Anger management for children is just as important, if not more so, than it is for adults. If your children learn anger management early in life, it will be an enormously important skill that will make a difference to them forever.
Children experience anger just as much as adults do and from an early age. As toddlers, and sometimes when they are older, children tend to express their anger by having tantrums . As they get older, the extreme tantrums get fewer and anger is expressed very similarly to the way we adults express it, through shouting, throwing things, hitting, slamming doors, etc.
As parents it is very easy to belittle our children’s anger and not fully appreciate that they feel anger as strongly and overwhelmingly as we do. Someone else being angry around us often brings up very uncomfortable feelings in us. These feelings usually stem from our childhood when adults got angry, either with us or near us, and we had no control over what was happening, or when we were angry, our anger was not taken seriously. So when our children get angry, it can feel easier to try to stop them expressing their anger because we don’t like the feelings their anger brings up in us.
Unfortunately, doing this just perpetuates a family situation where anger is unacceptable or is expressed in a way that causes damage, either emotional or physical. If you teach your child, as early as possible, to express their anger in a safe and reasonable way you will giving them extremely valuable tools for the rest of their life.
Tips for Healthy Anger Management for Children
1. The first really important thing for your child to see is that you can handle your own anger (see anger management techniques ). Children learn much more from what they see us do than what we say. So your management of anger will teach them much more than any techniques or talking.
2. Helping your child to realise when s/he is angry is a very necessary anger management for children tool. Children, especially when they are very young, are not always able to differentiate their feelings. So if you see that your child is clearly angry, then saying “I can see that you are feeling angry right now” gives a label to the feeling and allows the child to identify that feeling in the future. Even though older children will know that they are angry, it is also supportive to their feelings to tell them that you know they are angry.
3. Teach your child some anger management techniques . The techniques I have given for adults are equally helpful for children.
4. Be aware of when your child is beginning to get angry. Gently
make them aware that this is happening and encourage them to try some
of the techniques you have worked on together.
5. At a time when they are calm, talk about anger with them. Encourage them to look at what makes them angry. It helps some children to have the opportunity to express themselves creatively. They can try drawing pictures of their anger, writing stories or poems about it or acting out situations that make them angry using dolls or other toys. You could also share age appropriate stories about how other people have managed their anger, etc.
6. When you see your child handling his/her anger effectively, tell them that you noticed what happened and praise them for the way they handled the situation. Take a moment to discuss with them what they did that changed their feelings and made them able to respond better; this will help reinforce what worked for them.
7. With young children especially, having some kind of reward system in place can sometimes be helpful. Be careful, though, not to let this replace your expressions of love and praise.
Anger Management for Children Resources
A very useful book for older children and for parents to use with younger children is Starving the Anger Gremlin: Anger Management for Young People People by Kate Collins-Donnelly. This book gives many helpful anger management for children techniques and tools for teaching your children to recognise and deal with their anger. In fact, it is great for helping parents manage their anger as well. I have found it invaluable both for myself and my children.
A book for parents dealing with children with more serious anger issues is
The Explosive Child
. The descriptive piece about the book says this: What's an
explosive child? A child who responds to routine problems with extreme
frustration - crying, screaming, swearing, kicking, hitting, biting,
spitting, destroying property, and worse. A child whose frequent, severe
outbursts leave his or her parents feeling frustrated, scared, worried,
and desperate for help. Most of these parents have tried everything -
reasoning, explaining, punishing, sticker charts, therapy, medication -
but to no avail. They can't figure out why their child acts the way he
or she does; they wonder why the strategies that work for other kids
don't work for theirs; and they don't know what to do instead. Dr. Ross
Greene, a distinguished clinician and pioneer in the treatment of kids
with social, emotional, and behavioural challenges, has worked with
thousands of explosive children, and he has good news: these kids aren't
attention-seeking, manipulative, or unmotivated, and their parents
aren't passive, permissive pushovers. Rather, explosive kids are lacking
some crucial skills in the domains of flexibility/adaptability,
frustration tolerance, and problem solving, and they require a different
approach to parenting. Throughout this compassionate, insightful, and
practical book, Dr. Greene...explains why traditional parenting and
treatment often don't work with these children, and he describes what to
do instead. Instead of relying on rewarding and punishing, Dr. Greene's
Collaborative Problem Solving model promotes working with explosive
children to solve the problems that precipitate explosive episodes, and
teaching these kids the skills they lack.
Books to read to children about anger include:
Mad Isn't Bad – Well illustrated and full of situations in which a child might get angry. Very helpful as a tool for discussing anger. The last pages are religious in content, so might not suit everyone.
The Huge Bag of Worries – This book covers many emotions as well as anger. I read this to with my youngest daughter who worried a lot and we both found it a useful tool to help her talk about her worries and her anger. It’s also a lovely, well written story.
I Feel Angry
– A great book for children aged about 4-7 or those who are learning
disabled. Helps children to understand their anger and to realise that
everyone feels angry sometimes. The pictures are both funny and well
drawn. This available on amazon.co.uk but not on amazon.com.
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