Most parents believe that if they do everything right, their children will be happy. But that’s not how childhood works. No matter how much you love them or how much attention and material items you shower them with (please don’t though), kids are going to experience anger. Learning how to help a child with anger is a crucial skill all parents need to learn.
While childhood is supposed to be filled with excitement, fun and wonder, it’s also a time when children feel a lack of independence, scared, and confused by the world around them. These kinds of feelings, in addition to growing pains, hormones, and the pressure of performing in school and extra-curricular activities, quite naturally lead to frustration and anger.
Ways to help a child with anger
1. Recognize That anger is Normal & Healthy
You can’t help your child if you see them as the Spawn of Satan. Anger is normal and natural for people of ALL ages. Keep this in mind as you approach your child and their anger. Your job isn’t to STOP them from experiencing anger, it’s to help them process their anger in constructive, not destructive, ways.
2. Stay Calm
Wouldn’t it be nice if your kid was only angry on days you didn’t get into it with your boss and then got stuck in traffic for a couple hours? It’s critical to stay calm when your child is throwing a temper tantrum, even when you feel like blowing up yourself. Not only will this help keep the situation under control, it also models how to control their own emotions as they grow and develop.
3. Validate & Acknowledge Their Anger
NEVER tell your child they shouldn’t feel something they’re feeling. (Please re-read that sentence until it’s ingrained in your brain.) If your child is frustrated and angry, there’s a good reason for it.
So validate/acknowledge their anger.
This can be as simple as saying, “You seem very upset right now,” instead of, “Calm down, there’s no reason to get so angry.” Validating their feelings will help them identify their emotions AND not feel bad or ashamed of them – which they will grow to do if you repeatedly tell them they “shouldn’t” feel whatever it is they’re feeling.
4. Help Them Release Their Energy
Help your child deal with their anger in positive ways instead of negative ways. Very young children may want to draw their anger. Older children may want to run around in the back yard. Teenagers may want to lift weights to get that energy out. Squeezing stress balls and bubble wrap is a fun way to get the anger out and it often ends in everyone having a good laugh.
Anger is a natural part of life. Don’t make your child feel bad for their anger and don’t feel like you’ve somehow failed as a parent because your child experiences anger. Instead, teach them it’s ok to be angry and that everyone experiences anger. They just have to learn to process it in healthy ways.
Some kids struggle with anger more than others. Sometimes a divorce or sudden death of a parent or loved one, can create the kind of anger that requires the help of a professional. If you’re struggling to help a child deal with anger, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you help them!
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Greater New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.