Creative Child

Don’t Punch the Pillow: 10 Ways to Calm an Angry Child

by Rebecca Eanes

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1. Help your child name the emotion. “You’re feeling angry. Let me help.” This is helpful because children who can name anger can learn to recognize their anger cues.

2. Meet anger with empathy. By listening to and validating your child’s experience, you create space for the anger to melt away. Empathy speaks to their higher brain and helps them get out of that lower brain where the anger and reactivity are taking place. You can read more on this topic in my articles, The Brain Science that Changes Parenting and Connection-Based Discipline.

3. Try time-in instead of time-out. Take your child to a calm down area where he can watch the glitter swirling in a jar, scribble on a notepad, color a coloring page, or look through a picture book with you. Don’t worry, these alternatives to time-out are not rewards for inappropriate behavior – it’s teaching an important life skill.

4. Teach your child breathing techniques. Even children as young as toddlers can learn to take big breaths and blow them out. Older children can learn more meditative breathing.

5. Teach mindfulness. Here are 8 ways to do so from the Huffington Post.

6. Give him play dough. For many kids, tactile sensory activities can be soothing.

7. Allow enough time for kids to de-stress through free and creative play. Drawing, finger painting, rolling in the grass, and music help soothe the nerves of an over-stressed kid, which in today’s culture is way too common. A child who is stressed is more likely to have outbursts of anger.

8. Put her in the bath. A poem by the artist SARK says “If they’re crabby, put them in water.” A warm and soothing soak in the tub is a good way to reset a bad mood.

9. If your child needs space to calm down, that’s fine. Just don’t force isolation as that usually further triggers the flight or fight response. Remain warm and available, but respect their need for space.

10. Teach them how to do a body scan. Start at the top of the head and scan down to the feet, noticing any tension or bad feelings in the body. Relax the parts where tension is felt.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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