Creative Child

Stoplight: A Helpful Tool for Helping Kids Manage Anger

by Rebecca Eanes


Red light! I would say this phrase when I saw one of the kids (or both) getting hot under the collar. I gave them several options to do during red light, including walking away, sitting down, and taking deep breaths. If someone was very angry and I saw that he needed my help stopping, I'd step in and offer my assistance. “Let’s take a walk together” or “put up your moose antlers and let’s take 3 deep breaths.” I helped my child calm down repetitively but over time, he started being able to calm himself. This was a big win!

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Yellow light! Next was calm down time. Again, I taught them several different ways they could calm down. Our favorites were drawing a picture, looking through a book, popping balloons, shaking the calming jar, or scooping rice. This was not a traditional time-out. It’s not about punishment but about teaching the valuable skill of emotions regulation. If someone needed help, I offered it. “Would you like to draw me a picture?” or “Would a hug help you?” Again, this eventually became something they could do without my assistance.

Green light! Go! Once my child was calm and ready to re-engage with his sibling/peers, he and I would say “Green light! Go!”

This is a really good tool to use in conjunction with teaching emotional intelligence. The concept is simple for children to grasp, and it provides a visual cue for your talking points. By age 4, my children could stop themselves and calm themselves down some of the time without assistance. My age 7, they were able to do this most of the time on their own. Now that one’s a teen and the other is close behind him, they’re emotional intelligence is high, and although no one is perfect 100% of the time, I can definitely see how using this tool in conjunction with discussing emotions and teaching skills helped them to grow in this area.

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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