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I am hoping you found this post about anger management for kids on purpose, not by accident… but really, are there any accidents in life? Either way, I'm glad you're here! I've written about being a mad mom (and how to fix it), but what about mad kids? I've seen some pretty angry kids in my day. I've worked at Head Start with at-risk youth, and have my own children with ODD, ADD, and other mental health issues.
WHY IS MY CHILD ANGRY? (PRINTABLE ANGER WORKBOOK FOR KIDS)
When I'm out and about and see kids acting a fool, I always wonder what the parent is thinking and feeling in that moment. I'm the mom who laid on the floor of the grocery store and threw a fit with my kid to get her to stop when she was 3. Probably not the best course of action, but it worked. Now that I'm a mom of 3 teenagers – yep, they're all girls – I'm sharing my experiences with the world in hopes that another parent can get some relief from my ideas.
Why Children are Angry
As an adult, sometimes it's tough for me to sympathize with a child being angry. What could you possibly have to be stressed out about? Your biggest responsibility is eating all the damn goldfish I just put on your plate, what do you know about anger? Psh.
The truth of the matter is, kids – even toddlers – have a lot going on in their lives, and it's too much to handle at times. It ha taken me a while to “get” that – on any level – but I know it's true and I know it's my job as a mom to help my overwhelmed kids navigate their feelings in a healthy way. That means getting myself on track first, and walking hand in hand with them down this path of positive healing.
Identify Triggers – for You and Your Child
Grab a piece of paper and write down the answer to this question: What makes you angry?
I don't want a generic answer like “kids that misbehave”, “when my kid doesn't listen”, etc. I want you to identify specific triggers that make you angry. How can you identify your child's triggers if you haven't identified your own?
Your child's triggers may be similar to yours, because they learned by watching you. Ouch. I know it sucks to hear that (trust me, I didn't want to say it to myself), but if you're reading a post about how to help your child with anger, chances are you need to change a few things yourself. No parent is perfect, but avoiding reflection and assessing your parenting isn't going to help at all.
Once you've identified your own triggers, it's time to learn your child's triggers. Explain the trigger to your child calmly, letting them know you understand where their frustration is coming from. Much like with grown-ups, when your child understands the why behind the anger, they can use this to build on in appropriate ways.
Common Triggers for Kids:
- hungry (or not hungry, and it's lunchtime)
- sleepy (or not sleepy, and it's bedtime)
- feeling left out or ignored
- anxiety or uneasiness, being in a new situation or environment
As you can see, basically anything can be an anger trigger for a child. Keep an anger journal for yourself as well as your child(ren) to track their triggers and responses.
Ask Your Child to Name Their Feelings
Teach your child to identify their emotions by speaking about your own. Telling your child when you feel angry is an amazing teaching moment for both of you! You're showing your child that it's okay to be angry, and THIS is how we act. Keep your cool, but talk it out. Showing them a positive way to act when you're angry teaches them how to do the same.
Before your child loses their cool, talk to them about their emotions. It's better to do it now rather than in the moment. Print my anger management workbook (below) to help you and your child get started. When a child labels their feelings, they're putting a name with the emotion they're experiencing. This technique can help them snap back to reality, so to speak, when they first start to lose their cool.
Teaching your child to vocalize how they are feeling is going to go a long way in managing their anger (and yours).
Create Clear Boundaries
We follow the Nurtured Heart Approach, and one of the principles is to set clear, concise rules and consequences.
Anger is a perfectly healthy, acceptable emotion. Throwing toys because you're angry is not.
Setting clear boundaries is crucial to development in children. Our kids need to know what to expect if they break rules.
I took a Love and Logic parenting class, and I learned a whole lot. I learned that using sarcasm was one of the worst things you can do. I honestly had no idea; sarcasm is my defense mechanism and I've used it often to diffuse situations. However, using it when kids are pissed off is a bad idea. It not only teaches them that you're not taking them seriously, by the time they're teenagers, they're going to talk just like you do. Trust me when I say this is not fun to deal with!
Diffuse Outbursts Quickly
My ODD daughter is an expert at pushing my buttons. In the past, I have been guilty of fueling the fire she has set, because I get overwhelmed and pissed off and, well, I need to manage my own anger better. Since starting the Nurtured Heart Approach, I've learned not to take things she does personally.
Once you stop taking your child's behavior personally, you'll be better prepared to diffuse their outbursts. Sometimes outbursts can be handled by giving a hug. Other times, you shouldn't get within arm's length because said arms might be swinging.
Use a calm voice when your child is feeling upset, frustrated, or angry. Yelling at your child will only make things worse, as I'm sure you've learned the hard way a time or two. Take a step back, lower your voice to a near whisper, and get your kiddo's attention that way.
Another way I like to help my daughter calm down is by telling a joke. Sometimes she's not in the mood for jokes, but many times I get a little giggle out of her and things get better from there. Being silly almost always helps her calm down – or get hyper, but hey, at least she's not mad anymore? I take the wins when I can get them.
Learning your child's triggers and calm down techniques will help prevent and diffuse most high-temper situations. Here are a few one-liners that may help:
- “I totally get why you're mad.”
- “I love you.”
- “What can I do to help?”
- “Let me know when you're ready.”
If your child responds negatively to your attempts, don't lose your cool. Work on your own calming techniques while you give your child to soothe themself.
Create a Peaceful Environment
One thing I noticed with my older daughter is that she loves chaos. She thrives when shit hits the fan. She truly enjoys causing trouble, and I never understood why, because I've worked hard to create a peaceful environment for all of my kids. After some self-reflection, I realized a previous relationship I was in with a miserable human being unfortunately taught my daughters that it's normal to be angry, hateful, and full of drama.
Creating a peaceful environment will go a long way in preventing angry outbursts, but if your child has Borderline Personality Disorder, ODD, or any other mental health issues that contribute to their anger, it may take more time. A lot more time. Especially if your child's home life has ever been chaotic, no matter the reason or time frame, you're going to have to put more work in to teach them to cope with their anger in a positive way.
I have a little basket for Sapphire, we call it a “calm down box” (click the link for a list of what's in ours and a tutorial on how to make your own). When she is feeling upset or angry, she goes to the closet to get her calm down box and because her closet is huuuuge, she's able to use that as a calming space. She decorated it with positive affirmation posters and tapestries.
We also have a nice little space for her to meditate, if she feels the need. We meditate together sometimes, too.
How to Teach Your Child to Meditate
Meditation is perfect for all ages. How long you meditate with your child depends on their age and attention span. We use Alexa for meditation, because there are 1-minute meditations that we can all stay on track with.
There you have it, you're meditating with Alexa – and your child. There are many videos on YouTube for beginners as well, if you're interested in diving deeper into meditation for yourself or your child.
Read Books About Anger Together
I love reading with my daughter now that she's older and can read pretty well. When she was younger and struggling with words, it honestly annoyed me to read with her because she was soooooo slow at reading. My ADD brain was not having ANY of it. But like I said, now that she's older, we're good. Reading books about emotions together while working on our anger management workbook has been a nice way for us to strengthen our mother-daughter bond.
Books about anger management for kids:
- When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry
- Angry Octopus: Children Learn How to Control Anger, Reduce Stress and Fall Asleep Faster
- Temper Tamers in a Jar
- Train Your Angry Dragon: Teach Your Dragon To Be Patient
- What to Do When Your Temper Flares: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Problems With Anger
- I'm Not Bad, I'm Just Mad: A Workbook to Help Kids Control Their Anger
- Today I Am Mad
And a book I cannot recommend enough for parents: The Explosive Child: A New Approach For Understanding And Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children
Can a Therapist Help With a Child's Anger?
This is a common question. If your child's anger seems to go beyond “normal” childhood anger, it may be time to try therapy. The right therapist can absolutely help your child work through and redirect their anger. Unfortunately, finding the right therapist can be a long, difficult road… especially if you're on state insurance. Mental health care in America is abysmal.
Sometimes it's easier to find local resources such as group classes or counseling on a sliding scale you pay cash for than to go through your insurance. I know it's frustrating to navigate all of this while dealing with an angry child (or being an angry mom), but it's worth it when you find the right support people to help!
Should I Medicate My Child?
I see this question a lot in the support/parenting groups I'm in: “should I medicate my child?”. Only you – and your child's psychiatrist – can make that decision. If your child's behavior has gotten to the point where it's disrupting your daily plans, you're getting calls from school several times a week, and you're overall just stressed the hell out, I recommend starting with the Nurtured Heart Approach and counseling for you and your child. From there, your child's counselor can work with you to determine if medication is a good option.
Download and Print my Anger Management Workbook
This anger management workbook is simple, but you can always add your own pages to it or have your child use their journal to write their feelings out in a more in-depth way if they're old enough to do so. If nothing else, use this as a jumping off point to work on your anger as well as to help your child work through theirs. No matter how old they are, putting in the effort to nurture your relationship while setting boundaries and setting a good example is going to serve you both well in the long run.
To continue on this same path, I highly recommend this Anger Management Workbook for Kids! It's jam-packed with 50 fun activities to help children stay calm and make better choices when they feel mad.
If this workbook helps you – or would help someone you know – please share it! Here is a pinnable image: