Many child behavior problems center around kids struggling to manage their anger. Oppositional behavior, disrespect, conflict and aggression can often be decreased by helping kids learn how to handle their anger better. If you teach your child anger management skills, it will improve behavior and give your child one of the six most important life skills.
1. Differentiate Between Feelings and Behavior
Kids often have difficulty understanding the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Teach kids about feelings so they can learn to verbalize feelings of anger, frustration and disappointment. Often, feelings like sadness and hurt are masked by aggressive behavior. Teach your child how to identify and verbalize feelings instead of acting them out.
Also, give the message that feeling angry is okay. Anger is like any other emotion and there are times that it is appropriate to feel angry. This can help kids learn that feeling and talking about angry feelings aren’t bad.
2. Model Appropriate Anger Management Skills
It’s essential that you role model appropriate behavior to teach kids how to manage their anger. If your kids see you lose your cool, they’ll be much more likely to have trouble managing their own anger or understanding what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Sometimes parents hide their feelings and frustrations from their kids. Although it’s good to shield kids from adult problems, they also need to see how you handle your angry feelings. Create opportunities to talk about feelings and share appropriate ways to deal with them.
Pointing out times when you feel frustrated teaches kids how to talk about feelings. When you are riding in the car, say out loud, “Wow, that makes me angry that the car in front of us didn’t stop to let those kids cross the street. But, I’m going to stop so they can cross safely.”
Take responsibility for your behavior when you lose your cool in front of your kids. Apologize and discuss what you should have done instead. Say, “I am sorry that you had to see me yelling today when I was mad. I should have gone for a walk to cool off when I was angry instead of raising my voice.”
3. Establish Anger Rules
Most families have unofficial family rules about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to anger. Some families don’t mind doors being slammed and voices being raised while other families may have less tolerance for such behaviors. Create written household rules that make it clear to kids what they can do when they feel angry and what sorts of behavior will result in a consequence.
Anger rules should center around behaving respectfully toward others. Kids need to learn that just because they feel angry it doesn’t give them a right to hurt anyone. Address areas such as physical aggression, name calling and destruction of property so that kids know they can’t throw things, break things or lash out verbally or physically when they’re mad.
4. Teach Healthy Ways to Manage Anger
Kids need to know appropriate ways to deal with their anger. Instead of just being told, “Don’t hit your brother,” tell them what to do when they feel frustrated. When time out is used as discipline instead of punishment kids learn to take a break on their own to help them calm down.
Kids can also benefit from learning coping skills. Teach them to take a break when they are becoming frustrated. Show them how to relax by doing something enjoyable. Also, teach problem-solving skills and help them learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. Most importantly, teach them to walk away when they are angry before they become aggressive.
5. Offer Consequences When Necessary
Kids need positive consequences when they follow the anger rules and negative consequences when they break the rules. Positive consequences are especially important for kids who usually have difficulty managing their anger. A reward system or token economy system can provide extra incentive to help them remain calm and use their skills to manage their angry feelings safely.
There needs to be immediate consequences for any aggressive behavior. Depending on your child’s age, consequences may include time out, loss of privileges, or even paying restitution by doing extra chores or loaning a toy to the victim.
It’s normal for kids to struggle to manage their anger at times but difficulty with anger can cause serious problems for some kids. If you grow concerned about your child’s behavior or anger management problems, seek professional help. A trained professional can rule out any underlying mental health problems and can offer assistance in creating a behavior management plan.