- Anger management helps children and teens develop the ability to regulate their emotions effectively.
- As a child's emotion coach, a parent can help them identify anger triggering situations and coping skills.
- Emotion regulation, healthy communication, active listening and conflict-resolution skills are valuable tools.
Learning to manage their anger is an important aspect of a child's emotional development. Anger management helps children and teens develop the ability to regulate their emotions effectively. It teaches them how to recognize and understand their feelings of anger, allowing them to respond to those emotions in a more controlled and constructive manner. Learning to manage anger helps prevent outbursts, aggression, and destructive behavior, Below is a brief description of three effective strategies to help lower your child's anger. (For more, see my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child.)
Teach and model emotional regulation techniques
- Positive self-talk. Encourage your child to replace negative thoughts with more self-compassionate and flexible ones. For example, instead of "I suck and nothing ever goes right for me," coach your child to say, "Yeah, this is hard but it is not the end of the world." Share how reframing negative beliefs into more helpful ones is good for everyone — not just them. As your child's emotion coach, you can help them identify and challenge negative beliefs, replacing them with more constructive and optimistic statements.
- Count to 10. Teach your child to count to 10 before reacting impulsively when they are angry. This simple technique allows them to take a moment and regain control before responding. (For more on the power of creating a brief pause before reacting to angry impulses, click here.)
- Deep breathing. Encourage your child to take deep breaths when they feel angry. Teach them to inhale slowly through their nose and exhale through their mouth. Practicing deep breathing regularly can help them calm down in stressful situations.
Foster open communication and active listening
- Create a safe space. Ensure that your child feels comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of judgment or punishment. Let them know that anger is a natural emotion, and it's okay to feel angry, but it's also important to express it appropriately.
- Active listening. When your child is angry, actively listen to their concerns without interrupting or dismissing their feelings. Reflect on what they're saying to show that you understand and validate their emotions. This will help them feel heard and can defuse their anger.
Teach problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills
- Identify triggers. Help your child recognize the situations, events, or people that tend to trigger their anger. By identifying these triggers, they can learn to anticipate and manage their emotional response better.
- Explore solutions. Encourage your child to brainstorm and explore different solutions to the problems or conflicts they encounter. Teach them to consider the consequences of their actions and their impact on others, promoting empathy and understanding.
- Practice empathy and perspective-taking. Help your child develop empathy by encouraging them to consider how others might feel in a particular situation. This can help them develop a more understanding and compassionate attitude, which can lower their anger levels.
The Story of Alex
Alex was an angry teen who was initially hesitant about seeing me for counseling but reluctantly agreed to give it a try. Even though they thought it was "kinda stupid," Alex started an "Anger Journal." Each time Alex felt angry, they would write down what triggered the anger and how they responded to it. This would help Alex become more aware of the patterns and understand the emotions better.
As Alex began journaling, patterns indeed started to emerge. Alex realized that anger often arose when things didn't go as planned or when feeling misunderstood by others. They began learning some valuable techniques to manage anger effectively.
First, Alex discovered the power of deep breathing. Whenever anger started to bubble up, Alex would take deep breaths, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. This simple act helped calm the racing heart and bring a sense of control.
Next, Alex explored the importance of communication. Instead of lashing out in anger, Alex learned to express feelings calmly and assertively. By using "I" statements, Alex could express emotions without blaming others. For instance, instead of saying, "You always make me mad when you interrupt me," Alex would say, "I feel frustrated when I'm interrupted because I want to finish what I'm saying."
Furthermore, Alex discovered the power of positive self-talk. Instead of allowing negative thoughts to take over during moments of anger, Alex started repeating affirmations like, "I can handle this calmly," or "I choose to respond with kindness." This helped shift the focus from anger to a more constructive mindset.
As time went on, Alex's anger journal became filled with various techniques that worked for different situations. Alex even started to engage in activities like yoga and meditation to promote inner peace and emotional balance.
One day, Alex faced a particularly challenging situation. They had been preparing for a school talent show for weeks, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the show was canceled at the last minute. Alex felt an overwhelming surge of anger welling up, threatening to burst.
Remembering the lessons learned, Alex took deep breaths and reminded themself that it was okay to feel disappointed and angry. Alex acknowledged and told me about this disappointment. I gently reminded Alex that sometimes things are beyond our control and that it's essential to find new ways to channel energy and passion. Alex's anger management journey taught them that anger is a natural emotion, but it's how we choose to respond to it that shapes our lives.
Remember: Each child is unique, and it's essential to tailor strategies to their age and developmental stage. Consistency, patience, and support are key in helping your child manage their anger effectively. If you have ongoing concerns about your child's anger or if their anger becomes disruptive or harmful, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a qualified professional, such as a child psychologist or therapist.
Bernstein, J. (2017), Letting Go of Anger Card Deck, PESI Publilshing
Bernstein, J. (2015). 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child, 2nd. Ed. Perseus Books
Bernstein, J. (2020). The Anxiety, Depression, & Anger Toolbox for Teens, Eau Claire, WI: PESI Publishing.
Grossman, R.A., Ehrenreich-May, J. (2020). Using the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders With Youth Exhibiting Anger and Irritability, Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, Volume 27, Issue 2, 2020, Pages 184-201, ISSN 1077-7229,
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