We all experience feelings of anger from time to time. For our kids, this is no different. When they are small, they lack the verbal skills to vent their frustrations and have a need to find other ways to express their feelings. Almost every parent, it seems, has experienced a toddler’s meltdown while trying to do the weekly shop. Suffering your two year old throwing themselves on the floor and turning scarlet with frustrated screaming can feel really embarrassing. But never forget: This is your children ultimate form of expressing his needs. A kid having a meltdown is not the issue, it’s the symptom.
In this blog post I want to look at a few techniques that you, as a parent, can teach your kid and use to help your kid deal with his anger, and thus also reduce the stress that you experience as a mom or dad. If you manage to understand how important it is to go through these situations together with your child as a team, you’ve already won half the battle! One thing is important, though: Do never tell your kid to stop being angry! It is important that your child is allowed to express his feelings!!!
While we are looking into how to work on the symptoms in this blog post (for an instant “pain relief”), we will be looking at the underlying issues that cause such meltdowns in a later blog post. Issues that you, as a parent, want to work on together with your kid to help him understand what is going on and how to express his feelings in a more meaningful way.
Here are the key points to remember:
- Anger is a completely normal emotion
- You can help your child deal with anger better by talking about their feelings
- Some children need an outlet for their feelings. For children with high energy martial arts, such as judo, or karate can be helpful. For other children relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga can be effective
- If uncontrolled anger frequently leads to aggression, professional help should be sought
- A good psychologist will be able to help your child change the way they think and respond to the stimulus that causes their anger
Anger Control Techniques
There are three basic techniques that most humans utilize for dealing with anger. Those are expressing it, suppressing it or calming it. Each comes with their own pros and cons. Try to find out which one your kids utilizes and work with them together towards the technique that you and, more importantly, your kid feel most comfortable with.
Technique 1 – Expressing Anger
This is the most natural, but also the most “destructive” way of dealing with anger: Simply letting it go and expressing it!
Expressing anger can happen in a number of ways; a temper tantrum, self-harm (biting themselves or hitting their head against something for example) or aggression towards others, which in toddlers and preschoolers is usually biting, thumping or pinching.
When a toddler has very limited verbal communication, it can be extremely difficult for them to express their anger verbally. It can, therefore, be necessary for the parent to deduce the cause, fix it or deflect it, and avoid the same stimulus in the future.
For children who are older and are able to communicate verbally, it is better to discuss feelings with them when they are happy and calm. Explain to them that the next time they are feeling angry, they should try and tell you why. They can do this by using simple phrases such as “I’m angry because…” or “I’m mad because…” helping them express themselves. This can remedy the problem before their anger turns to aggression.
Another option could be to work with your child and teach them to deflect their anger against an object that serves that very specific purpose, for example a stress relief ball or the like.
Technique 2 – Suppressing anger
This technique is something you cannot expect from a toddler, and it is probably one that comes with the greatest “long term risk”: Suppressing anger!
Older children and teenagers are more easily able to suppress their anger. They can do this by turning their focus onto something positive instead.
First, the child needs to learn how to recognize their anger. By recognizing it, they can deflect it by concentrating on something more constructive.
For younger children, drawing pictures of how they feel can be easier and allow them to confront the cause of their feelings. With your help, they can convert the feelings into something more positive.
The danger with anger suppression is that if the child is unable to convert it and it remains stewing inside them, it can be detrimental to their health. This, in turn, can lead to high blood pressure or depression. Hence, you should always discuss your kids’ feelings with them. If you notice that they keep anger to themselves, or are hiding something, make sure to talk to them and address the underlying issues.
When a child expresses their anger in an unacceptable way, they must be met with calm logic to help them cope with it. If you reward your child’s temper tantrum, by giving in to their wants (if they have been denied something for example), they will keep repeating the behavior. If a child’s outburst results in their breaking something that is of value to them, that item should not be replaced. If they break an item belonging to another person, they must learn that this is not acceptable. This can for example be done by having a very thorough, yet calm, talk with them, or by requiring them to do chores (e.g. cleaning up the mess they have caused) or having the cost taken from their pocket money. The important thing is that the consequence has a direct relation to the issue caused by your child’s anger meltdown.
Technique 3 – Calming anger
Calming anger is probably the ultimate goal. Once kids understand how they can calm their anger they are already on their way to understanding how to REALLY deal with their emotions. While expressing anger and suppressing it are only techniques that fight the symptom, calming anger and channeling it into the right direction is really already part of curing the underlying issues.
In the long term, it is a necessary skill for children to learn how to calm their negative emotions. They can be helped to understand ways of achieving this by:
- Counting to a specified number
- Deep breathing
- Taking time out alone
- Practicing meditation or yoga
- Doing martial arts
How to help your child
If your child finds it difficult to talk about their anger, first try calming it by using one of the techniques listed below. Once they are calm, they should be able to discuss it more easily.
For children who can count up to 10, this technique can be used. The older the child, the higher the number can be.
To begin, tell your child to shut their eyes and count with you up to 10. Practice this with them when they are not feeling angry. When used in a real situation, if their anger hasn’t subsided after the count of 10, repeat until it has passed.
This is really a deflection technique as it is turning their attention to a task.
2. Deep breathing
It can be really useful to find music that is very calming and gentle to play while your child practices deep breathing. Again this should be practiced when they are calm and relaxed so they can utilize the technique when anger strikes.
There are many techniques, but this is an easy one to try:
- With the mouth closed inhale through the nose quietly for a count of four
- Hold the breath in for a count of seven
- Exhale completely via the mouth for a count of eight
3. Taking a “time out” alone
It is often not sufficient just to send your child into another room. They need to be given an activity to complete that will distract them from their anger and allow their feelings to subside naturally. The activity should ideally be creative or constructive, but not a punishment.
Doing any form of physical activity will do. Indoors, you can put on some music and dance. Outside, try playing a game of catch or, if you have one, a bounce on the garden trampoline. Whatever exercise resources you have, use them.
5. Meditation or Yoga
You don’t need to understand how to take a yoga or meditation class to help your child. Nor do you even need to leave home. There are loads of guided yoga and meditation classes available free to follow online. Once your child’s attention is focused on this, they will soon be calm again.
6. Martial Arts
For some children, they need to vent in a more disciplined and active way. This is where enrolling them in some form of martial arts class can be beneficial. Once they are experienced, they can practice at home when pent-up anger and frustration strike.
Seeking Professional Help
If you really feel your child is out of control and nothing you try is helping, then see your doctor. A doctor will be able to refer you to a suitable professional such as a psychologist of anger management therapist.
Luckily, my own son has a very calm personality, but I do have friends whose children struggle with this. If your child suffers emotionally, I hope the advice given here helps.
Please let me know what your experiences are with anger in kids. What techniques do you personally use to help your kid in the short AND in the long term? What is your strategy? What is your approach to keep yourself calm when your kid flips? If you have anything to add to this story, please share it in the discussion section below!
Wishing you a great day!
P.S.: If you REALLY want to level up your parenting skills and get rid of all the power struggles that can stand between our kids and us as moms or dads, then make sure to read my FULL REVIEW of “Positive Parenting Solutions” HERE.