How to Help Your Child Manage Their Anger

Anger is a normal human emotion that both adults and children experience. However, children may have more difficulty recognizing how to control and manage their anger. They might have a tantrum, meltdown, or lash out when things don’t go their way or when they are asked to do something that they don’t want to.

This kind of behavior is normal for children under the age of four. However, as children get older, they need to learn new ways to cope with and express their emotions. It’s up to you as a parent to teach your child how to best deal with what they’re feeling.

How You Can Help Your Child Deal with Their Anger

As a parent, it’s important to manage your own anger and emotions while your child is having an episode. If you respond to your child’s anger with more anger, yelling, or shouting, your child may feel like these responses are okay.

Instead, model good behavior for your child and have patience with them. There are several anger management techniques that you can use to help them recognize and handle their feelings and emotions.

Recognize Emotions

Children, especially younger ones, may not be able to identify their emotions while they’re feeling them. The first thing you can do when it comes to managing anger with your child is to label emotions so that they can recognize them.

Take the opportunity to play a game with your child. Show them a facial expression and have them guess how you’re feeling. Then ask them to show you a face, by saying, “show me a happy face,” for example. This way, children can learn what the feelings associated with these faces are and can begin to recognize them.

Help Your Child Calm Down

While your child is having a tantrum or outburst of anger, gently pull them aside and remain calm. Don’t ignore your child’s behavior, but explain to them that you will wait to talk to them once they are more relaxed.

It’s difficult to reason with a child who is angry and in the middle of a tantrum. Instead, encourage your child to speak with you once they’re more stable and calmer.

Continued

While it may seem tempting to end the tantrum by giving the child what they want, this tactic should be avoided. They will learn that they can get what they want by showing anger and that this behavior works.

Use a Gentle Voice

Once your child is calm enough to talk, use a gentle voice to talk to them. This shows that you understand how they’re feeling. You can soothe your child by gently hugging them and holding them close.

Teach Cool-Down Strategies

An important anger management technique for children is to learn ways to cool down. Some things that you can teach your child to do when they’re angry include:

  • Counting to 10
  • Taking slow, deep breaths
  • Unclenching fists to ease tension
  • Walking away from the thing making them angry
  • Talking to someone they trust

Talk About Their Feelings

It’s important to understand why your child is angry, especially children who are old enough to articulate their feelings. Some questions that you can ask them include:

  • What do you feel right now?
  • Why do you feel this way?
  • How can I help you?
  • Have you had this feeling before?

Encourage Physical Activity

Kids have a lot of energy, and physical activity, such as exercise, and play, can help them relieve feelings of stress and anger. Simple activities like walking, running, or jumping can help your child calm down, release energy, and regulate their mood.

Things to Consider

Helping your child learn to recognize and deal with their anger isn’t always easy. To help prevent tantrums or anger, you can:

  • Make sure your child gets enough sleep
  • Praise positive behavior, no matter how small
  • Be patient with them
  • Ensure your child gets enough play and exercise
  • Can learn to recognize their feelings

However, there are some cases in which you may want to seek help from a doctor.

When to Seek Help 

If your child’s anger seems harmful to themself or others, you could talk to a doctor. Symptoms of a serious issue include:

  • Sudden, extreme shifts in mood
  • Lying
  • Frequent tantrums
  • Causes physical harm to themself or others
  • Has difficulty sitting still or paying attention
  • Verbal abuse

These could be possible signs of a behavioral condition or a mental health condition. A doctor can assess your child to find the best course of care.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 02, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Child Mind Institute: “Is My Child’s Anger Normal?”

National Health Service: “Dealing with child anger.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “Taming Tempers.”

Oklahoma State University: “Heping Your Young Child Deal with Anger.”

Growing Early Minds: “Anger management for kids.”

Family Doctor: “Anger Management Issues in Children.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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