. Take a time out if you need to. But don’t respond with anger physically or emotionally- it will only make your child more upset.
2. Be A Role Model For Healthy Expressions of Emotions
Our children are like sponges, and you only need to say something inappropriate one time when they are in the room to know they will repeat, repeat, repeat! The same goes for appropriately acting on their emotions. Do your best to be a role model and display healthy ways of handling your emotions. Talk through frustrations, don’t yell. Instead of screaming at the car that just cut you off, use language such as “Mommy is frustrated because that car is not driving safely.” Obviously we will make mistakes and demonstrate anger in negative ways from time to time. It’s important to talk to your kids after about how you should have handled the situation.
3. Get On Their Level
When your kids are upset, a great way to intervene is to get down on their level. Just like a person standing over you feels like they are lording over you, your kids can feel the same way. Sit on the couch with them, kneel down, or lay next to them. Get close to them so you don’t have to talk loudly for them to hear you, and vice versa. It will force them to calm down if you are so close and make them feel comfortable that you are listening.
4. Read Books About Feelings
Kids learn things everyday, and sometimes books can be excellent teachers and reinforcement for how to express emotions. Reading about different ways that book characters handle situations and their emotions is a great way to talk about anger. You can talk about it after reading the book, and refer back to it if your child has an outburst.
5. Keep To A Routine And Plan For Rest
You may have noticed that kids act out more frequently when they are tired, hungry and are off their usual routine. You probably feel the same way! When you’re tired, you have less emotional stamina to handle situations with patience and anger usually wins out. Make sure that your kids are getting adequate rest, nutrition and have a routine that they can learn to expect. They will be less likely to get angry when they are used to situations like regular play dates, meal times and scheduled rest times.
6. Be Your Child’s Coach
One of our main jobs as parents is to coach our children through life, and dealing with anger is no exception. In addition to being a great role model and reading books on dealing with anger, you’ll need to participate in angry outbursts too. Get on their level and help them put words to their anger- an appropriate response. “I see that you are frustrated that we turned off the television. Let’s use our words to show when we feel upset, ok?” Being there in the moment is a big part of being your child’s coach!
7. Use Anger Activities
Older children are more emotionally and cognitively able to understand their anger, but even they can lose their temper like all of us can. When your child has difficulty appropriately showing their anger safely, working through some activities may be a good idea. Activities like these found at One Stop Counseling include worksheets on learning coping skills, triggers that cause anger and tips on handling feelings of anger.
8. Talk It Out
Trying to talk to an angry child isn’t easy, and many times it’s best to wait to start a discussion until they have completely calmed down. However, talking about why they were angry is very important, even with our children that aren’t fluent speakers yet. I’m surprised how much my 2-year old understands when we talk about how to behave, especially when we revisit a situation and she tells me “I cry, but I obey.” By talking to our children about their expressions of anger, we are setting boundaries about appropriate displays of emotion and also acknowledging that we understand their feelings. Anger isn’t bad, it’s normal! We just need to express it safely and productively.