Helping children deal with anger
Kim Allen, Ph.D., M.F.T., director, Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting, state specialist, HDFS, University of Missouri Extension & Christina Crawford, M.A., former extension associate, HDFS, University of Missouri Extension
We all get angry — anger is a natural and useful emotion as
it lets us know that something needs to change. It is how we
deal with our anger that gives the emotion a bad reputation.
Children learn how to deal with anger by watching the adults in
their lives, so it is important to learn how to express anger in
appropriate ways. Here are some things parents can do to help
children express anger effectively:
- Anger is a natural emotion
Let children know that it’s OK to feel angry, but it’s not OK to hurt someone because you are angry.
- Teach children to use their words
Young children may not have the words to express how they feel. Help children learn how to express their anger by giving them words to say, like “I don’t like it when you…”
- Acknowledge your child’s anger
Let your child know that you understand his or her anger or frustration. Validate feelings by saying something like “I see you are very angry.”
- Encourage your child to share feelings
Teach your child to recognize and talk about angry feelings in a positive way. Give your child your full attention and help them by having them repeat your words. You could say something like “It really made me mad when you…”
- Be a good role model
Show your child appropriate ways to deal with anger through your own behaviors. What you do may be more important than what you say.
- Help your child calm down
Teach your child some ways to calm down when angry. For a young child, redirect his or her attention to another activity. For older children, try having them draw or write down their feelings.
- Set clear limits
Let your child know what behavior is acceptable when he or she is angry and what behavior is not acceptable. You could say, “Saying you are mad or spending time alone is OK, but hitting is never OK.”
- Focus on good behaviors
Reward your child with attention and acknowledgement when he or she deals with anger in a positive way.
- Use empathy
Think about how your child may be thinking and feeling, and look at the situation from your child’s point of view. If your child’s anger has to do with another person, teach empathy to your child by pointing out how the other person might be feeling. You could say something like “How would you feel if…”
- Teach through books
Read children’s books to your child on dealing with angry feelings. A couple of good anger books include:
- “When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang
- “I Was So Mad” by Mercer Mayer
Adapted from Connecting For Families curriculum.
Last Updated 07/07/2009