What Do Kids Need to Learn to Deal with Anger?
Experts agree that trying to help kids once they have become explosive is a lot tougher than preventing aggressive behavior in the first place. This observation, paired with concern over the potential danger of kids' anger, has given rise to hundreds of school-based violence-prevention initiatives. Increasingly, these programs reveal that teaching kids to play nice isn't enough. "It is absolutely critical to teach kids to empathize with others," says Myrna Shure, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. "A child must be able to feel another child's pain in order to want to stop hitting when he's angry."
The key role of empathy is highlighted by a study from the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD. When researchers followed 72 kids in the Washington, DC, area, they found that 4- to 5-year-olds who behaved belligerently felt about as much concern for others as their peers did. But by 6 and 7, kids who continued to lash out were less empathetic and more prone to ignore, avoid, or laugh at people in pain than those who had outgrown their aggression.