Helping Children Learn to Control Their Anger

All children get angry sometimes. Anger is a normal human emotion that we all feel from time to time. However, some children seem to get angry more often or more intensely than other kids their age. If your child frequently loses their temper, has explosive outbursts, or struggles to calm down once upset, they may need help learning how to better control their anger.

Getting angry once in a while is normal, but chronic anger issues can interfere with a child’s happiness, relationships, and success in school. Anger problems in childhood also increase the risk for difficulties like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse down the road. The good news is that, with patience and the right strategies, parents can make a real difference in helping children handle anger in a healthier way.

Understand the Causes

The first step is trying to understand what’s causing your child’s anger issues. Some common triggers include:

  • Frustration – If tasks like homework, chores, or even tying shoes are too difficult for your child’s current abilities, it can lead to irritation that builds up and boils over.
  • Transitions and changes to routine – Some kids have a hard time with schedule disruptions, rules changes, or switching activities. These transitions become sources of stress.
  • Tiredness – When children are overtired, they tend to have less patience and get upset more easily. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
  • Hunger – Kids are more prone to meltdowns when they’re hungry. Low blood sugar can affect mood stability. Offer regular healthy snacks.
  • Overstimulation – Chaotic environments with too much going on can overwhelm children and make it hard to control emotions. Think about ways to reduce stimulation and commotion at difficult times.
  • Learned behavior – Children mimic what they see. If adults in the home yell, hit, or throw things when angry, children are more likely to act the same way. Model healthy anger management.
  • Feeling incapable – Children who struggle with school work or certain tasks may feel stupid, embarrassed or powerless, leading to anger out of frustration. Building competency and self-esteem helps.

Teach Anger Management Skills

Once you identify potential triggers, start teaching and reinforcing anger management skills:

  • Calming down – Teach your child techniques like taking deep breaths, counting to 10, resting or retreating to a quiet safe space, squeezing a stress ball, or imagining a relaxing scene. Practice when they’re already calm.
  • Communicating feelings – Help your child express anger and frustration in a healthy way, using “I statements.” For example, “I’m mad because you won’t share the toys!” instead of hitting.
  • Problem-solving – Once calm, coach your child to think of solutions and compromises themselves. If one idea doesn’t work, they can try another approach. This builds confidence and resilience.
  • Letting things go – Help young kids understand that sometimes annoying or upsetting things happen, but getting angry won’t fix them. We have to accept what we can’t control.
  • Self-soothing – Teach methods like deep breathing, listening to music, coloring or playing with a favorite stuffed animal to calm down without your help. Children learn over time how to self-regulate emotions.
  • Taking a break – When emotions are spiraling out of control, teach your child it’s okay to walk away from the situation temporarily. Time outs can help diffuse tension.

Use Consistent Strategies

Parenting a child prone to anger takes extra patience and a consistent game plan. Here are some strategies to try:

  • Set clear rules and consequences – Kids need structure and consistency. Make expectations simple and explain consequences for breaking rules calmly yet firmly. Follow through each time with non-punitive consequences focused on teaching and practicing better behaviors.
  • Praise good choices – When you see your child demonstrate self-control or manage anger well, offer descriptive praise. This positive reinforcement motivates them to repeat the right behaviors.
  • Model healthy anger – Keep your own anger in check. Calmly walk away if you need time to cool down. Apologize if you make a mistake in handling anger. Show kids how you want them to act when emotions run high.
  • Allow “Big Feelings” – Let your child know all feelings are okay, but certain behaviors are not. Name the emotions you see them experiencing. Help them see that with time and coping skills, intense angry feelings will dissipate.
  • Avoid shame or ridicule – Minimize labels like “you’re so cranky” that instill shame and resentment. Maintain an empathetic, supportive tone even when correcting behavior.
  • Watch for progress – Change takes time. But with consistency, you should gradually see increased emotional regulation, fewer tantrums, and the ability to calm down more easily. Track and praise these little victories.

Get Help from Professionals If Needed

If your efforts to help your child learn to control anger aren’t making headway, consult your pediatrician or a child psychologist. Professional support may be warranted if anger issues are severe or lead to problems like bullying, destruction of property or self-harm. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy teach kids how to better regulate emotions and change unhealthy thought patterns that fuel anger. With help from professionals and continued support at home, children can overcome anger issues and develop the vital skills needed to navigate frustration and strong emotions. The time and effort you invest now helps ensure your child’s happiness in the present moment as well as their future wellbeing.