Do you have a child who struggles with anger or a big temper? Perhaps you struggle with anger triggers yourself, mama. I hope this post helps.
“It’s okay if you get angry, you know,” I said to my 4 year old son.
He cocked his head and looked at me with a puzzled expression and said… “Really?”
Clearly, my teaching about anger hadn’t really hit the mark.
And, since there are so many of us in our household (meaning there are multiple chances to get angry every 5 minutes) I really wanted this lesson to hit home. I needed everyone to understand where anger comes from and how to handle it.
This is important for us all as they are little and for them as they grow up. Because frustration is anger’s kinsman and frustration can make stronger adults.
Teaching Children Healthy Expressions of Anger
Kids are gonna get angry just like adults get angry. The key is not to make your children suppress their feelings, but to learn emotional intelligence.
Teach How Emotions Are Neutral
Let me ask you a question. I want you to think seriously about your answer. Are emotions bad or good? If we’re honest, most of us would probably say this: some are bad, some are good. But the truth is, emotions are neutral.
They are neither bad nor good, they simply are. They are a result of life, circumstances, thoughts, situations, and a person’s history.
Kids can’t help having feelings. If you treat their feelings as something that needs to be covered or stuffed they’ll be confused.
They’ll also feel ashamed since, we now know, feelings can’t be helped. We can empathize with our children’s emotions without allowing them to act crazy.
One way we can teach our children about emotions, and anger in particular, is through books, games, or toys. They already want to play so incorporating lessons into play kill two birds with one stone. We’ve been regularly using the Moodsters Feeling Notebook above.
It came with big fat crayons (which the kids keep fighting over which gives more opportunity to talk about anger) and the pages are separated via emotions. It’s a great tool to talk about individual emotions and why we feel what we feel.
Emotions are a H U G E part of a young child’s life. These “I Am Feeling” cards will reduce tantrums, meltdowns, and help your little one learn emotional awareness.Learn More
Teach How Anger Can Be Released
Anger is an emotion that has energy. This means, if you’re angry, you want to do something. Punch a wall, scream, hit bite, eat, yell at someone, or run away. When you’re angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up. You release adrenaline, you start breathing faster, and your muscles tense up.
This is why kids hit, bite, scream, or flail around when they’re ticked off.
Trying to teach your child to act calm and still when they’re mad is not practical nor is it healthy. Of course, hitting a sibling or screaming in mommy’s face ain’t healthy either. Hence the need for safe habits of anger release.
Here are some ways they can get the anger out without hurting others or themselves:
- take a deep breath
- draw or write out feelings (journaling is a good habit for adults too)
- scream into a pillow (this is good for adults too)
- exercise (running in place, jumping up and down, punching said pillow)
- go outside and throw sticks or dirt (not at siblings)
Teach Your Child To Ask Themselves Why
This is a huge step in raising children who are self-aware.
My kids like to scream and flail and whine and run after each other in anger. Good times at the Norman house. Often they’ll come to me to explain a situation and I ask them one question, “Why?”
I like them to think. I have Big Emotions myself so their outbursts don’t really annoy me. I wouldn’t expect anything different from my offspring.
I’d like them to get deeper than just “he said this” or “he did that.” For example, it bothers my son that his brother is building with the blocks because he wanted to create an airplane and leave it on his dresser to see for a few days.
The above stuffed animal (or soft toy as they call it in Australia) is named Razzy. The boys have been carrying him around for days and he says things like “I’m so frustrated” or “I’m angry.“
The Moodster Talking Plush Toy, and the activity and sticker book that comes with it, helps normalize feelings of anger. It helps the kids think about these things. This takes some of the power away from the Big Emotion when it comes.
Teach How to (And Not to) Respond in Anger
It’s hard for a child to stop themselves right after they feel an angry feeling but before doing something instinctual… like hitting.
But if you repeat your expectations over and over again they’ll get the hang of it. Still, anger needs an outlet. They need to be able to respond appropriately to what irked them. I teach my kids to do the following things:
- Take a minute to release the anger and calm down. If they want to go scream, go away from the rest of us and scream. If they want to hit something or yell, go to their room and do it in peace.
- Then they can talk rationally and calmly and fix the issue.
This sounds very crazy and mature for little kids to do and, you know what, you’re right. 60% of the time they react then backtrack. But 40% of the time they attempt to problem solve without losing it. I’d say that’s good.
The goal isn’t to have kids who don’t get angry.
The goal is not to raise kids who squash their emotions.
The goal is to raise children who can manage their emotions in a healthy way.