Handling Anger

Today, I want to teach and discuss anger management.  This can be a hard topic because families live under the same roofs for a long time.  Everyone sooner or later gets angry at something or someone.  It’s important though to teach kids some ground rules about anger.  It may seem counter-intuitive to have rules for a child who loses control.  But, I will tell you these strategies work.

At St. Joseph Children’s Home, one of my main charges was to prepare a kid for an adoption or foster home setting.  Anger management was one of the big hurdles.  Kids who were able to manage anger were much more likely to be placed in a home.  Please notice I didn’t say my role was to suppress anger, eliminate anger, or shut them up. Managing anger is a life skill everyone should have to be successful.

One way I dealt with anger in children was to keep my own emotions in check.  For example, if a child started to yell, the last thing I would do would be to yell back.  Look closely.  I didn’t say I would never yell back but I would keep that option in the bottom of my “tool box.”  When I raise my voice to a child, it literally startles him/her because it’s so out of character for me.

Another trick I used for angry children was to get them to center their anger.  Last week for example, my oldest became angry after learning he wasn’t going to be able to go to a carnival.  When I talked to him, I made sure he knew not to take out his frustrations on my wife due to being angry with me.  All anger was to be taken out on me because I was the one who made the decision.  This is a trick some kids use to get back at those to whom they are angry.  In other words, he/she might demonstrate anger towards mom or their teacher over something dad said or did.

I also don’t want anger to be taken out on property.  At St. Joseph’s, I would have kids who would want to slam doors or beat their head against a window/floor.  When they tried to do this, I’d ask them, “What did that _____ (insert door, window, etc) do to you?”  Destruction of property was a cause for restraining a kid at St. Joseph.  I doubt if I initiated 10 restraints in all of my time there partially due to this psychological ploy.  If any child is angry with me, I want their anger to be centered on me alone.

Finally, the best time to teach about anger is when the child is calm.  If there has been a recent anger episode that wasn’t handled well, sit the child down and teach what he/she could have done better.  I will caution you though to have a plan for what the child can do.  Most parents will only tell the child what they can’t do.  It’s simply not the most effective strategy.

For example, when a child is angry, maybe you should allow them to throw stuffed animals in their room (if it’s age appropriate) or squeeze a stress ball.  Maybe the child can read or watch TV.  What I am trying to say is that there has to be a positive alternative presented that you know the child would enjoy or benefit.  When you don’t do this, the anger episodes will last longer, be more frequent, and possibly escalate to an altercation.

When you are first employing these strategies, it might take a while for them to be effective.  That’s because the child is used to the arguing, screaming, and/or other negative responses to anger.  It may also be because you play into the anger by raising your own voice.  Self discipline is really important.

I hope this helps all who have dealt with angry children.  Once a child is calmer, they are much more likely to open up and talk about/ work through their feelings.

There are other techniques that can be used to deal with anger in the home.  Feel free to leave a comment if a strategy not mentioned worked for you.

My next post will be on Friday.  If you know a parent or two who would like this, please feel free to pass it along.

Have a super week!!!

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  1. weaselmomma says:

    These are some great tips for dealing with children and their outbursts of anger. If I could suggest just one more to the top of the list, it would be to help the child distinguish their feelings of anger from disappointment. Many people, including my own family, often confuse the two emotions. Yet, when thought through, reactions change when the proper emotion gets defined/recognized.

  2. Terri says:

    Great advice! I have 2 young children (ages 2 & 4), so they are just learning about anger management. I've found what works best for my oldest is providing her with a place to calm down and regroup. The hardest part for me, though, is staying calm when dealing with their anger!

  3. Jacky says:

    I'm not a parent, but i was very impressed with your advice. I will definitely pass this blog on to people who will benefit from your words. I'll follow to, because i hope to become a parent one day and the advice you gave definitely makes sense. the more tools you have the better!

  4. Terrific post. We have a child who has trouble controlling his anger so I can relate to these messages. It's a constant work in progress but well worth it.

  5. Excellent post! I particularly like what you said about giving kids an appropriate physical way to express their anger. I think we often think that anger is an emotion that children shouldn't be allowed to express, and then punish them when they do express it in some way. In addition to providing our son with an appropriate physical expression, we also encourage him to tell us how he feels and why he feels that way. It is important for children to learn to identify their feelings and know where they came from. It helps them process those feelings.
    BTW–I know I'm a bit late but I appreciate the follow on networked blogs and facebook and am following you back on both.