Creative Child

Stoplight: A Helpful Tool for Helping Kids Manage Anger

by Rebecca Eanes

Learning to manage emotions takes time and lots of coaching, but with your help, children as young as three can learn to manage their anger and frustration. Building emotional intelligence is key to success and happiness, and while it will take years for your child’s brain to mature enough that he or she will be able to consistently manage emotions, it’s never too early to start teaching your child the necessary skills.

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My 2 sons have very opposite personalities. My first has always been very easy-going, compassionate, somewhat cautious/anxious, and not an aggressive bone in his body. My second is more independent, strong-willed, and fiery. Those are not bad attributes at all; quite the contrary, actually. Both boys’ personalities are wonderful in their own ways. They also require different things.

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My fiery one was an aggressive toddler. Starting just before his third birthday, he used hitting as an outlet for his frustration, and he was frustrated quite easily. I tried what felt like 50 different “techniques” to get him to not hit, and finally this little tool that I’m about to teach you was very helpful during that phase.


I happened across this free printable online for my kids to color one day, but you can easily just draw a traffic light on a sheet of paper. We talked about the light and the meanings of the three lights, and I hung it on the refrigerator as a reminder. I hadn’t planned on this becoming a “thing” at our house, but it evolved into a very helpful tool for all of us.


Red – Stop
Yellow – Calm Down
Green – Go


My children really understood this simple little visual, and it became a stepping stone to teach emotions regulation and behavior management. I discussed with my children how they could use each light and gave them tools to use at every step.

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