Anger can be a challenging emotion to experience, especially as a child. For most of us, it is an “all-or-nothing” feeling that may be difficult to manage at times. If your child has been acting out in their anger, below are some tools you can implement at home.
1. Differentiate between feelings and behaviors. Talk to your child about how they feel anger in their bodies. This can help them better notice and identify when they feel angry in the moment. Let them know anger is okay to feel. Help them understand that their feelings of anger and the behaviors that follow are different.
2. Establish anger rules for the house. Clear structure and boundaries are extremely helpful for children who have a difficult time managing their behavior. Let your child know up front what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. It will be different for all households—some may be comfortable with raised voices, and some may not. Get clear on what behaviors you want to guide your child towards and which you want to steer them away from.
3. Create an “anger landing zone.” When children feel angry, they need some sort of way to express it. Some great anger coping tools are using a stress ball, popping bubble wrap, scribbling on paper, ripping up paper, and almost any form of healthy physical activity (such as running, jumping, pressing palms together). Have these tools ready and available for your child to run to when anger feels overwhelming. You can even create and decorate a box together that is kept in an accessible place in the house.
4. Reinforce non-aggressive coping behaviors. Anytime you see your child responding in a healthy way to anger or using a coping skill you’ve discussed, positively reinforce them. Acknowledge their efforts, give them space to process and engage in the healthy behavior, and afterwards let them know you are proud of them.
5. Avoid punishing your child when they go back to old behaviors. Any kind of behavior change is difficult, so there will be moments when your child reverts back to some unhealthy, aggressive behaviors. Instead of punishing them, have a conversation with them. Talk them through the natural consequences of aggression and ask them how they could have responded in a healthier way.
If your child has been struggling with anger and you are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.
Written by Kathryn
2021 Graduate Intern