Anger Management: Teach Children How to Deal with Their Anger

What is anger?

Anger is a natural emotion. It’s often a response to feeling threatened, mistreated, or blocked from reaching a goal. Anger can be healthy when it gives energy to correct wrongs. But anger that is out of control can be dangerous for your child and for others.

It’s best to teach children how to manage anger before they enter their teenage years. The earlier children learn these skills, the better they will be able to deal with anger in healthy ways.

What is anger management?

Managing anger does not mean that your child never feels angry or that your child holds in anger and never expresses it. Learning to manage anger means:

  • Knowing what triggers your child’s anger
  • Recognizing when your child is getting angry
  • Teaching your child ways to deal with anger in healthy ways

Healthy ways for your child to deal with anger include:

  • Take a time out. Teach your child to go for a walk or into another room for 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Think about something else. For young children, blowing pretend bubbles is a good technique. It is easy and teaches your child to take long, slow breaths. Start by blowing real bubbles using a bubble solution and wand and then have your child pretend he is blowing bubbles the same way but without the bubble solution and wand. Teach your child to do this as soon as he starts to feel frustrated or upset. Teach older children to do something physical, such as walking, running, or bicycling. Listening to music and singing along can also be a good distraction.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Teach your child to:
    • Take several deep, slow breaths.
    • Relax all muscles one group at a time–for example, start with the forehead and scalp muscles, then the jaws, the neck, and so on.
    • Imagine a comforting or pleasant scene.
  • Delay responses. When your child feels angry, teach him to count to 10. Learning a phrase like “relax, calm down” that can be repeated under stress can be very helpful. For an older child, it helps to use self talk, such as, “I do not have to let this bother me. This will pass. It’s not a big deal.”
  • Express feelings in words. Teach your child to use words rather than hitting, biting, throwing things, or having tantrums. Help your child learn to use “I” statements, such as “I feel that…” rather than sounding like he is blaming or attacking the other person.
  • Talk about it. Encourage your child to talk with a trusted friend, family member, teacher, coach, or healthcare provider about life stresses to help him calm down.

How can I help my child?

To help your child learn, you can:

  • Remind your child to practice new ways to manage anger. The sooner you prompt your child, the easier it will be for him to try it. Don’t wait until your child loses control.
  • Reward your child’s positive behaviors. Rewards can help your child learn healthy ways to manage anger. With your child, make a list of rewards that he can earn by practicing the behavior every day. Also be sure to tell your child when you notice your child expressing anger in words, practicing relaxation techniques, or taking a time out.
  • Read or tell stories to your child about anger to help him get ideas of good ways to cope with his feelings. Tell your child about times when you have been angry and stressed and what you did.
  • Set a good example and deal with your child in a quiet, calm manner. When you discipline your child, use time-outs rather than yelling or hitting your child.

If your child still has problems handling anger, talk with your child’s healthcare provider or a mental health professional.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-10-24
Last reviewed: 2013-10-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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