Anger, by itself, is not an negative emotion, according to trainer and writer Christy Matta, writing at MentalHelp.net, an online mental health and wellness resource. Anger can help kids defend themselves and overcome difficulties, says Matta. The issue with anger is often the tools that kids use to manage their anger -- not the anger itself. It's important for children to learn effective ways to manage their anger that don't involve hurting themselves, others or others' property.
The stress response, also known as the "fight or flight" response, is the body's way of avoiding or confronting danger, according to medical professionals at Harvard Medical School's Family Health Guide website. Your child might instinctively defend himself from imminent threats through the use of force and violence, but he can learn to use deep-breathing techniques to help him relax before he surrenders to the impulse to fight. Encourage your child to first recognize what his body feels like when he's getting angry -- clenched hands or heat sensation on his face -- so that he'll know when it's time to use his deep-breathing techniques. When he feels himself getting angry, teach your child to take deep breaths -- inhaling through his nose and slowly exhaling through his mouth -- while counting to 10 to help him get calm and relaxed.
'Get Your ANGRIES Out!'
"Get Your ANGRIES Out!" is an anger management program designed by licensed psychologist Lynne Namka and her company, Talk, Trust & Feel Therapeutics. Namka's anger management strategies are useful for the entire family, and teach people experiencing anger effective ways to address this uncomfortable feeling. Namka offers several anger management exercises on her website, AngriesOut.com, including an interactive, video activity that encourages children to squeeze the anger out of various body parts, and teaches them to identify the difference between feeling angry and feeling calm. Namka's website also offers exercises for older children that encourage them to identify times when they experienced anger while teaching them about other emotions that often lie underneath angry feelings.
Calm Down Box
Counselor and registered play therapist Kim Peterson suggests that parents, caregivers and others working with children help kids create a "calm down box," which includes items that appeal to the senses and help kids get calm while using effective, appropriate anger management tools. Peterson says kids can use their calm down box whenever they're having a temper tantrum, or feeling angry, frustrated or sad. Peterson suggests that items included in the calm down box are objects that kids can touch, smell, hear and look at, such as a soft pillow and blanket, calming music and squeeze toys. Peterson also recommends that parents allow kids to create homemade items to include in their calm down box for a more personalized touch.
Presented by counselor Michelle Stangline, writing at Creativecounseling101.com, the "angry tornado" teaches kids how anger builds up inside a person. Once children can identify the anger erupting, they can then use effective anger management techniques to cope with their angry feelings. Simple materials are needed to complete this exercise: an empty plastic water bottle, water, glue, paper and markers, clear dish soap, red food coloring, tokens -- representing something of value -- and different colors of glitter to represent various emotions. You'll have to explain to your child the different emotions that people feel, and ask him to identify any emotions -- such as sadness -- being felt at the time. Fill the bottle three-quarters of the way, add the rest of the ingredients to the bottle and seal the lid shut with glue. When your child shakes up the bottle, talk to him about how emotions in people are often like the tornado in the bottle -- swirling around chaotically. Once the tornado settles, discuss with your child ways to settle the difficult emotions he feels.