Knowing how to support your child with his anger can be challenging at times. Even as adults it’s hard to tame our anger dragons. Helping our kids learn how to deal with anger to transform it into healthy expression and to avoid violence or manipulation is a tool that will benefit them their entire life. Anger is a very important signal that brings lots of information in its wake. There are many many ways to help kids deal with anger. I’m going to include a couple of anger relaxation tools of mine here and some other quick calm down ideas, but I will also include some resources that I have found helpful when working with kids to release and tame their anger dragons.
Of course there are a couple of different levels of working with anger dragons. According to child care St Kilda east the first step is to calm down and develop tools to be able to respond when feeling anger. The second step is to work on the deeper level of knowing the triggering events,thoughts and perceptions contributing to the anger and working through those. The second step sometimes requires the support of a counselor or therapist. Both steps involve patience, an attitude of acceptance, and mindful attention within. Please be sure to check out the resources at the bottom of this blog post for more ideas on supporting your child with getting his anger out and setting those anger dragons free.
Get as centered and neutral as you can and just listen to what your child has to say about it. Activate a space of acceptance within yourself and truly place all of your attention on your child. Be mindful, centered and genuinely present for you child so that he can express what is going on within him. This is not a time for fixing, changing or explaining, or judging. It’s just a time to listen and hear what your child wants to share. You may not agree with what he is saying, but, believe it or not, simply listening to him in a way that he feels deeply heard, can not be underestimated in its power to diffuse anger and big upset emotions. Breathe deeply if any emotions come up within you or if you feel the urge to “fix” something.
When you are feeling mad, try modeling your problem-solving out loud so that your child can see you process strong emotion. Take breaks, tell your child you are feeling mad inside and you are going to take a “time out to breathe and calm.” Practice relaxation techniques in front of your child. Children learn more from what we are doing and the energy with which we do it, than from what we say, (especially if what we are saying is not what we are practicing). I know, it’s super hard. Take one small step at a time.
3. REHEARSE CALM
During calm, peaceful moments, practice relaxation techniques with your child. Begin to train your brains for relaxation so that you will better be able to make a choice when the strong emotions come up. Our brains, when in BIG upset reaction mode, are actually nearly incapable of higher-order problem-solving and thinking. That’s why we have to build those muscles by rehearsing the techniques when we are calm so that eventually we can RESPOND, (i.e. be at choice), rather than REACT.
Train Your Dragon: Quick/Temporary Calm Down Ideas For Helping Your Child Train His Anger Dragon:
- Do Turtle Time–go inside your shell and take a time out to breathe
- Write in a journal
- Draw anger dragon and talk about it
- Progressive Relaxation (tense and relax your muscles starting from head to toe) (here’s a progressive relaxation activity of mine that can work in the classroom
- Breathing activities
- Guided Meditation to special place
- Talk it out using puppet–have the puppet be the angry one, share, and practice relaxation
- Take a break
- Exercise: run or walk fast around the yard or block
- Hike in nature
- Roll in the snow
1. I love this activity from the “Here We Are Together” blog:
Kids make an “anger puff” and then learn to care for it. What do I love about it? It de-personalizes anger. Anger becomes an emotions that kids have, represented by the anger puff, rather than WHO they are. Instead of “I am angry” it becomes “how can I care for my anger puff right now–what does he need? Let’s give it to him.” This is a very important step in helping kids deal with anger–in realizing it is not who they are, but rather an emotion they have.
2. Make some “cool down cubes” as explained on the “Crafty Counselor Chick” blog:
This is a great, fun way to organize your selected “cool down” activities.
3. Taming the Dragon In Your Child:
Solutions For Breaking The Cycle of Family Anger by Meg Eastman, Ph.D. I like this book because it provides so much information. From how to respond to an angry child, to what “normal” anger looks like, to how to talk to an angry child, to specific challenges such as aggression, anxiety, and impulsivity. Click the book image below to get your copy.
4. Hot Stuff To Help Kids Chill Out by Jerry Wilde, Ph.D. and More Hot Stuff To Help Kids Chill Out: The Anger and Stress Management Book by Jerry Wilde, Ph.D.
I have used these books for years to help kids dive deeper into understanding their anger and to learn ways to deal with it.
5. How To Take the Grrrr Out of Anger by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis
6. Heartmath: EmWave 2 Device and Transforming Anger by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman, Ph.D.
Heartmath is awesome in that your child can directly receive feedback as to how he is feeling and whether his feelings are in sync with joy/gratitude/appreciation or not. Sign up at heartmath.org and read the articles, research, and get an introduction to the heartmath tools that are especially efficient at transforming anger. Your child will learn how to tune into his heart, breathe with his attention on his heart, and then think about something or someone he loves to begin to regulate the coherence, (synchronization) of his heart, mind and body. Love this!!! Kids really respond well to the use of these tools and this device.
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