Helping Our Kids Handle Anger
Anger is a difficult emotion so how do we help our kids with it? It starts with you! There are several things you can do to teach your kids about anger.
Acknowledge your anger first
To some this is the hardest part. If anger has been an issue for you, it's okay to admit it. I know it's embarrassing but if your reactions have gotten of of hand (and your kids probably know it) then address that first by having an honest conversation. It can go something like this.
When I get angry I tend to _______. (be honest and just name it) I regret that and want to practice handling our anger better. How does that sound?
If you want your child's behavior to change, it starts with you.
By acknowledging your anger it sets the example for them to follow. They want to be like you so use it! If you're not up to apologizing, the next time you overreact, just say OOPS! For more on this read my blog When You Or Someone You Love Gets Angry.
Imagine how powerful that experience would have been for your parents to acknowledge their anger! Accountability invites forgiveness because you are owning it instead of blaming others for how you feel.
Model healthy anger
You are the most powerful role model your kids have. This doesn't mean you have to be perfect. But you can start by using tools like I messages and time-outs when you get upset. They'll want to copy you so why not use that to your advantage?
Start by giving them a clear message that anger is a normal, healthy emotion - for kids too. Everyone has a right to their feelings and for kids to learn that anger is healthy will shift them emotionally for the better. Give them permission to express it. If that scares you a little, keep reading. You're not alone!
Your job is to model appropriate anger. In order to do that, you need to understand your anger first. What does it look like in your body? How can you tell what you first start to feel it? These are important questions you can talk openly with your child.
Share your early signs of anger whether it's rapid heart rate, sweating, irritability, and set the example. Ask them to share their signs. Talk about what anger looks like for each person. No judgment. Talking openly about this encourages them to learn about their strengths and weaknesses.
Once they know what their anger looks like, create a game plan. If you don't have one for yourself make it a family activity. These are some great tools to teach your kids.
Tips for kids and anger:
- Recognize the early signs of anger - increased heart rate, shaking, feeling annoyed, anxious, clenching your jaw, sweaty palms.
- Encourage them to express it verbally "I feel angry because ... "
- Get moving! Strenuous exercise helps get the anger out in a safe way.
- Show them how to stand up for themselves assertively by using I messages.
- I feel _____ when you ______ ( describe the behavior as fact, no judging ).
- Listen to fun music and dance it out!
- Give the child an empty box to hit with a safe object like a plastic bat.
- Encourage them to take a time out.
- Model these behaviors yourself.
- Have a family discussion about ways to handle anger.
- If your anger has been hurtful, use it as a teaching moment. Kids love to see us learn and admit that we are not perfect!
You might not be proud of how you've handled anger in the past. Don't beat yourself up. Admitting that you need help will model accountability for your kids. Talking openly about this encourages them to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses.
Read my blog on Managing Anger with Time Out.
Click here to get your free copy of 10 Tips To Transform Anger Into Loving Connection.