Anger has a fiery energy that can be used constructively and creatively. Anger is associated with aggression and negative actions that our culture deems inappropriate and counterproductive to living in a social community. Much of what we teach children are ways to think and act to live and thrive in the current cultural community. Being polite, nice, and respectful are some qualities that many cultures value and these are duly imparted upon children. This is wonderful but has the tendency to tip the tides towards the suppression of emotions and authentic being. Often, when working towards anger management in children, we focus on suppressing anger and negative feelings. That, is not so wonderful.
It is part of our nature to want to be liked by others and to want this for our children. We want our children to be nice, respectful, empathetic, gracious, loving and forgiving TO OTHERS. We teach this to our children but what often does not get taught is how to uphold these qualities in your relationship to self. We do not place as much emphasis on teaching children to be nice, respectful, empathetic, gracious, loving and forgiving to THEMSELVES.
We need to shift away from nurturing nice children to empowering authentic children.
This means accepting anger, sadness, fear, and every other wave of feeling that may find flow in a child’s life. It means redefining how we approach anger management for children.
The below guide can be generalized to fit the needs of all emotions. The strategies provided are anger management for children exercises that you can practice with your child.
Four Easy Steps for Managing Your Child’s Anger
The First Step
Begin to label anger and its various energetic expressions (mad, upset, furious etc..). Label it for yourself, label it for others, label it for your child! If a child cannot recognize the emotion he or she cannot work with it constructively. Anger management for children begins with an awareness of the textures and sensations of the emotion that arises when anger is building.
The Second Step
Cultivate an awareness of anger triggers and signs, talk about them with your child.
Ask your child to do the same and guide them through this process. Write it out, turn it into a song, create a dance about where your child’s anger starts in his or her body and moves as the energy builds and transforms. Do whatever it takes to make this a fun and engaging activity. This will help your child to sharpen the senses for an acute awareness of the different textures of emotions and how they translate to outward bodily manifestations. Some children may tense their body and some may begin to raise their voice. Everyone is unique and everyone can learn to recognize how their body reacts to emotions for an empowered sense of anger management.
The Third Step
Turn this awareness into conscious action.
Work on finding a few strategies for self-regulation and anger management for children. This does not mean squashing or suppressing the fiery energy that is arising but intentionally bringing awareness to it. Acknowledging the energy and giving it the respect to flow within will nurture and stoke an internal fire of power. This fire is where creative energy culminates. When anger is allowed to spiral out of control, the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain in charge of higher thinking) is scorched, and sparks of explosive volatile energy shoot outwards and a loss of energy can be felt inwards.
When children begin to recognize their personal signs of arising anger they can use these strategies to dive into the flow of energy and act consciously and authentically.
The Fourth Step
Anger does not magically dissipate without direct action. It demands to be felt and expressed. When anger is forced into submission it gets stored in the body, it creates inflammation and tension. I have known many children whose bodies manifest their suppressed emotions in symptoms such as stomach aches and headaches. We want children to develop an intuitive awareness of what their bodies need rather than forcing their bodies to develop symptoms in order to be heard. Anger may also flare into a bright uncontrollable blaze later and seem unconnected to what truly caused the original anger. A crucial step in anger management for children is learning to ground and release anger in constructive ways.
This will look different for each child and each situation. Sometimes all that is needed is a shift in perspective, actively employing empathy may release anger. Sometimes our bodies scream for momentum, to free the energy through natural movement. Sometimes the anger needs to be let out, the source of anger to be expressed. This is challenging for caregivers who desire nice children. If your child is conscious of the emotion and able to act with intention, allowing the fire of anger to be expressed does not have to be scary. Children who are authentically expressing anger will not be blowing up or throwing a tantrum.
I want to empower you as a caregiver and guide to create an honoring climate where you and your child can feel. Nix the need to be nice and negate negative emotions. Nurture your child to blossom into an empowered and authentic being.