Resources for Anger in Children
“I never really struggled with anger, until I had kids!” Yes, we hear that a lot. Kids have a way of igniting emotions we never knew we had. The reality is that emotions in family life are contagious. A child’s anger can quickly spread around the room and cause flare ups in parents as well as siblings. One of the most important things you can do if you’re trying to help your child deal with anger is to remain calm yourself.
When your child begins to get angry, you want to keep the anger your child’s problem. If you get angry with your child then the focus shifts away from the child and onto two people experiencing conflict. Rather, if you as a parent stay calm, you can help your child deal with the anger. One of the first things children need to learn about anger is that anger is their problem and they need to develop some solutions and healthy responses. Don’t get sucked into the emotional outburst. As a parent you’ll need to remain calm but firm.
We have many resources to help you with anger in your home. Here are a few, but if you’re stuck or need some help, give us a call. Anger issues can get complicated and we can help.
Taming Emotions in the Family
At Biblical Parenting University we offer online parenting classes, broken into 5-minute teaching sessions for the busy parent. One of the classes is entitled Taming Emotions in the Family. Click here to learn more. The class offers valuable tools for parental anger and children’s anger. You’ll find many solutions that you’ll be able to apply to your family. Click here to register.
Anger is a heart issue. You won’t get deep enough by just focusing on behavior. What you don’t want is a child who behaves on the outside but has unresolved anger in the heart. Reading the book Parenting is Heart Work will give you great insight into what the heart is and how to work on emotions with your child. Anger is rarely the primary issue. Usually children have other heart issues that, when dealt with, relieve the anger.
Using the Break to Deescalate
One of the important anger management tools you’ll want to develop and practice is what we call a Break. The Break is further developed in the book Home Improvement, The Parenting Book You Can Read To Your Kids. Most children who struggle with anger resist the Break because it requires that they pull back instead of push forward. Because anger produces energy, most children want to push forward when they’re angry and they do that with violent words or actions. One of the primary skills that a child needs is to pull back when upset. You’ll want to explain the Break to your child. It’s not a punishment, but a tool for settling down. You’ll also want to be prepared if your child refuses to go to the Break or has a tantrum when in the Break. All of these questions are addressed in chapter three of the Home Improvement book. Chapter five gives you a hands-on plan for helping children deal with anger.
In order for children to pull back instead of push forward they have to see their anger coming on. The Bible says in James 1:19, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” One of the ways to help children “be slow to become angry” is to teach them to recognize early warning signs of their anger. You’ll also want to do some teaching about what anger is. These strategies are taught in our audio session, Helping Children Deal with Anger. Although the live session by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN is before an audience of parents, you can actually listen to that recording with children ages eight and up. Listening together helps you maintain a coaching attitude with your child. The anger is the child’s problem, but you want to communicate your desire to help equip your child with the necessary tools to manage life.
Sometimes it can be a challenge to help children recognize emotions in themselves or others. We have a chart that you can download and use to help your child recognize some of the cues of various emotions. Click here to see the download.
Most of the time, when working on anger management with children we find that the underlying issues involve an unwillingness to follow instructions, an inability to transition from one thing to another, a lack of understanding about the value of correction, or some bad attitude issues that transfer from one situation to another.
Getting to the Deeper Issues
If you suspect these underlying issues, then we wouldn’t suggest that you work directly on anger at first. Instead work on the underlying issues by focusing more on following instructions, correction, attitude, and accepting no as an answer. The Parenting is Heart Work Training Manual with Audio Sessions goes into depth about these issues and helps you know how to develop successful routines that build character in children. When children develop cooperation, responsiveness to authority, and a positive attitude toward correction, then they get angry less often.
Be careful that you don’t cater to a child who uses anger to manipulate the situation or who uses tantrums to avoid confrontation. Don’t be afraid of a child’s anger, but don’t jump in and join the battle either. Sometimes it’s best to confront a child a couple hours after the angry episode when the emotions have settled. You’ll also want to transfer the responsibility for anger management to the child. After all, this is his or her problem and if not addressed will become a major life issue.
If you’re not seeing progress, don’t assume the problem will get better. Get additional help. Having a child meet with a person from church or a counselor to talk about anger can often help process emotion in a more constructive way. To help you get started or to develop a plan you might want to work with a Biblical Parenting Coach. Why not start by scheduling a phone consultation with Dr. Scott Turansky.
Be sure to pray for your child regularly. Also, pray for yourself so that you are spiritually ready to address the challenges of the day. Often children ride the emotional waves of the parents so your calmness will likely produce more peace in family life in general.
Work on Your Own Heart Too
If you sense that your own anger needs some work you might want to read the book Good and Angry, Exchanging Frustration for Character in You and Your Kids. This book addresses parental anger and helps you know how to better respond to your own frustrations and even use them wisely to point out problems that need to be addressed in your children.
Remember that some anger is caused by hurt such as a divorce, physical pain, or the loss of a loved one. That kind of anger needs a different approach. The MP3 Helping Children Deal with Anger also addresses hurt anger so if you suspect that there are underlying hurt issues, you might want to listen to that talk by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN.
Of all the problems that happen in parenting, a child’s anger can be the most disruptive, so stay on it, continue to look for new approaches and solutions and ask God to guide you to strategic heart moments with your child. We believe that children who get angry a lot or feel their anger intensely have a gift, it just needs to be trained and managed. People who experience intense emotions also have the ability to understand the emotions of others and even connect with people on an emotional level. Your child may end up being a counselor someday. Now’s the time to teach important skills of anger management.
Anna LynchPosted at 07:03h, 18 July
Thank you, this was just what I needed. We struggle with anger in our home and one of my teenagers is very quick tempered and volatile. We have tried for years to work on it and have done counseling, but things aren’t changing much. I’m glad to have some new resources. I’ve read some of you’re book, “Good and Angry” and will check out the other suggestions!
scott turanskyPosted at 11:43h, 18 July
Anna, thanks for your comment. An angry teen needs a plan to address emotions. That usually requires some changing of beliefs like “I have the right to finish what I’m doing before I respond to my parent,” Or, “My job description in life is to have fun.” Beliefs exist in the heart and often changing those thinking errors requires experiential learning, not just telling kids what they should believe. Emotions are also in the heart but must be managed. Thus, a plan is essential. But this must be the child’s plan. That doesn’t mean that we as parents sit by idly while a child mistreats us and those around. Rather, we can set the framework that helps a child see that anger isn’t working, that a plan is necessary, and that change isn’t optional. I wish you the best as you look at some of these resources for your home.