Violence on the streets seems to be on the increase. Displays of anger, unprovoked aggression and violence against strangers are reaching epidemic proportions. However, how young people handle their anger is learnt early in childhood. So how can we help children manger their anger?

It should be pointed out that anger is a normal and healthy emotion. Often children who find it difficult to manage their outbursts haven’t been given the strategies at an early age to allow them to deal with feelings of anger, or the underlying emotions which might make them display anger (hurt, fear, and insecurity).

Tips on how to tame anger in young people

  1. Wait until they have calmed down:  in the heat of the moment it is very difficult for a child to talk about why they feel angry as they are often overwhelmed by the emotion. Once they have had time to calm down and relax parents, carers and teachers can help by encouraging children to talk about angry feelings as this allows them to feel understood and supported. It helps them to think more calmly and find better solutions.
  2. Acknowledge anger: then encourage the child to talk about what prompted it. “Are you sure you’re not angry about something?
  3. Empathise with the feeling: this doesn’t mean excusing the aggressive behaviour; rather let them know that you understand that certain situations can make someone feel angry or upset. “You must have been really mad/upset about something to talk to me like that.”
  4. Uncontrolled displays of anger affect others: ask them how they felt when they were angry and how they think the person on the receiving end might feel “How did you feel after Johnny broke your leggo model?”
  5. How to stay in control: ask them what they think they could do to help stay in control. For younger children this might be counting to 10 or taking deep breaths or imaging their anger floating away in a bubble.
  6. Give support: support and encourage any child who is attempting to control and manage their anger in a positive way and find solutions rather than give into it.”I like the way you kept your cool when you couldn’t find your favourite toy”.
  7. Be a model: children learn by watching how others react to situations. Try not to become angry when you are upset but instead try to find solutions that will help you feel better.
  8. Angry corner: let a child have some time out so they can calm down. A space with where they can draw a picture about how they feel, crunch up paper, burst bubble wrap or bounce on a mini trampoline will help relieve their tensions.
  9. Give comfort: children are often soothed and calmed down by a favour blanket or toy, listening to a favourite CD, or by gently rubbing their back while they are lying still. Once they are calm and still you can talk about what has made them angry.
  10. Physical activity: this is great for ‘letting off steam’, get them to run around the garden or kick a football around for a while.

There is also a great book for younger children about anger management called Angry Octopus by Lori Lite.  Children can relate to the angry octopus in this story as the sea child shows him how to take a deep breath, calm down, and manage his anger. This effective stress and anger management technique focuses awareness on various muscle groups and breath to create a complete resting of the mind and body.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Kidsmatter. Reachout.