Creative Child

Anger Management: Helping Kids Cool Down

by Sarah Lyons

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The Preschool Years (ages 3-5)

Prepare: On a calm day, talk with your preschooler about different types of feelings, giving names to them. Some find a chart or photos helpful when explaining. Discuss appropriate behavior when angry and talk about actions to help them calm down. Calming suggestions for preschoolers may include drawing a picture, playing with cars, doing a simple puzzle, singing and dancing to music, running, jumping, or hugs. Sherrie Hoffman of Hiawatha, KS says “With my five year old, slow deep breaths help. Then, when he can talk, we discuss what has upset him.”

Act: When feelings of anger begin, ask them, in a calm voice, to try one of the techniques discussed earlier. Remind them you will talk about it when they are calm. Do not feed into their actions unless they are working on becoming calm.

Discuss: Later, ask the child to share why they became angry and come up with ideas of how to prevent the situation in the future. Remind them it is normal to feel angry at times and let them know you are proud of the way they used the techniques to calm down.

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The School Years (ages 6-11)

Prepare: Discuss common triggers for your child and come up with a plan of how to handle them.Talk about the difference between appropriate and inappropriate anger. Like the preschool age, come up with a technique that helps calm the child and plan to use it when needed. Ideas for this age group could include: going to their bedroom and listening to their favorite music, kicking a soccer ball, swinging on the swingset, or screaming into a pillow.

Act: When the child becomes angry, calmly let them know that you see they are upset and would like to talk about it when they are calm. “We don’t talk about a problem until they are calm and if they get worked up while explaining what is wrong then we take deep breaths until they are calm again.” says Rachael Kennedy, mother of five.

Discuss: When the child has calmed down, listen to their frustrations. Let them know it is okay to feel angry and praise them for handling it well. Ask them what could have been different and come up with solutions as a team. 

The Teen Years (ages 12 years and up)

Prepare: At this age the child may be aware of what sets them off and so may the parent. Try to problem solve how to avoid situations that make them angry. Come up with ways that they can calm down on their own. Ideas for this age include taking a walk, tidying up their room, listening to music, journaling, taking a shower or bath, or calling a friend to vent.

Act: Calmly mention that you see they are angry and ask them to please take a break from the situation until they can calm down. Give them space unless they want to talk and be patient. If appropriate, leave them alone in house to calm down.

Discuss: Later after everyone is ready, discuss what happened. Problem solve what a solution could be now or in the future. Come to a compromise about what could be different and ask them for as much input as possible.

The goal of these techniques is to teach kids that all feelings are normal, even anger. Teaching these techniques gives kids the tools they need to deal with anger in an appropriate way and teaches them how to use problem solving to work through a frustrating situation.

Sidebar:It is no secret that our behavior as parents affects our kids. How a parent deals with feelings of anger can have a huge impact on how our children will react when they feel angry. Here are some tips to model appropriate behavior when those feelings occur:

Tips to Help Parents Cool Down

  1. Walk away
  2. Take some deep breaths
  3. Keep a calm voice
  4. Use calm body language (no slamming doors or stomping around)
  5. Diffuse anger by doing a calming activity (tidy up, take a walk, splash water on your face)
  6. Fake it until you make it
  7. Make a commitment in advance to keep your cool
  8. Think about how your actions affect your kids
  9. Acknowledge that it is normal for children to push your buttons
  10. Try to see the humor in the situation 

Sarah Lyons is a stay at home wife and mother of six children, including 18 month old triplets. Using creative consequences with her kids has improved their behavior and encourages healthy relationships with each other.

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