When you have an angry child, chances are it takes every ounce of your being to keep your cool. Between the irrational reasons they get angry, or how quickly they blow up, to not knowing what to do to get them to calm down, it can be really frustrating. Like I’m constantly trying to remember that I’m the adult and the one that has control over my emotions and my daughter hasn’t learned that yet.
You also may be prone to reacting to their anger with frustration and anger yourself. I’ve found it’s very helpful to keep a cheat sheet around the house of what to do to help your child handle anger and I read it over a few times a day because it keeps it fresh on my mind!
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When your child becomes angry, one or more of these tips can help them to cool down quickly and learn what to do next time!
Blow the house down- One of the tricks I use to help my daughter cool down when she is angry is by getting her to take deep breaths. Now she was not havin’ it when I suggested “take some deep breaths”! But when I said it in a different way, “try to blow the house down, try to blow me over,” then she became way more willing to try it.
Of course I would get silly with it and pretend like she was actually blowing me over and it worked! She started laughing and taking huge breaths to blow me over. When we use this technique, she quickly forgets about being angry because she is having fun!
Role play with toys- Sometimes kids don’t want to talk to you because they are upset or they feel you were in the wrong and aren’t trying to hear your side of things. Sometimes they have a hard time expressing their feelings in a one-on-one situation (like right after they were angry).
Using toys and role-playing the situation can be a great tool to use to open up conversation! Kids love to play and I have found my daughter is more willing to open up when the toys are talking to each other. So I use this opportunity to role-play what happened and talk through what could have been done differently. It’s really interesting to hear her point of view through her playing. When she is angry, she tends to not want to hear what I have to say. But she is more willing to listen when the toy is talking.
Ask how they would feel if a specific person does that hurtful action to them- I use this technique when she says hurtful things or when she and her brother get into fights. Instead of using the general terminology and saying how would you feel if someone did this to you, I ask how would you feel if (I, your brother, her friend) did this to her? When I personalize it, she actually thinks about how she would feel if that person said or did that hurtful thing to her. Using a specific name also helps her think about what she could do to make that person feel better because again, it isn’t just a faceless person, it’s personalized.
Ask them in their words what happened/why they feel so mad- This one can be hard for me because I really try to get my daughter to talk about why she is so mad or what she thinks happened. But then when she does and I can clearly see the inaccurate parts of her story, I tend to interrupt her to correct her. I know this isn’t what you should do because instead of just listening to her, I’m interrupting her and putting my opinions over hers. So I have really been making an effort of just listening to her from start to finish. Sometimes just getting all these thoughts out can help diffuse her anger because all she wants is to be heard.
Ask what they want the solution to be- So once ‘A’ processes what happened, I ask her what she would like to happen now that the situation is over. Sometimes she says I don’t know, and other times she will have a solution like she wants to give someone a hug or apologize. If she says she doesn’t know, then I’ll offer a couple possibilities and see if she is open to them.
Let them know you understand their feelings, even if the end result isn’t exactly what they want- Many times ‘A’ feels like she has been wronged or someone did something to her and that’s why she became angry. When she is done telling me about the situation I always tell her that I hear what she is saying. I will repeat back the main points of her thoughts because again, it goes back to your kids wanting to feel like they are being listened to. So I let her know that I understand she is angry and that it’s ok to feel that way, but she will not, (get the toy at that time, get the snack she wants right then, etc).
Let them know their feelings are ok, but physically acting out isn’t appropriate- I always make it a point to let ‘A’ know that it is ok to feel any way she wants to. She is allowed to feel angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, etc., but she is never allowed to physically take those feelings out on anyone, (like hitting, throwing things, or slamming doors).
Related: How To Handle Tantrums Like A Boss
Let them know what they can do instead- So when I tell her she isn’t allowed to physically take her anger out, I remind ‘A’ of what she is allowed to do when she’s angry. She’s allowed to take some time alone, she can politely ask her brother or me to leave her room if she’d like time alone, she can blow the house down, draw her feelings, look at books, listen to music, and things like that.
When you use these tactics to help a young child handle anger, it helps both of you. Obviously it helps them to cool down quickly but it helps you remember to calmly respond to your kid. Cause when you greet fire with fire, you just get more fire… These tips can help your child mellow out much more quickly and figure out what to do next time they feel angry!
What are some ways you help your young child handle anger?