Helpful Articles •
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Helping Children Deal with Their Anger
is like the mercury in a thermometer. When left unchecked
the intensity of the emotion increases from frustration
to anger and then to other things like rage and bitterness.
As the intensity builds, people shut themselves off from
others and relationships close down. Having a plan to deal
with anger can limit the intensity and prevent much of
the destruction anger tends to cause.
Most families don’t have a plan for anger. They somehow
just continue on, hoping things will get better. Many families
don’t resolve their anger, but just keep trying to start
over. Starting over may be helpful at times, but it tends
to ignore the problem rather than address it. Here are
some ideas for dealing with anger in your family.
1. Anger is good for identifying problems but not good
for solving them.
One of the problems people face is the guilt they feel
after they’ve gotten angry. This further complicates the
situation. God created us as emotional beings and emotions
are helpful for giving us cues about our environment. Anger,
in particular, points out problems. It reveals things that
are wrong. Some of those things are inside of us and require
adjustments to expectations or demands. Other problems
are outside of us and need to be addressed in a constructive
way. Helping children understand that anger is good for
identifying problems but not good for solving them is the
first step toward a healthy anger management plan.
2. Identify the early warning signs of anger.
Children often don’t recognize anger. In fact, many times
they act out before they realize what happened. Identifying
early warning signs helps children become more aware of
their feelings, which in turn gives them more opportunity
to control their responses to these feelings. How can you
tell when you’re getting frustrated? How can your children
identify frustration before it gets out of control?
Here are some common cues in children which indicate that
they are becoming angry and may be about to lose control:
• tensed body
• clenched teeth
• increased intensity of speech or behavior
• unkind words or the tone of voice changes to whining
• restlessness, withdrawal, unresponsiveness, or being
• noises with the mouth like growls or deep breathing
• squinting, rolling the eyes, or other facial expressions
Learn to recognize the cues that your child is beginning
to get frustrated. Look for signs that come before the
eruption. Once you know the cues, begin to point them out
to your child. Make observations and teach your child to
recognize those signs. Eventually children will be able
to see their own frustration and anger and choose appropriate
responses before it’s too late. They’ll be able to move
from the emotion to the right actions, but first they must
be able to recognize the cues that anger is intensifying.
3. Step Back.
Teach your child to take a break from the difficult situation
and to get alone for a few minutes. One of the healthiest
responses to anger at any of its stages is to step back.
During that time the child can rethink the situation, calm
down and determine what to do next. Frustrations can easily
build, rage can be destructive, and bitterness is always
damaging to the one who is angry. Stepping back can help
the child stop the progression and determine to respond
The size of the break is determined by the intensity of
the emotion. A child who is simply frustrated may just
take a deep breath. The child who is enraged probably needs
to leave the room and settle down.
4. Choose a better response.
After the child has stepped back and settled down, then
it’s time to decide on a more appropriate response to the
situation. But what should they do? Parents who address
anger in their children often respond negatively, pointing
out the wrong without suggesting alternatives.
There are three positive choices: talk about it, get help,
or slow down and persevere. Simplifying the choices makes
the decision process easier. Even young children can learn
to respond constructively to frustration when they know
there are three choices. These choices are actually skills
to be learned. Children often misuse them or overly rely
on just one. Take time to teach your children these skills
and practice them as responses to angry feelings.
5. Never try to reason with a child who is enraged.
Sometimes children become enraged. The primary way to
tell when children are enraged is that they can no longer
think rationally and their anger is now controlling them.
Unfortunately, many parents try to talk their children
out of anger, often leading to more intensity. The child
who is enraged has lost control. You may see clenched fists,
squinting eyes or a host of venting behaviors. Anger is
one of those emotions that can grab you before you know
what’s happening. The intensity can build from frustration
to anger to rage before anyone realizes it.
Whether it’s the two-year-old temper tantrum or the 14
year-old ranting and raving, don’t get sucked into dialog.
It only escalates the problem. Talking about it is important
but wait until after the child has settled down.
6. When emotions get out of control, take a break from
Sometimes parents and children are having a discussion
about something and tempers flare. Mean words often push
buttons which motivate more mean words and anger escalates.
Stop the process, take a break and resume the dialog after
people have settled down.
7. Be proactive in teaching children about frustration
management, anger control, rage reduction and releasing
Model, discuss, read and teach your children about anger.
There are several good books on this subject available,
which are written for children at various age levels. Talk
about examples of frustration and anger seen in children’s
videos. Talk about appropriate responses. Work together
as a family to identify anger and choose constructive solutions.
8. When anger problems seem out of control or you just
don’t know what to do, get help.
Sometimes a third party can provide the helpful suggestions
and guidelines to motivate your family to deal with anger
in a more helpful way. Children can begin to develop bitterness
and resentment in their lives and may need help to deal
with it. Unresolved anger can create problems in relationships
later on. Children do not grow out of bitterness, they
grow into it. Professional help may be needed.
This material is taken from chapter 5 of
the book, Home
Improvement, The Parenting Book You Can Read to Your Kids. The
book also contains other ideas which will help your children
learn to control their anger and practical ways that you
as a parent can teach them. A CD entitled, Helping
Children Deal with Anger is also available. You can play this CD
with children to develop an anger management plan together
as a family.
One of the classes in Biblical Parenting University focus on emotions. You'll learn about parental anger, a plan for children's anger and you'll have access to the four hour class and five hours of webinar content focused on this subject. You'll find many solutions that you'll be able to apply to your family.