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Managing Anger

Your Child’s and Your Own

Anger is a common emotion, one that everyone feels at some time. This episode will help you recognize feelings of anger, identify possible anger triggers for you and your child, and give you tools to successfully manage your anger.

You may not be able to change the person or situation that makes you angry, but you can control how you respond to anger. The goal of anger management is to control and express anger in a positive and effective way that is safe and appropriate.

It is important to know when you feel angry, where the anger comes from, and how to control the anger. By practicing and developing habits of effective anger management, parents can promote a peaceful environment while helping children understand and manage their anger, too.

The first step to managing anger is to recognize feelings of anger. By paying attention to your body and signs of growing anger, you can “cool down” and deal with your anger before losing control. Some signs are:

  • Rush of adrenaline
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tense muscles
  • Sweaty palms
  • Feeling warm
  • Feeling trapped
  • Snapping at others

Your child learns by watching you, so it is important to be a positive influence by managing your anger appropriately. Children need adults to help them understand and recognize their own feelings of anger. Some signs that a child is getting angry or frustrated are:

  • Pulling on their hair
  • Tightening fists or muscles
  • Hitting self or wall
  • Yelling or crying
  • Throwing items

Situations and people around you can trigger feelings of anger. Identifying “anger triggers” for you and your child is an important part of being prepared to respond in a positive manner, for both you and your child. Some common triggers for adults are:

  • Your children’s actions, like talking back or breaking something
  • Unexpected events, like your child being sick and you are late to work
  • Traffic jams
  • Stress from relationship problems
  • Mistakes made by you or others
  • Being overly tired or hungry
  • Stress at work

Common triggers for children include:

  • Conflict with another child
  • Rejection by peers
  • Physical assault by another child
  • Not getting their way
  • Being scolded or punished
  • Being overly tired or hungry
  • Sickness

Once you and your child become aware of these signs of anger, it empowers you to practice activities to help you cool down and release anger without hurting anyone. For adults, this may look like:

  • Exercising
  • Taking deep breaths
  • Removing yourself from the person or environment that causes anger
  • Talking to a spouse, family member, or friend
  • Writing about feelings or thoughts
  • Going for a walk
  • Sleeping or resting

For children, they may need to:

  • Talk to an adult or other trusted person about their feelings
  • Play outside, like running, jumping, throwing, or kicking a ball
  • Play by themselves
  • Take a time-out
  • Draw
  • Keep a journal, or write about feelings
  • Sleep or rest
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Take deep breaths

After learning the signs and how to cool down, it can still be important to express anger with words. Not communicating anger does not necessarily make it go away. It may build up and lead to an outburst later. Here are some healthy ways to verbally express anger:

For adults:

  • Tell the person who triggered your anger, even your child if they can understand, about the action that made you angry, how you felt, and what your needs are. Remember to focus on the action that made you angry, not on the person. For example, “I feel angry when…” or “When mommy comes home from work, I want to play with you, but I need you to give me a chance to put my things away and change my clothes.”
  • Write about the situation to clear your thoughts and help you “cool down.” If it involves another person, you can discuss what you wrote or write a letter to the person.

For children:

  • They may hit or throw tantrums out of anger. Teach them how to talk about their anger by giving them words so they can express themselves in a non-aggressive manner.
  • Discuss and practice choosing options other than aggressive behavior to achieve a goal by pretending to be in the same situation and asking them what a responsible action would be.
  • Positively reinforce appropriate behavior with praise and recognition.
  • For older children, use TV, news, etc. to discuss appropriate and safe or inappropriate reactions to anger.
  • Present circumstances to children before they happen so they can be prepared to respond in a positive manner.
  • Teach children about anger when they are young and able to understand. You can avoid having to break negative habits by teaching positive ones.

As you encourage children to take steps toward learning effective anger management, they can also benefit by:

  • Becoming more responsible
  • Growing independent through knowing they have choices
  • Developing greater self-esteem
  • Expanding problem-solving skills
  • Understanding and using anger in ways that can be helpful to themselves and others

To download our “Managing Anger” brochure, and access additional brochures and podcasts on important parenting topics, visit Children’s Home Society of California's website at www.chs-ca.org.

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