Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, but it needs to be expressed in appropriate ways.
Everyone, from toddlers to adults, gets angry from time to time. Learning to deal with anger is a long and gradual process, and parents can help children understand their anger and find ways to work through their feelings.
Model good anger management skills
Your child learns by watching you, and she is paying close attention. It is important for her to understand that it is alright to feel angry, and that there are acceptable ways to express that anger.
When you find yourself losing your patience, let your child know that you need to calm down before you can continue. Do whatever you need to do to regain control of your emotions: take a short walk, sit alone for a few minutes, or vigourously clean the bathroom. When you are feeling better, you are more prepared face the situation at hand.
If you lose your temper and yell, be sure to acknowledge your mistake. "I’m sorry I yelled. I was frustrated and I should have taken some time to cool off. I’m feeling calmer now, so we can talk about what happened."
Find the root of the anger
When dealing with an angry child, it is important to acknowledge the feeling behind the anger. Anger can often be a result of feeling sad, hurt, scared, embarrassed, misunderstood, or a variety of other causes. It can be helpful to let your child know that you understand how he feels, and give his feeling a name. If he is able to talk about what is upsetting him, it may help to ease his anger.
Help your child learn to recognize anger cues
After an angry moment has passed, ask your child how she felt as her anger was building. Did her face get hot? Did she start using a louder voice? Were her fists clenched? Could she feel her heart pounding? Explain that these are signs of anger, and whenever she starts to feel this way she can stop and change her focus before her temper gets out of hand.
Have a plan for dealing with anger
Different children work through anger in different ways. Help your child find the way that is most effective for him. He may need to work through the aggression in a physical way like running in the yard or he might prefer a quiet activity like reading a book or just lying alone on his bed.
Set limits for the family about what is and is not acceptable for working through angry feelings. For example, it is alright to punch a pillow, but it not OK to throw or break things. It is good to say that you are angry, but there is to be no name-calling or hitting. Decide what rules work best for your family and be sure that everyone understands them.
Try to view anger not as a problem, but as a normal emotion that everyone experiences. With this in mind, you can help your child develop the ability to deal with anger in an appropriate and effective way.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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