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Anger management for kids. Does such a thing exist? I assure you there are lots of calming tools and coping strategies to help you and your kids, even in the direst of outbursts.
If you have a child with BIG emotions, you know exactly how hard it can be to calm kids down once the path of emotional trajectory is in motion.
Crash, bang, boom.
Anger management for kids will be your new bestie.
And the hard part is…
…when anger strikes, you aren’t always at home.
Kids are a bit like pop bottles.
They get shaken a little here and there all day long. Over time the fizz and pressure builds — and builds — until it only takes one little, tiny incident to set them off.
Like you gave them a pink plastic plate instead of a blue one, the nerve! (#endoftheworld).
This pop bottle analogy is especially true if your child has ADHD or is on the autism spectrum — any small change in schedule or routine can lead to an eruption the size of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Am.I.Right or Am.I.Right?
When kids are exhausted, sleep-deprived, overstimulated its easy for their big emotions to take over.
But here’s the good news:
There are proven methods you can use in ANY situation, (in the home or outside of the home) to help your child manage their anger and emotions.
And I’m going to give you 11 tools right now that really work for anger management in kids.
And take heed, millions of parents before us have fought the good fight, and lived to tell the story.
First, before we get to the calming tools kids can use ANYWHERE, we will take a quick look at how to recognize the early signs of anger in kids. (A.K.A – the red zone).
If your kiddo suffers from BIG emotions, you’ve just gotta check out this life-saving tool, the Anger Rescue Kit for Kids. With over 60 pages this will become your new go-to for helping your child develop appropriate coping strategies.
Anger Management For Kids: How to Tell If Your Child Is Getting Angry
It’s always better to reign in anger before it escalates to a full-blown eruption.
Some common signs your child is getting angry include:
- Red face
- Clenched fists
- Quickened breathing
- Squinty eyes
- Entering the silly zone
- Easily agitated
- Rude comments or defiant behavior
- Overly emotional, sad, or anxious
- Frustrates easily
If you notice these signals in your child, something could be brewing — the stress of the day building…
Why not ask them, “Are you upset? Is everything okay?”
Teach them to recognize the physical signs of their emotions. Employ some calm down strategies below BEFORE the eruption.
(This is much easier than during a full-blown hurricane.)
See the emotional thermometer below, (you can download a FREE high-quality PDF of this graphic here.)
Ask your child to point to where they think they are on the emotional thermometer, keep one on your fridge and one in your car.
First Steps to Teaching Anger Management in Kids
When we are first attempting to teach mindfulness and anger management to kids, it’s best to take a three-step approach:
- Teach your kids to identify their emotions. It’s unbelievable how many people are not aware of the many emotions that affect them throughout the day. In my e-Book Mighty Mindful Kids, we provide 40 exercises that teach kids how to become aware of their emotions. It’s called Mindfulness and you can read here about why it’s so important for kids.
- The second step is calming strategies, and we list 11 effective ones below.
- The third step is to practice patience acceptance. Your kids will not perfect this overnight (their frontal brains haven’t fully developed and they are in fact incapable of complete control over their emotions and logical reasoning). Practice being better, adapt to things that are working and not working, and most of all be patient with your little ones (and keep practicing).
Have a stock of fidget toys available. I love these tangle relax toys.
I have this one too, and I actually use it myself to unwind.
Read the Explosive Child – By Ross W. Greene, a distinguished clinician in the treatment of thousands of explosive kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, states these kids aren’t attention-seeking, manipulative, or unmotivated, and their parents aren’t pushovers. Rather, these kids are lacking some skills in flexibility, tolerance, and problem-solving, and they require a different approach to parenting.
Do you want to know how to help an angry child calm down?
Whether your child is the average neurotypical kid, spirited, on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s), coping with sensory processing disorder, ADHD, or even oppositional defiance disorder, these calm down strategies will be a lifesaver for you.
Anger Management for Kids: 11 Quick Tips to Calm an Angry Child Anywhere
1. Breathe 3:2:1 Method
Breathing is one of the best tools you can teach your child.
Heck, it’s even one of the best habits you yourself can master.
When we feel anxious or angry our breathing becomes quick and shallow. This makes it almost impossible to calm down, our bodies are rigid, tight, and our brains are not getting enough oxygen.
So what’s the bottom line?
When our kids are getting upset, they need to breathe.
So make breathing fun.
• Breathe in for 3.
• Hold for 2.
• Exhale for 1.
• Slow it down.
Or, if you just want to keep it simple, take 10 deep breaths together.
Sometimes my son resists this exercise, so I just start doing it myself. I say out loud, 1, Deep breath in. 2 Deep breath out, 3 Deep breath in, he becomes calmer, even if he doesn’t participate.
Go on give it a try now — Count to 10. See if you feel better, calmer, less stressed when you are finished.
*Pausing, while you breathe….*
How do you feel? Comment below at the end of this article.
Consider using the one-minute mother strategy, In this book, M.D. Johnson Spencer discusses how to discipline unwanted behavior in our kids whereby we attack the behavior and NOT the child. How? Take one minute to verbalize why we are unhappy with the way our child behaved, pause for a moment, and then follow with a hug or expression of love.
2. Standing Forward Bend
Okay, now you might wonder what this has to do with calming down a child. But it’s proven to calm down adults, in fact, it’s a BIG anti-anxiety technique.
And what works for you, works for your child.
The health benefits of standing forward bend, include: reducing stress, anxiety, improving flexibility, relieving shoulder and neck tension, improving posture, calming the mind and soothing the nervous system.
(Just to name a few)
The good thing about standing forward bend is that you really can do it anywhere. If you can bend over, you can do it!
And it’s fun, I just love hanging my head and feeling the stress melt away.
Instructions (model this pose for your child to follow along):
• Stand with your feet touching or hip-width apart, whichever feels better for you.
• Standing tall, inhale, and as you exhale melt towards the floor. Sweep your arms down on either side of your body, forward fold from your hips.
• Tuck your chin towards your chest, relax your shoulders and extend the crown of your head toward the floor. Create a long spine.
• Ensure your bend comes from your pelvis, and not from your back. Imagine your pelvis as a bowl of water, rotate forward so tip the water from the front side.
• Shift your weight forward onto the balls of your feet. Keep your hips over your ankles.
• Straighten your legs as much as possible, but a slight bend in the knees is okay.
• Let your arms hang, or hold your elbows and rock back and forth. If you can bring your fingertips in line with your toes.
• Hold for 30 seconds. Sway your neck from side to side, release the tension.
Pro Tip: Allow your head to hang heavy = no tension. Remember to ask your child to send the breath to their shoulders and neck and allow the muscles to soften.
3. Polar Bear Hug for Anger Management in Kids
It’s proven that even a 20-second hug every day can help kids grow smarter, happier, healthier, more resilient.
Tell your child beforehand that Polar Bear Hugs are when we stop what we are doing and hug each other as tightly as we can.
Remind your child that anyone can call a polar bear hug FREEZE at any time. So be on guard.
When you notice your child starting to escalate down the rabbit hole of emotion, it’s time to pull out your polar bear hug card.
Shout, “Polar Bear Hug.”
Hug tightly for 10 to 15 seconds. Try swaying back forth, squeezing or counting.
Your child might resist you (at first), but chances are they will get a kick out of it, (kids secretly love affection and attention) and it will be just enough to distract them from the volcano eruption that may have ensued.
You can get this full exercise (and much more) in our popular Mighty Mindful Kids Exercise Book:
4. Counting to 100
Pretty self-explanatory, right?
Coax your child, by saying, “I bet you can’t count to 100…”
What kid can resist a challenge?
Counting is known to diffuse anger. It’s an age-old tactic everyone uses.
Our minds need to focus to count, so by doing so, we are sending calming signals to the rest of our body.
Give it a try.
Looking for a fun variation?
Have your child count backward from 10.
You can do this in your head, or you can do this out loud. I prefer out loud.
When you reach one, start over (count for one minute).
For this exercise to be effective you need to adopt slow, controlled breathing. (see point one above).
After one minute your child will feel less focused on stressful thoughts and angry emotions.
This exercise is included in our calm down card set. Learn more here.
If you would like more calming resources to teach anger management in kids strategies 15 Mindfulness Exercises for Kids here.
5. Blow into hands or put hands in pocket
This is especially helpful if your child gets aggressive when angry which is a common trait in kids with ASD or ADHD.
By asking kids to place their hands in their pockets, intertwining their fingers, and pretending they are stuck together, this stops them from lashing out.
You could also have them sit on their hands, or clap. (Anger management for kids at it’s finest).
The point is anything to keep them from using their hands in a negative way.
Blowing into your hands is also another great method to quickly calm down.
And for a couple of reasons:
1. You take deep breaths.
2. You need to focus on what you are doing
3. And the warm air on your skin can help to calm you down.
These exercises and more are also included in our calm down set of 40 quick calm down strategies.
This works if you are somewhere quiet and not chaotic.
(Driving in the car is a good place.)
Ask your child to visualize the following:
Imagine you are walking down a gravel path lined with vibrant green trees. A storm has recently passed and as you walk into the clearing a beautiful rainbow is before you.
Stand underneath the rainbow, let its colors fill you up.
Now smile and imagine all those colors shining from your body.
(Smiling releases endorphins which are responsible for making us happy, and smiling also lowers stress.)
Soften your face and smile right now.
Do you feel happier?
I bet you do!
7. Ultimate Distractions
When I notice my son is getting angry sometimes I’ll employ these strategies:
If they are 3 to 7 – make up a really silly word.
Sometimes I’ll say, “What are we going to have for dinner?” A mushroom worm pie?”
My son bursts into laughter.
Anger is gone.
If they are 7 to 12 – Ask them a question.
“Who’s your favorite musician?”
“Do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend?”
“Who is your favorite teacher?”
Everyone loves to talk about themselves, kids included.
If your kiddo suffers from BIG emotions, you’ve just gotta check the life-saving Anger Rescue Kit for Kids. This will epic guide includes over 60 pages and will become your new go-to for helping your child develop appropriate coping strategies.
8. Mantras for Anger Management in Kids
Ask your child to repeat this three times:
I am in charge of my emotions
I am in charge of my emotions
I am in charge of my emotions
Then perhaps they can repeat:
“I am calm,” or “My body is calm.”
I can be anything positive that your child is comfortable saying.
9. Calm Down Cards
Calm down cards are my favorite anger management for kid’s resource to calm down my spirited child.
Mainly because in this set, there are 40 calm down strategies, and my child loves the surprise and spontaneity of not knowing what activity we will do each time.
Each exercise is fun, easy, and requires little time and effort.
Calm down cards are enough to distract your child from their powerful emotions and set them on a different path.
How we use our calm down card set:
We printed our high-quality PDF of these cards on card-stock paper. Then we put our cards into a basket. (see how to print your printables here). When my son is starting to get upset, we choose three cards from the basket and we both do whatever exercises are on the cards.
Usually, this is enough to distract him from his BIG emotion that was brewing. It’s also fun and engaging.
You can get all of these cards (and many more) in our calm down card set here.
Invite your child or student into a warming calming corner space or create an engaging calm-down binder. These beautiful resources teach angry, overstimulated, overwhelmed, or upset children emotional awareness, and provide useful calm down strategies to help them navigate these difficult feelings.
10. The Weather System Report
Teach your kids to relate to their feelings and emotions like weather systems.
They can verbalize what they are feeling instead of reacting.
For example: Sunny = happy, Stormy = angry, winter = Lonely, Rainy = sad (Be creative and create new variations)
So next time your child is blustery and chaotic, they can say my body feels stormy, it feels like a quickened heartbeat, the urge to scream or holding your breath.
The logic behind this is that when you verbalize your emotions in such a way, you take away the power of the emotion away.
Kids can then begin to process and understand their emotions. And the most important takeaway is that just like the weather patterns our emotions (no matter how strong) will pass.
Does your child ever get angry?
If your kiddo suffers from BIG emotions, you’ve just gotta check out this life-saving tool, the Anger Rescue Kit for Kids. With over 60 pages this will quickly become your new go-to for helping your child develop appropriate coping strategies.
11. Starfish fingers
Ask your child to hold up their hand and spread their fingers wide.
Then, with your finger of the opposite hand, trace all your fingers, counting from one to five.
This is a soothing and rhymical exercise.
It almost immediately calms down my son.
There you have it. 11 calm down tools you can use anywhere. I hope these anger management for kid’s strategies will help you navigate these tough and emotional times.
You can also visit our post on Anger Management For Kids – 55 Cool Ways to Cool Down
Remember, whatever stage you are at with your child, it will pass.
Take it day by day, don’t expect immediate results, be patient, and keep trying.
Remember to PIN this article for later and don’t forget to leave a comment below on what strategy you can’t wait to try!
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2. Fall in Love With Parenting All Over Again. No, SERIOUSLY!
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