October 12, 1996
Safely and appropriately expressing anger
TIP--Begin working with your young child on how to safely and appropriately express anger.
Keep in mind--Anger can be a difficult emotion to handle. As parents we need to teach our
children that it's okay to be angry, but it's not okay to hurt someone--physically or
verbally. Feelings are different from behaviors.
There are two general steps in anger management. First, you must offer your child acceptable
ways to express his anger, and second, you must work with him on problem solving.
Acceptable Ways to Express Anger. Elizabeth Crary, author of I’m Mad and I’m Furious
(for children ages 3-8) and When You’re Mad and You Know It (for toddlers), writes books that
offer children different ways to express anger. "There are physical ideas, verbal ideas, and
creative ideas for dealing with anger," says Crary. Not all children are the same. A very active
child might benefit from running around the house three times to help diminish his anger. A quiet
child might prefer talking with a parent or listening to music to calm herself down. A child needs to
choose what works for him. Here are a few options drawn from Crary's books.
- Say "I'm Mad!"
- "Shake" it out
- Stomp with Dad
For Older Children:
- Squish playdough
- Breathe deeply
- Kick a soccer ball
- Talk about your feelings
Reading books like Crary's, or watching puppet role-plays helps children see other children deal
with similar problems and consider many different options for behavior. Children can learn that there
are many safe ways to express what they feel without getting in trouble.
Work with your child on solving the problems that trigger anger.
Let's say your toddler
grabs his nine-year-old sister's pencil when she is doing her homework. She explodes. Your older
child needs to learn how to control her anger response and then bring her mind to the problem of
how to deal with a little sister in a way that protects her homework materials. After your child is
calm, help her brainstorm ways to solve the problem. The parent and child might think of these
- Do homework on a table where sibling cannot reach.
- Put on a video for sibling during homework time.
- Ask Dad to distract sibling with a game.
You’ll find more practical tips you can use right now in I’m Mad, I’m Furious, and When You’re Mad and You Know It
by Elizabeth Crary.
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