Help Your Child Manage Anger
by Naomi Drew, M.A.
author of Hope and Healing
Parents, here are some sure-fire tips for helping your child effectively deal with anger
Teach abdominal breathing. Have your child take a slow deep breath through the nose all the way down to the stomach. Have her expand her stomach as she breathes in. Then have her slowly release the breath and deflate her stomach. Repeating this three times lowers the level on stress and anger.
Have your child identify body responses. In order to gain control, we need to be aware of our physical reactions to anger. Help your child describe what happens in her body - pounding heart, dry mouth, stomach pains, rapid breathing, etc. Let her know that all of these responses are normal and that it is possible to calm down when she feels them.
Teach Cooling off. Sit down with your child at a neutral time and help her list at least eight things she can do to feel better when shes upset, angry or afraid: getting a drink of water, walking out of the room, drawing, writing, listening music, physical exercise or movement, talking to someone, plus more. Have the child keep her cooling off list in a visible place she can refer to easily. Keep adding to the list.
Help your child develop a calming statement he can make in the face of anger. Anger is fueled by physical reactions and the thoughts we think. Aggressive thoughts intensify anger, calming statements help equalize emotions. Teach your child to substitute aggressive thoughts with calming ones like I can handle this, Have him envision angry situations replaying the scenario while picturing himself repeating his calming statement. Have him picture himself maintaining control.
Rehearse using Stop, Breathe, Chill. At a neutral time, talk with your child about situations that bring on her angry feelings. Have her visualize herself stopping, breathing, and calming down. Let your child see you using Stop, breathe, chill when you get mad. That way, when she rehearses, shell have your example to go by.
Teach your child to use I messages. Teach this at a neutral time too. Help him express what hes upset about starting from I not you. Like, Im really mad that you grabbed the remote control out of my hand, instead of, You idiot, give that back! I messages express what we feel without placing blame. You messages make the conflict worse.
When your child is angry have him cool off first, then when he s calm enough to think rationally, have him give the other person the I message. Help him be aware of his tone of voice, facial expression, and body language too. Nonverbal communications are just as powerful as what comes out of our mouths.
Help your child debrief from angry episodes. At a neutral time after your child has calmed down, talk about what happened. Help your child identify what triggered him. Then brainstorm acceptable options, like, Walk away for a minute, take a breath, and think about what you can do . Be 100% clear that it is absolutely unacceptable to hurt oneself, others, or property regardless of how angry you get.
Parents and teachers have shared other wonderful ways to help children manage anger. A 5th grade special ed teacher told the story of an explosive student who became physical whenever he got angry, upset, or frustrated. Realizing this child needed a physical release, she happened upon the perfect solution - brushing. One day when the child was verging on rage she handed him an old scrub brush and said, Here, brush the carpet as hard as you can! The child began brushing and brushing with great intensity, until his rage dissipated. It was a turning point. Since that day, instead of acting out, the child brushes the carpet in long deep strokes until his anger is completely released.
One mother talked about using water as a tool for soothing anger in her daughter. She would fill the sink, have her put her hands in the water, and play. The feel of the water was a calming distraction that worked. Her daughter would come away from the sink refreshed and in a calmer frame of mind. She could then talk over the problem shed had and seek solutions.
Using a soothing voice is another key. A teacher of an explosive 4th grader shared how, when the child was on the floor wailing, she bent down and gently whispered, Youre going to be OK. The bad feelings will pass. Im here Her quiet reassuring voice calmed him and helped him regain his composure.
We can never erase anger from the spectrum of human emotions, but we can find new and healthier ways of dealing with it. It is essential to teach children to do this; we cant leave it up to chance. In this age of pervasive violence, helping children make new choices is essential.
Naomi Drew is recognized around the world as an expert on conflict resolution and peacemaking in schools and homes. Hailed as visionary, her work has enabled educators, parents, and people of all ages to live together more cooperatively.
Her work has been recognized by educational leaders throughout the country. People of all ages have attested to durable changes in their relationships after applying the principles Drew outlines. Her work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV and she currently serves as a parenting expert for Classroom Close-ups, a public television show.
She is the author of four books, serves as a consultant to school districts, leads seminars, and runs parenting courses. Her latest book is Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World. Visit www.learningpeace.com for more information on Naomi Drew and her work.
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