Anger Management for You and Your Child
Posted on April 26, 2017 by CHS
You and Anger
Everyone experiences feelings of anger from time to time. In fact, anger can happen quickly, often taking us by surprise. It could be the person who cut you off on the freeway, missing your bus, being late for work, or your child throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store. If anger is uncontrolled and frequent, then it can end up damaging your health and your relationships.
Anger can sneak up on you at any time and any place, and even though you may not be able to stop anger from happening, you can learn to recognize it and deal with it in a positive way. Your body will tell you when you are becoming angry, but you have to learn to listen to the signals your body is giving you.
Signs that you are angry can include:
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
- Headache or stomachache
- Rapid, pounding heartbeat or dizziness
- Feeling your neck and face get hot
- Sweating (usually sweaty palms)
- Shaking or trembling
- Tense muscles or clenched fists
- Your voice may get louder
- Your language is sarcastic or snappy
- You find yourself pacing or rubbing your head
- You lose your sense of humor
- You crave what you think will relax you (food, drink, etc.)
You may experience one or more of the above symptoms. Once you recognize you are angry, it is time to figure out why. What makes you angry? Triggers for anger are different for everyone.
Some possible triggers for anger might include:
- A child’s negative behavior (tantrums, yelling, talking back)
- Unexpected events (traffic, car problems, illness)
- Stress at work or with a relationship
- Being overly tired or hungry
- Mistakes made by you or others
- Sense of unfairness or injustice
- Violation of your personal space
- Disrespect, insults, or rumors directed at or about you
In the heat of anger it is easy to do or say something you might regret later. Knowing what makes you angry can help you develop a plan. The first step is to take a break and remove yourself from the person or thing that is upsetting you.
If you are with someone you can simply say, “I need some time to compose myself and then we can talk.” Then step away and try one of the following ideas for cooling down.
- Try deep breathing
- Go for a walk
- Talk to someone you trust
- Write about your feelings or thoughts
- Dim the lights and listen to soothing music
- Try meditation or visualization
After you have cooled down, consider how you can express your anger productively, or solve the problem that caused the anger. For example, if you are angry because your child left his lunch at home, then some possible solutions could be: calling the school to see if you can pay for a school lunch, asking a family member or friend who lives or works near the school to take your child lunch, or asking your employer if you can take an extended lunch and make up the time later. When you next see your child talk to him about what happened. Use statements that begin with “I” in order to avoid criticizing or blaming your child. For example, “I was upset this morning because I realized your lunch was at home and I was worried that you wouldn’t have anything to eat. Can you help me remember to put your lunch in your backpack tomorrow?”
If you anticipate that a conversation may be difficult, plan it out in advance and decide on a coping technique you can use. Maybe you know you are going to have a difficult conversation with your boss. Plan as much of the conversation as you can, but be prepared to diffuse your anger by counting to ten or using a combination of visualization and humor (picture your boss doing something funny). If you feel like anger is disrupting your quality of life, then speak to your doctor about getting help.
Your Child and Anger
Children also struggle with managing anger. You can help your child by teaching her how to pay attention to her body and recognize anger. Children are still developing their self-control; this means that their response to anger is usually aggression or negative behaviors.
Outward signs that a child is becoming angry or frustrated can include:
- Pulling on, or out, their own hair
- Tightening their fists or muscles
- Hitting themselves, a wall, or another person
- Throwing nearbytoys or objects
- Yelling, crying, or having a tantrum
- Crying, clenching their fists or toes, and arching their backs (this applies to infants)
Children, just like adults, have triggers that can make them feel angry. Some possible triggers for children can include:
- Conflict with another child (over a toy)
- Rejection by peers (“Jimmy says he’s not my friend!”)
- Being physically attacked by another child (“She hit me!”)
- Not getting what they want, or not doing what they want
- Being disciplined
- Feeling tired or hungry
- Feeling sick
- Following an unfamiliar schedule
You can help your child learn how to recognize anger by using language to identify the emotion, and then connecting it to what is happening. For example, “Your hands are making fists and you are hitting your toy. That tells me you are angry.” When children can label their emotions, it is easier for them to talk to each other, express their needs, and ask for help. They learn to identify and manage their own emotions.
How You Can Help Your Child Be Prepared for Anger:
- With young infants, respond to cries promptly and soothe your child by rubbing her back, rocking her, or singing.
- For toddlers and preschool aged children, label their emotions, and support the child in handling them. See these tips for building emotional literacy.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep and eats well.
- Create a “coping box” with books, special stuffed animals, or quiet toys your child can choose to use when she needs to take a break.
- Make sure there is time to run and play outside every day. This will help him keep a positive outlook and work off excess energy.
- If there is going to be a change in your child’s routine, talk to her about it first so it isn’t a surprise.
- Be clear and consistent about behavior expectations. If adults discipline in different ways, it can send mixed signals to children and result in tantrums or angry outbursts.
- Teach children techniques for coping with anger when they are calm. Practice deep breathing together before bedtime. Connect deep breathing to a symbol that is easy for children to remember. One example is the Butterfly Breathing Exercise. This will make the technique easier to remember during times of anger or stress. Talk about when it is a good time to use Butterfly Breathing, or whichever technique you choose.
- Be patient and give your child space. If he is in the middle of a tantrum, do not try to talk to him about what is wrong until he calms down. During a tantrum, his brain is overloaded with hormones that make logic impossible. Once the tantrum stops, you can talk about what happened. Start by saying, “Thank you for calming yourself down. Now we can talk about how you felt and what you can do next time you feel that way.” Use questions to guide your child through his thoughts and feelings as you talk.
Another good way to help children build emotional literacy is to read books that explain feelings. Visit your local public library and check out the following books:
- Cool Down and Work Through Anger by Cheri J. Meiners (Ages 4-8)
- I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer (Ages 3-7)
- Lots of Feelings by Shelley Rotner (Ages 3-6)
- My Face Book by Star Bright Books (Ages 0-4)
- Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Maclean (Ages 4-8)
- Sea Otter Cove (A Relaxation Story) by Lori Lite (Ages 4-11)
- The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (Ages 3-5)
- The Way I Feel by Janan Cain (Ages 3-8)
- When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really, Angry by Molly Bang (Ages 4-8)
For more information and tips about managing anger, please see the resources below. If you are looking for anger management classes, contact your local Resource and Referral (R&R) agency for assistance. You can find your local R&R by calling Child Care Aware at (800) 424-2246 or by visiting their website.
- Anger Management: Tips and Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control (Article)
- Breathing Butterfly Exercise for Children (Video)
- Deep Breathing for Adults (Video)
- Deep Breathing for Children (Video)
- Fostering Emotional Literacy in Young Children: Labeling Emotions (Article)
- Four Breathing Techniques for Children (Video)
- How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Book)
- Relaxation Exercises for Adults in English and Spanish (Audio)
- Teach Kids Emotional Education (Video)
- Teaching Children Mindfulness
- Teaching Your Child To Identify and Express Emotions (Article)