Children and Anger
Children become angry in a variety of
situations. Suzie may be angry with Mom because she won't let
her go to a friend's house to play. Paco gets angry with his Dad
because he won't let him buy gum at the store. In our role as
caregivers, we can give parents some skills for dealing with
Many adults have learned to
ignore their feelings of anger, or to express these feelings by
hitting or yelling at someone. Therefore, adults often deal with
a child's anger by demanding that he or she stop being angry.
They might send a child to his or her room until the child can
behave better, and sometimes, an adult may hit a child. However,
these actions do not help children learn to handle strong
emotions such as anger.
Although feeling angry is
a part of life that no one can avoid, we can teach children
positive ways to cope with anger. Adults can teach children the
difference between feeling angry and acting on anger. Children
need to be told that feeling mad is neither good nor bad, but
hitting someone out of anger is not OK. In the short run, life
at home will be easier when children learn how to work through
anger. In the long run, children will continue developing ways
to cope with anger as they become teenagers and adults, and will
pass these skills along to their own children.
Specific ways children can cope with anger
Children can learn to handle their anger in several ways. Give
children several choices so they can pick those that work best
for them. Remember that some angry episodes take longer than
others to solve.
Do something physical Do something with your body such as
stomp your feet (the "Mad Dance"), run around the
house, or punch a pillow. Or, play with play dough, clay, or
bread dough, which can be rolled out, pounded, twisted, and
pulled apart. Any of these physical activities can help children
focus their anger on something else and help them to calm down.
Talk about your feelings Some young children can talk to
a parent, brother or sister, grandparent, a child care provider
or a friend about what is making them angry. Talking helps some
people work through their anger so they can accept what is
making them angry, or solve the problem in a positive way. If
children can't or won't talk to a person, they can be encouraged
to talk to a family pet, a puppet, or an imaginary friend.
Sing an "un-mad" song Help children make up
words to a song or poem that expresses what they're feeling.
Words from a favorite song can be substituted with this
"un-mad" song. For example, the words "I'm so mad
'cause I can't play. Go away, go away, day!" can be sung to
a familiar or made-up tune.
Ask other people how they cope with their feelings of anger
Help children collect ideas from other people on how to cope
with anger. Help the child decide which ones are OK based on the
information in this publication. For example, some people take a
fast walk to drain off anger, while others take deep breaths
when they get angry.
Drain the anger from your body Let children relax with
some water play activities or finger-painting. Or let the child
scribble as hard as she can on a scrap of paper and throw the
paper away as if throwing the anger away. Or encourage the child
to dictate a story about what has made her angry to an adult and
have the adult read it back. The child can then crumple up the
paper and throw it away.
Copyright © National
Network for Child Care (NNCC).