3 Simple Steps for Helping Your Child Navigate Anger
by Talia Filippelli, LCSW, CHHC, CPT, Founder of Starr Therapy View Bio
Talia is the owner and founder of Starr Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey. She is known for her solution-focused therapy approach and fearless mission to make seeing a therapist something that people brag about! She has been featured as a mental health expert on CBS and CNN, and was voted a "Top Kids Doc" by NJ Family Magazine for the past 8 years. She is also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Certified Personal Trainer. To find out more information, check out www.StarrTherapy.com.
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But many kids struggle to understand the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Frustration and anger can quickly turn into temper tantrums when kids don't know how to deal with their emotions.
As parents you can be prepared with “calm down” box of items to help your child cool down before they get too fired up!
Fill a box with items that can help them calm down, such as a coloring book and crayons, lotion that smells good, or soothing music. Engaging their senses can help calm their mind and body.
One of the biggest challenges we confront in parenting is managing our child’s big emotions. And let’s be honest, all emotions feel big when you’re a little person!
Whether your child has a slow-burning fuse or explodes at the slightest provocation (and everything in between!), all children can benefit from anger management skills. As parents, we lay the foundation for this skill set by controlling our own reactions in the face of an angry outburst. Next time your parenting skills are put to the test, you’ll be prepared with these 3 simple steps!
Much like worry and stress, anger is one of those big emotions that can be confusing to help a child navigate without getting angry yourself.
First, let’s set the scene. Let’s imagine you’re at home and your child is playing with blocks in the living room. You hear a scream, a loud crash of blocks hitting the floor, and your son runs to his bedroom crying and slams the door.
Step 1: Label the emotion out loud.
Help your child develop his emotional word bank by saying what you see calmly and non-judgmentally. This step is about preventing you from getting hijacked by your child’s behavior, and instead focusing on the feelings that drove your child’s reaction in the first place.
Try this: I see your blocks scattered on the floor and it looks like you’re mad about something. Can you tell me what happened here?
Step 2: Express empathy and understanding.
When we align with our child’s emotional state and normalize their feelings, we show them that we’re listening, and we get it. Almost instantaneously, you will see your child’s big emotions start to dissipate as he shifts from emotional brain to rational brain.
Try this: I think I understand now. I would be upset too if my tower fell. I know you were working hard on it!
Step 3: Set limits and problem solve.
Now that the big emotion has been neutralized, your child can think more clearly. This is your opportunity to re-state household rules and teach him skills for next time by facilitating a conversation where he comes up with the solutions.
Try this: It’s okay to feel angry that your block tower didn’t work the way you hoped it would. But smashing your whole project and slamming your door doesn’t seem to fix this either. What can you do next time you’re feeling frustrated while building with blocks?
Feel free to experiment with these skills at home and let us know how it turned out!