In a perfect world, every day would be great and our children would happily comply with all our demands, and follow all our expectations. Our kids wouldn’t need anger management skills because they’d never be angry.
But the reality is – things happen almost every day that make us angry.
Anger management is a critical life skill that our children need to learn.
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How do you teach kids about anger management?
- First, teach children about what anger is, and that it is a normal emotion we all experience. Your child shouldn’t feel ashamed of their emotions
- Teach kids how to recognize how anger feels in their own bodies
- Provide and demonstrate healthy anger coping techniques
- Help your child co-regulate and coach them through coping with their anger until they can do it on their own.
Explaining Anger to Children
Anger is a really unpleasant emotion to experience. If your child doesn’t even understand what anger is, the physiological responses can be scary. Imagine not understanding what is happening to your body, all you can do is react.
That is how it feels for a lot of kids.
Reassure your child that anger is normal. Tell them it happens to everybody and it is a temporary feeling that will soon pass.
Let them know that it’s okay to feel mad about things but it’s important to control your actions.
You should also tell your child about things that make you feel angry and share stories about times when you felt really mad.
Books About Anger:
Reading children’s books about anger can help your child better understand what anger is. The best kids’ books about anger are written in a way that your child can easily understand and relate to.
Soda Pop Head
Soda Pop Head is a fun and rhyming book that teaches children about anger by comparing it to a can of soda and how if you shake it, it will eventually explode.
It’s written by Julia Cook who has published over 100 children’s stories for social-emotional development.
When my own son was frustrated on a school assignment he actually drew a picture of soda pop head next to the question he didn’t know how to answer.
That was exciting to me because it showed that the book explained the concept in a way that he could relate to and understand.
The Red Beast
The Red Beast was written specifically for children with autism, but it’s a great story for all kids.
It explains that everyone has a red beast inside of them (anger). Although the red beast is usually sleeping – sometimes something happens (a trigger) to wake him up. Then, the red beast needs to be tamed.
The book also provides some information for parents about how children are affected by anger.
Kids Anger Management Worksheet – Recognizing Your Body’s Anger Cues
Children need to know their own body’s cues that they are feeling angry.
Not everyone has the same physiological response to anger, but there are some pretty common responses and we all experience some of them.
This anger worksheet will help your child identify what anger does to their body.
Complete the activity with your child. They may need some help going through each of the anger cues or may be unsure if something applies to them or not.
There are no right or wrong answers, it’s just to help draw more awareness to what being angry feels like.When I Feel Angry…
Stress tolerance is the amount of stress you can handle before becoming overwhelmed. This level varies from person to person – and can also vary for individuals based on other factors, such as being hungry or ill.
A certain amount of stress is healthy – it motivates us to get things done. But once the amount of stress you’re experiencing surpasses your stress tolerance level, you get overwhelmed.
Likewise, everyone has a breaking point – which is the maximum amount of stress you can tolerate before just exploding.
Children with anger management issues may actually have a very low stress tolerance level and their breaking point may not be far from the tolerance level.
In the diagram above, you can see that Person A has quite a high stress tolerance level, and they can handle much more stress before reaching their breaking point and boiling over in anger.
Person B, however, has a very low stress tolerance. Likewise, their breaking point is just above their tolerance level.
Person B may be prone to anger outbursts and frequently high levels of frustration.
Explosive children have a low level of stress tolerance. However, you can increase your tolerance levels.
This happens over time, by being exposed to manageable amounts of stress, using the right coping strategies to stay calm, and developing the right anger management skills, too.
Keep this in mind when placing expectations and demands on your child.
Social Scripts and Discussion Prompts about Anger
This 12-page booklet covers feeling angry, feeling grumpy, and feeling sadness. A lot of times when people feel other strong emotions they act mad, so the sadness sheets may be helpful, too.
These are designed to be read out loud with your child, they’re age-appropriate for elementary students, I’ve done them with my 6 and 9-year-old.
Use the questions as a way to open up a discussion about anger and how to cope.
Kids may want to write the answers down on the sheet themselves but for us, I took notes on the sheets and really used the discussion questions as a starting point to help my kids become more self-aware and understand their emotions.Anger & Sadness Booklet
Kids Anger Management & Coping Skills
It’s important to teach your child healthy anger management skills.
When your child knows how to identify anger in their body, and knows the right anger coping skills to use when they’re mad – they’ll be able to (eventually) self-monitor and use coping strategies at the earliest signs of anger.
Until that point, you’ll have to help them with these skills by modeling them and coaching your child to use them when needed.
Kids Anger Management skills to try:
- Take a break – One of the most important skills. Taking a break and re-regulating before expressing your anger will reduce angry outbursts.
- Deep Breathing – Deep breathing exercises help us to calm our bodies down, lessening the physiological response to anger, making it easier to cope.
- Exercise – Exercising releases endorphins, which improves mood. It also helps break down cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones).
- Yoga – Another great way to release anger. It provides the benefits of exercise and deep breathing, while also providing proprioceptive and vestibular input.
- Counting to 10 – Teach your child to think before they speak when they’re angry, by counting to 10 before responding.
- Visualization – Visualization can be a helpful coping strategy for some children. It involves closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a safe and relaxing environment. You can download a visualization poster for free here.
Granted, this part can be challenging, especially for children who struggle with emotional self-regulation.
These skills need to be taught and practiced when your child is not angry. You can not teach kids anger management in the moment.
There are lots of different anger games out there to help teach kids anger management.
Children learn best through play, so games are one of the best ways to introduce anger management concepts to kids.
But, kids are also going to need plenty of real-life practice, which they’ll only get from being angry and working through it.
The more they practice the better they will be.
Here are some anger games to try:
Problem Solving Skills & Cognitive Flexibility
Both problem-solving and cognitive flexibility are executive functions.
Usually, children with behavior problems, such as anger management challenges, have a developmental delay in executive functioning.
Problem-solving and cognitive flexibility are two very important skills required for anger management.
Learn more about how to improve each of these abilities:
Model Healthy Anger Management Skills
Children learn more from what they see us doing than from what we tell them to do.
If you’re telling your child to take deep breaths and take a break when they get mad … but you’re screaming and throwing things; your child is not going to learn to manage their anger appropriately.
Many adults struggle with managing their own temper. So make sure you’re taking the time to practice skills yourself, model the behavior you want to see, and practice self-care to reduce stress.
How do you cope with anger? Let me know in the comments!
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