Do you struggle to help your child stay calm when they get angry or stressed? Has this led to awkward or embarrassing situations in public or disciplinary action at school? It may seem hopeless now, but there are techniques that you can use to coach your angry child and help them calm down.
Calming your angry child
Tip #1: Know when to pause
Encouraging your child to pause and take a break when they get angry helps to break up their focus. When we get angry, it becomes easy to focus on whatever is causing the anger. It’s often useful to give your child some separation from whatever is the focus of their anger. Having your angry child go into a different room, or step outside for a few minutes can help. It also helps your child have some privacy to let out whatever is inside them.
Tip #2: Breathing
Another characteristic of anger is that our breathing patterns change. This means taking in faster or shallower breaths. When this happens, it only adds “fuel to the fire,” making it harder for your child to control what’s going on. There is also less oxygen going to the brain, making it harder for their minds to make good decisions. Work with them when they are angry by breathing in and out slowly in front of them. Your child can mirror what you are doing. Breathing will also give them something else to focus on instead of continuing to be driven by anger.
Tip #3: Identify their feelings
Next, work with your child to help them identify their feelings. When angry, children may know that they feel “bad” but don’t really understand what those feelings truly are and why they are having them. Make sure, though, that you are truly listening to your child and trying to understand how they see things. Avoid the temptation to brush aside their perspective. Also, avoid telling them that they should not feel a certain way. Allow them be free to express themselves, and help them feel heard and understood.
Tip #4: Work towards a solution
If the source of your child’s anger is a disagreement between your child and yourself, a sibling, classmate, friend or another adult, help them develop a solution. For example, if they are reluctant to share a toy with someone else, help them come up with an answer to the problem. Perhaps the other child could borrow the toy for a certain period of then give it back? Knowing that it’s possible to resolve problems calmly will help your child understand that it’s possible to do that in the future too. It’s good to set an example here–are there times you could give a little to resolve a conflict with your angry child?
Tip #5: Create closure
Finally, encourage your child to create closure with whatever started the anger in the first place. In some cases, this will be quick and simple. For example, your child became angry because their sibling would not share. They agree to share the toy, apologise to each other, and it’s done. Whereas other arguments, such as those that have been perpetuating for a while and creating a lot of deep-seated anger will need more time. Either way, don’t leave the situation open-ended.
Check out our anger page for more tips and a link to our creative anger expression information. Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS trust also produce a useful self-help guide for anger management. While the booklet is aimed at adults, you can adapt many of their suggestions to work with children too.
Everyone gets angry, even children. However, children need to be coached as to how to handle these feelings. The more you encourage your child to talk about their feelings, find solutions, and create closure, the better they will be able to handle anger on their own.
Getting further help
If you are still wondering what to do when your child becomes angry, consider working with a therapist for help. A therapist is trained to work with your child to better understand why they are angry and how to control it. Sometimes the reasons are not as obvious as we think; and it can take time to get to the root of the problem.
There are many ways therapy might to help. Sometimes it’s helpful to work with you, to help you manage your child’s anger and coach them in better ways of responding. Other times it might be more appropriate for them to attend therapy, or for you to come together.
If you would like to speak with someone about your angry child, call us today on 0151 329 3637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You could also fill out our online referral form and we will get back to you as soon as we can.