two girls fighting and hair pullingEveryone, parents, teachers, children, has at some time in his or her life, has had a problem with anger. Why? Because anger can be a scary emotion. For some, it means that someone is out of control, for others, it may mean that someone won’t like us and for others, it may even mean that someone will act violently.  In order to help our children learn how to deal with their anger, it’s important for parents to help their children understand that anger is ok. That anger is just a feeling and that all feelings are ok. It is healthy and normal and often, anger has some good qualities too. It can motivate us and it can help protect ourselves and our loved ones. Anger only becomes a problem when behave in ways that are hurtful to ourselves or to others.

The Anger Rules

When trying to help your child understand and deal with anger, it’s important to understand the anger rules:

  • Anger is a feeling and feelings just are
  • Anger is ok
  • Abuse and violence are not ok
  • It’s ok to feel angry but it’s not ok to hurt yourself, to hurt others or to hurt property
  • It’s important to talk about what makes you angry

Setting Limits

It’s up to parents to help children learn safe limits to their behavior when they are feeling angry.  By encouraging them to talk about what makes them angry, without any judgment, can help a child feel safe enough to talk about their frustrations and feelings of anger.  By creating an environment in which the child knows that it’s ok to say why they are angry is important to helping the child understand that when we own our anger, we are better able to ask for what we need and use our words to express the anger in a beneficial and positive way.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

As most parents realize, children often copy our behavior and one of the best ways of helping our children learn how to deal with their feelings of anger appropriately is to model these appropriate ways ourselves.

  • Using “I” statements: By using I statements to express your feelings about the problem is one way of helping a child learn that it’s ok to own your feelings.
  • Teach problem-solving: When problems arise that make you angry, invite your child to help you find solutions to the problem.
  • Take a time-out: By modeling time-out behavior, you are teaching your child that it’s ok to step away from a situation that makes you angry in order to get your emotions under control.  You are teaching your child that by taking a step back and taking a few moments, you will be better able to handle the situation
  • Talk to your child about what makes YOU angry: This allows your child to see that it really is ok to talk about their anger and that anger isn’t as scary as they thought.
  • Validate feelings: By validating your child’s feelings, or your partner’s feelings in front of your child let them know that each person’s thoughts and feelings are important, even when you don’t agree.

Teach Effective Coping Strategies

As adults, we have had a great deal of time to develop our coping strategies for anger.  Despite that, we still get angry and frustrated. With children, it’s our responsibility as parents to help them learn effective coping strategies for when they do feel angry.  With modeling, validating their feelings, using “I” statements and creating a safe environment to talk about their angry feelings, children will be more likely to learn what makes them angry and what to do when they are angry.  If anger does strike, remember these points:

  • Keep your child safe
  • Validate their feelings
  • Don’t retaliate
  • Help them ask for what they need
  • Help them problem solve solutions
  • Praise them for talking about their angry feelings

With love, support and good modeling, your child will be able to figure out the coping strategies that work best for him or her.  By reminding them that while anger is normal, it’s how we manage anger and channel it toward productive and acceptable outlets that makes us stronger and better able to deal with the challenges that life hands us.

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