Self-management, which includes the ability to manage emotions like anger, is one of the key social and emotional learning skills that children should develop.
Some children may lack strategies for thinking through the situations that are troubling them. They may find it difficult to know what is making them angry or to talk about their feelings.
Talking with children in supportive ways about angry feelings helps to teach them effective ways of managing anger.
Learning skills for understanding and dealing with anger will make it easier for children to solve problems, get help when needed and be more relaxed around others.
What do children get angry about?
Researchers have found that children feel angry (rather than sad) when they believe that the negative situation they are concerned about can or should be changed.
Usually, feelings of anger are directed towards someone or something that children would like to change.
Anger can be quite noticeable in toddlers who often express it through tantrums and other aggressive actions.
However, as they grow and develop, most children learn how to deal with some of the frustrations of everyday life. They also learn how to express their anger in acceptable ways.
Four tips on helping children learn how to manage anger
Children need to know that anger is a normal human emotion and that there are acceptable and safe ways to express it.
They need to learn that having angry feelings is normal and okay, but that reacting aggressively towards others when they’re angry is not.
They need to feel understood and supported rather than judged or blamed for feeling angry.
Here are four tips to help you:
- Be a model for children - Children learn effective ways of managing anger from seeing adults manage their anger effectively. Show them how you use appropriate ways to tell others you are angry and sort out problems.
- Discuss feelings - using words to discuss anger, frustration, annoyance, irritation helps children learn that having angry feelings is normal and is something that can be talked about.
- Anticipate and prepare – identify situations that often trigger angry responses and being prepared to offer support.
- Use positive discipline - providing specific praise when children manage their anger well supports their learning.
The ‘cool down’ steps to teach children
It is best to wait until a child is calm and relaxed to talk about angry feelings. When angry feelings are running high it is very hard for children to listen and think clearly.
Finding a way to calm down is also an important part of managing anger, and teaching your child the ‘cool down’ steps is a useful strategy.
1. Recognise that you are angry
- notice the body signals that mean you’re angry, such as getting hot, heart racing, and tense muscles
- give a number from 1 to 10 to show how angry you are.
2. Cool down your body
- breathe slowly
- take time-out in a quiet place
- go for a walk, do something physical
- draw how you feel.
3. Use coping self-talk
- “It’s okay. I can handle this.”
4. Try to solve the problem
- talk to someone who is a good listener.
- plan what to do next time.
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