Managing tween anger

At times of stress, children may struggle to manage their emotions. This can lead to anger, aggressiveness and sometimes violence. It’s important to realise that these aren’t necessarily the emotions your child is trying to show you.

little girl sitting on a bench with red flowers behind her

It’s not just anger

Underneath it, there is hurt, fear, frustration or anxiety. Getting to the root of the emotion will help you better support your child’s wellbeing.

A child in distress will experience bodily changes. Their heart may beat faster, they may feel tension in their chest, their stomach might tighten. This is called the ‘flight or fight’ response. They will be less able to listen or take in information.

Allow your child to calm down before tackling what’s going on.

Try calming techniques

  • Get them to take deep breaths to slow down their heart rate.
  • Give them a windmill or some bubbles to blow. Ask them to count how many times the windmill spins or how many bubbles there are.
  • Create a soothing box together for comfort when they are struggling.
  • Suggest they kick a ball or run around outside to release pent up energy.

Get to the root of the problem

Once your child has calmed down, find a quiet space to talk.

Children don’t always know the language of their emotions, just that something doesn’t feel right. As a parent, you can help your child expand their emotional vocabulary:

  • Share what you feel when you’re angry. What is happening in your body?
  • Download the anger ladder chart to help them put their emotions into words.
  • Help your child notice when they start to feel angry, and ask them to describe how they feel.
  • Observe what make your child angry. When they’re calm, you can help them recognise these triggers and find other solutions.

Teach them about consequences

Children need to understand their actions have consequences. It’s OK to feel angry – everyone does – but it’s not OK to hurt yourself or others or break things. Having clear boundaries and rules helps a child know what to expect.

Involve your child in deciding house rules and the consequences for breaking them. This helps you stay objective and defuses anger caused by unexpected consequences.

Ask your child to help with the consequences. For example:

  • Helping to clean up a mess they’ve made.
  • Fixing the thing they’ve broken (if it’s safe.)
  • Writing a letter of apology to someone they’ve hurt.

Reward positive behaviour

Children love our attention and they will try to get it however they can. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to and encourage positive behaviours.

  • Praise the behaviour you want to see and acknowledge their effort. For example: “that was great tidying up, thank you.”
  • Reward your child when they use a calming technique or follow house rules.
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