We all have felt anger or rage, it is a totally normal and healthy human emotion. Since we are born, we can feel it and over time we learn how to moderate and canalize it. As parents, it is good to use positive parenting strategies so that our little ones know how to manage anger.
Why do children get angry?
According to the American Academy of Psychology, there are many things that can make children get angry:
- 0 to 18 months of age, they get angry because of hunger, noise, tiredness or overstimulation.
- 18 to 36 months of age because they want that you give them what they want immediately, they get frustrated when they can’t do what they want, or others don’t understand them.
- 3 to 5 years old, they get angry because they are learning to share things, it is not easy for them to understand that others think differently, they do not know how to control their emotions.
- 6 to 9 years old, they get angry because they feel rejected, criticized, discriminated and misunderstood.
Positive Strategies for Managing Children’s Anger
According to Luz María Peniche, psychoanalyst and author of the book, A Guide to Raising Healthy and Safe Children, no emotion is negative or positive by itself. All of them have one goal, “they function as red flags for others and for ourselves; they are caused by our concerns”.
How can we help our children express and manage their emotions, especially anger?
1. Accept your child’s emotion
Peniche indicates that the only way for children to be on the way to an adequate management of emotions is that we accept and validate them. In other words, we should explain that it is a normal reaction, that he has the right to feel it, but that he must learn to control himself. She uses phrases like:
“I understand that you are angry”.
“Come, I will hug you, let’s take a deep breath; that will help you calm down”.
Tell him about a moment when you got angry, in this way you also validate his affections.
2. Help him express and name it
The next step is to make them feel safe to express themselves and know how to name what they feel: anger, sadness, happiness.
If the child is in the middle of an outburst, remind him of the house rules, but help him turn the anger into words. For example: Use your words to tell me what you feel. What caused that anger? Don’t push your kid, he may need some time before talking. Let him calm down.
3. Let the kid detect the source of his anger
The mere fact of analyzing the cause of anger lowers its intensity. In addition, you reinforce the validation of the feeling. When someone listens to you, you are better able to process the emotion.
“When we identify the source of the anger and frustration and fix the resentment and offense, we help children deal with the emotion”. If it is difficult for him, but you infer what caused his anger, ask him, so that he can identify the cause:
“You got angry because your brother doesn’t want to lend you his toy, didn’t you?” “I know you don’t like to take a bath. I understand it makes you angry, but in that way we are clean and prevent illnesses”.
4. Let him learn to distinguish actions from emotions
Explain that sometimes when we are angry (sad or scared), we feel like disobeying and misbehaving, but go over the house rules.
Your child will understand the message if you make clear statements, without accusations or humiliating words. He has to understand that he should not let emotion take over because an exaggerated anger complicates the problem and makes us act impulsively.
“In this family, yelling, throwing objects or hitting is not allowed. Calm down. Use your words to explain what bothers you”.
5. Find ways to calm him down.
The last step is to change his mood. “Find ways to calm him down and comprehend his anger”, says Peniche.
a) Look for a distractor
Instead of thinking about the person or situation that caused the anger, encourage him to think about something else like taking a walk, digging in the garden, listening to music, riding a bike.
You can say something like: “I understand that you’re mad because I didn’t buy you that toy, but we’re going to sing so you calm down”. “I know you’re afraid of the dark, but we’ll bring your special teddy bear to keep you company”.
b) Change the environment, keep him away from the conflict
Take him to a quiet place and tell him it’s okay to walk away from the problem to avoid an angry outburst. By moving to another part of the house or to the backyard, the child can get some space and work on calming down.
c) Find ways to release anger
Another strategy for processing anger, if all else fails, is to find a safe way to release the emotion.
Suggest ways for the child to unburden himself:
- Crisscross jumping
- Some controlled pillow punches
- Write or draw a picture of what is bothering
We are sure that with these tips you can help your child control his anger. Try them and if you have any other tip, do not hesitate to share it with us.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara