How can I help my child manage anger before an outburst?

Michele Borba

Here are steps to guide you in managing inappropriate anger in your child before an outburst and teaching him or her healthier ways to express it.

Identify Anger Warning Signs

Explain to your child that we all have our own little signs that warn us we’re getting angry, and that we should listen to them because they can help us stay out of trouble. Next, help your child recognize what specific warning signs she may have that tell her she’s starting to get upset. For example: “Looks like you’re tense. Your hands are in a fist. Do you feel yourself starting to get angry?” Anger escalates very quickly: if a kid waits until he is in “Melt down” to get himself back into control, he’s too late—and so are you to try and help him.

Recognize Potential Anger Triggers

Every kid has certain cues that trigger deeper frustrations and unresolved conflicts that may resort in angry outbursts.  For example: your child may feel unappreciated in your family, may feel inadequate in a competitive classroom environment, or may suffer from low self-esteem. The key is to identify what causes the anger in your kid and help him be aware of it when it occurs.

Develop a Feeling Vocabulary

Many kids display aggression such as kicking, screaming, hitting, and biting because they simply don’t know how to express their frustrations any other way. They need an emotion vocabulary to express how they feel, and you can help your kid develop one.

Here are a few: angry, upset, mad, frustrated, agitated, furious, apprehensive, tense, nervous, anxious, irritated, furious, ticked off, irate. When your child is angry, use the words so that he can apply them to real life: “Looks like you’re really angry. Want to talk about it?” “You seem really irritated.  Do you need to walk it off?” Your goal is to have your child be able to label his upset feelings to you without the inappropriate outburst. And when he does, acknowledge and reinforce it!

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

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The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries

Today show's Michele Borba's cures for difficult childhood behaviors In this down-to-earth guide, parenting expert Michele Borba offers advice for dealing with children's difficult behavior and hot...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.