Everyone experiences anger, even kids. It's a natural response, so feeling angry isn't a bad thing, but parents need to help their children manage their anger appropriately. Anger can become a problem when paired with aggression (harmful physical action) or hostility. And when anger is met with anger, it can lead to an all-out tantrum in which neither parents nor kids win. Kids need help learning to manage their anger, so it doesn't become a destructive force in their lives.
Try these 5 steps to help your kids learn how to get ahead of anger:
Help Your Kids Recognize Anger. Teach your kids to think of their emotions as temperatures on a thermometer: When their anger builds, the thermometer reads higher. Kids can learn to control or reduce their anger before the temperature rises too high, but first they must be able to recognize anger. This involves noticing changes in their body such as increased heart rate, flushed cheeks, jittery legs, or clenched fists. Point out these things to help your kids link the feeling of anger to these changes in their bodies. Also, when your kids are obviously calm, ask them if they feel any anger—and explain how to tell if they do or don't—to help them differentiate how emotions impact their bodies.
Teach Your Kids How To Zap Anger. To help your kids actively calm down when they begin to get angry, teach them coping skills such as taking deep breaths, counting slowly, or repeating a calming phrase such as, "Anger can't get the best of me." Other useful strategies include identifying your child's anger triggers (specific events or situations that spark anger) and using emotion-coaching tactics. For younger kids, distracting them away from the anger trigger sometimes works. For older kids, help them change their thinking pattern to positive thoughts about themselves or their situation. You'll probably have to try different approaches to figure out what works best for your child.
Teach Kids How To Take A Time-Out. Conflict can create a physical stress reaction in your child's body coupled with a flood of negative emotions. When kids become emotionally overwhelmed, it's hard for them to think clearly or take in new information. Teach your kids it's okay to ask for a time-out. This isn't a punishment. Rather, it's a self-imposed time-out kids can choose to take when they notice they need to calm down. During the time-out, they should separate themselves from the situation and use the coping skills discussed in Step #2. Collaborate with your kids to come up with a phrase to use, such as "I need some me time" or "It's time-out time!".
Coach Kids To Re-Engage When Calm. Once calm (physically and mentally), your child can and should re-engage. Signs that he or she is calming down include: less fidgeting, sitting peacefully, playing with toys as usual, or being able to think about things other than what was making her or him angry. Coach your kids that after taking a time-out and calming down, it's important to readdress what happened. This might mean continuing a conversation or finishing an action (such as putting away toys). Praise your child for managing anger well, and ease him or her back into the discussion or task.
Let Kids Know The Importance Of "Rebounding". Finally, it's important to rebound and interact with kids in a positive way after an anger outburst. Kids need to know their parents still care for them, especially after getting angry and possibly misbehaving. It's possible your child's anger was a trigger for anger in yourself. This can make kids worry they damaged their relationship with you, so tell your kids to be proud they were able to control their anger so well. If necessary, encourage an apology for any wrongdoing that occurred, since taking responsibility for one's actions is also an important skill to learn. And end the exchange with a hug and kiss to help your kids feel loved and accepted.