Here are five practical tips for helping your child (and yourself!) with anger:
Talk with your child about what happened when they are NOT angry. Trying to get a child to do something in the “heat of the moment,” is usually impossible! At another time, when everyone is relaxed, talk about what happened. Ask your child what anger cues they were experiencing. If we can teach our children to recognize these cues, we can help them make better choices before their anger turns into poor behavior. For example, if your child knows that their heart beats really fast or they feel hot when they are becoming angry they can use this cue to begin a preventative strategy.
Talk with your child about how you handle anger, modeling and teaching them specific strategies. Depending on the age of your child, the strategy may be as simple as smell the flower (breathe in) and blow out the candle (breathe out). This simple strategy helps your child resume normal breathing and think more clearly. If your child is older, you might develop a “menu” of strategies that your child may choose from when they sense anger creeping in. This menu might include talking to an adult, walking around the outside of the house three times, or bouncing a basketball. For teenagers, journaling their feelings is often a powerful release. Two very important things to remember no matter how old your child is…they are watching you and they want your attention. When you are angry, talk with them about your anger cues and verbalize for them how you are handling your feelings. And when they are angry, do your best (although it will be so hard!) to speak in a calm manner and when it’s over, let it be over. The least amount of attention you can give anger, the better.
Read books together about handling anger. Don’t you always feel better when you know you’re not alone? Your child needs to know that their feelings are normal. Remember…it’s okay to be angry, it’s not okay to be mean. Here are a few wonderful books for children that discuss the topic of anger: Mad Isn’t Bad by Michaelene Mundy, When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang, I Talk to God About How I Feel by Stormie Omartian, I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No! by Julia Cook, and When I Feel Angry by Cornelia Spelman and Nancy Coleman. These books can serve as a springboard for open discussions about feelings and some of the best ways to handle them.