Helping Your Child With Anger

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Your son is playing outside with friends when you call him to come in to get cleaned up for bed. He stomps into the house, slamming the door to show you just how unhappy he is.

Your daughter is at gymnastics class. When it’s her turn for the bars skill, she tries twice unsuccessfully to do it. Then, she bursts into tears and screams she’ll never do gymnastics again.

Anger is a normal emotion in the early school-age years. Many things can trigger anger — a conflict over possessions, siblings wanting to watch different television shows, the inability to complete a task and experiencing teasing or rejection. Our job as parents is to help minimize the situations that trigger anger and teach our children to handle anger in acceptable ways.

A good way to start is to encourage your child think about things that trigger anger. Is he frustrated about schoolwork or a bully? Is he having difficulty sharing time and attention? Sit down with your child and talk about things that might make him lose his cool. Let him know there are things that get you upset, too.

By helping your child discover what triggers the anger and teaching him or her to deal with it, you’ll have a calmer, happier child. Here are more ways to guide your child toward the ability to vent appropriately and self-soothe.

Prompt your child to label feelings of anger. When she’s feeling angry, is he annoyed her brother destroyed her Lego creation? Is the upset someone called her a name? Or is she frustrated she doesn’t understand a math problem? Allow her to express her feelings using respectful and appropriate language.

Maintain a calm setting at home. Modeling appropriate anger-management yourself lets your child feel emotionally safe and reduces the chances that he’ll lose his cool. And, if certain things upset your child, try to minimize those events. For instance, if your child often gets angry when told it’s bedtime, warn him 10 minutes ahead and again five minutes ahead. This will help prepare him and give him a chance to make a smoother transition to bedtime.

Suggest positive ways to express or deal with anger. This may mean your son needs to leave a situation and take time to cool down. Maybe he needs to do a physical activity to work off the anger, such as shooting baskets or throwing a ball. Share with your child times you’ve been upset and how you handled it.

Talk about ways to calm down. Being alone, listening to music and talking it out may work for your child when things get overwhelming. Your daughter may like to draw to express her feelings and soothe herself. If she lets off the steam by punching or kicking, make sure it’s a pillow or ball that is getting punched or kicked.

Encourage resolution. Bottled up anger can lead to resentment, bitterness, and a desire to get even. Help your child discover ways to calm down and let go of the anger.