Why Are Kids So Angry?

Anger Management for Kids

Anger is a normal, necessary emotion, but children need to learn how to control and channel their aggressive impulses in healthy ways. The old advice to vent anger by punching a pillow or pounding the floor with a foam bat has been shown to rev up hostility. The new thinking is to teach techniques that calm the body and mind.

Ages 3-5: When your child begins to feel angry, have her blow bubbles, advises psychologist Edward Christophersen, Ph.D. Bubble-blowing requires taking long, gentle breaths -- exactly the sort that helps soothe ruffled emotions. Practice with your child at least one minute a day for several weeks; then, when a tantrum looms, quietly hand her the bubble bottle. Also show her how to blow imaginary bubbles so she can use the technique anywhere, from sandbox to car seat.

Ages 6-8: Kids this age can begin to use "thought shifting" techniques to prevent an aggressive outburst, says Second Step's Claudia Glaze. First, help your child identify his anger triggers, such as when someone shoves him or calls him a mean name. Then coach him to defuse these triggers by taking deep breaths and using soothing "self-talk" (for example, "I can handle this" or "Take it easy"). Finally, role-play appropriate ways to respond ("That's my ball. Please give it back").

Ages 9-12: Help your child get into the habit of thinking before she acts on her anger, says Myrna Shure, Ph.D., author of Thinking Parent, Thinking Child. You can do this with open-ended questions that encourage her to problem-solve. For example, the next time your child has words with a friend, wait until she calms down and then ask: "It's okay to feel angry, but what happened after you showed your anger? What can you do to solve this problem? What can you do if it happens again?'

Originally published in the August 2005 issue of Child magazine.

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