Childhood is the stage where a majority of our behavioural patterns are learnt and the foundation of our personality is formed. This stage is critical for the development of the basis for appropriate and healthy coping skills, emotion regulation strategies, and the ability to differentiate between feelings and behaviour. If at this point of time, a child learns inappropriate and unhealthy behaviours, then it can become difficult for him or her to unlearn it at a later stage. And so, when your child shows signs of not being able to tame his or her temper, it is time for you to incorporate some strategies for anger management for kids at home.
While anger is a normal emotional reaction, and meltdowns can be common among children, they can often become more destructive. Kids may try to vent out their bottled up frustrations by hitting, screaming, or breaking things in the house.
If left unchecked, smaller issues with anger and defiant behaviour can quickly turn into bigger problems that may stay with your child even during their adulthood.
Signs of Anger in Children
Some of the behaviours that are associated with tantrums and meltdowns among toddlers are:
- pulling or shoving,
- Hitting &
- Throwing objects, etc.
Toddlers, more often than not, respond to emotions like anger with tantrums. In most cases, children grow out of this phase as they develop communication skills and appropriate strategies. But there is a possibility that they don’t, and in that case, it means that they haven’t been able to attain the right developmentally appropriate skills yet.
You have a reason to be concerned if:
- your child’s outbursts are getting more frequent; as frequent as multiple breakdowns in a day,
- these outbursts last longer than usual despite of you trying to help them manage their behaviour,
- and you feel worried about them accidentally injuring themselves in these situations.
If this is the case then you must consider talking to your child’s pediatrician and opt for anger management therapy for kids.
Anger Management Activities for Kids
Trying to raise a child and helping them develop emotional intelligence is, no doubt, a difficult job. On top of that, handling frequent anger tantrums is even more challenging. There are going to be several ups and downs in this journey as your child learns self regulation. He or she is bound to lose control every now and then. But you must try to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for your child.
Anger management for kids doesn’t have to only be about disciplining. As you read on further, you’ll get to know some creative ways in which you can help your child deal with anger.
- Cozy Dungeon for Keeping Calm:
Make a safe place somewhere in the house or your child’s room itself where they can go whenever they recognize that they feel angry and need to calm themselves down. This place could be a kids’ tent with fairy lights and your child’s favorite stuffed toys in it. Or, it could be a corner where there are a bunch of pastel cushions, a giant teddy bear, and some crayons and sketchbooks, ready for your child to express themselves into. This soft and cozy place will help the kid to relax and at the same time avoid any injuries, both to themselves and all others in the household.
- Tickbox for Triggers:
As for adults and for children, finding one’s triggers which set one off is very important. It can be even more difficult for children as they haven’t developed the kind of emotional intelligence that adults tend to have. Creating a checklist of common triggers will help them figure out what exactly really makes them throw tantrums. Consider discussing it afterwards and helping them understand their emotions even more deeply.
- Draw And Tell:
Anger is a very physical emotion. It is physical in the sense that whenever it is felt, anyone, be it a child or an adult, feels strong sensations in the body. Helping your child conceptualize anger using drawings or make-believe stories can be the first step for them to begin identifying anger is an emotion, and aggression as an unhealthy response to that emotion.
Your child may draw an image of them with a warm head and hands indicating that this is where they feel their anger. Or, they may tell you that they feel anger beating in their hearts as if it’s a canine, willing to lash out any second. You may be surprised with how elaborate descriptions children can come up with. This will not only help your child explore and accept what they feel and come to terms with it, but also help them vent it out in the healthiest way possible.
- Levels of Anger:
You can help your child create a chart in which they can tell you which triggers or situations makes them angry and rate them from 1 to 5, or 1 to 10 and so on. This may help you find the exact cause of their anger and prompt your child to think about it in-depth.
Breathing exercises help everyone to calm themselves down and be mindful of their emotions and their thoughts. These are the simplest relaxation techniques that can enable you to take control over your anger. For children, too, this is the best way to ensure that they remain calm and composed under all circumstances. A way to make breathing exercises interesting is to hold up your fingers and ask your child to imagine that they are birthday candles. Ask them to take a deep breath and blow them out by breathing out with their mouths.
Role of Parents
As parents, it is important for us to understand how central we are in our children’s little universes as agents of socialization and as the first teachers for life skills. The home environment is supposed to be, in a sense, a simulation of the outside world, which effectively helps children learn coping strategies and how to conduct themselves as they grow up. It is a parent’s duty to set ground rules and restrictions, but at the same time, positive reinforcement strategies are also very important.
Also, we must bear in mind that it is our behaviour that our children model after. We must keep ourselves calm and composed and give ourselves enough time for self care and nourishment to be fit in mind and body for handling our children and other aspects of our lives. Following are a few tips that may help in anger management for children:
- Stick to a daily routine for meal times, waking up and going to bed, studying, playing, etc.
- Make plans for when your child might throw tantrums using the activities given above.
- Let your child express themselves and their emotions with harmless and healthy behaviours like stomping or saying a sentence that may let you know they are angry.
- Help your child navigate through their problems and find the right solutions.
- Reward your child whenever they exhibit good behaviour.
- Try not to put your child in surroundings or with toys that they are not comfortable with.
- Control your own emotions and avoid any outbursts as your child will model after your behaviour.
Therapy and Options Beyond The Behavioural Plan
If your child is lashing out more than usual, it may be time for you to consider professional help. Behavioural therapies can help you and your child develop a positive relationship and at the same time reduce the negative effects of anger in your child. Options like PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy) is known to be a very helpful option for children between ages 2 and 7. Other options are parent management training, in which the parents learn certain skills and techniques, and CPS (collaborative and proactive solutions) which helps children learn skills for emotion regulation and building resilience over anger.
At times, such behavioural plans may not work with some children. This may indicate that your child might have an underlying mental health condition that needs to be treated otherwise. A few such conditions include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, learning disabilities, sensory processing issues and autism. Such conditions have a different route of treatment plans which may involve further exploration and maybe seeing an expert in that particular field.
At the end of the day, learning how to handle your child’s aggression with behavioural approaches can prove to be difficult and challenging. This requires patience and willingness on the part of the parents, however, it proves to be worth the effort knowing that it will result in a better relationship, a warm environment at home, and a healthier, happier child.