14 proven techniques to help your child get control of their anger

We can't prevent anger, but we can teach ways to express it assertively without harming others.

14 proven techniques to help your child get control of their anger

Most of us were not explicitly taught social skills. We picked them up along the way, perhaps by observing our parents' interactions with others. But, our littles can benefit from our teaching moments, learning how to appropriately express emotions in different circumstances.

From a very young age, we're told to not be angry or sad. This only results in repressed feelings. We may be concerned when our child acts aggressively, but the American Psychological Association tells us that this is the natural human response to anger. We can't prevent anger, but we can teach ways to express it assertively without harming others.

While it is sometimes necessary to temporarily suppress anger (to avoid confrontations that may lead to physical aggression, for example), unexpressed anger can turn inward, possibly resulting in mental or even physical concerns, such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and sleep and digestive issues. It can also lead to violent or passive-aggressive behavior and can hinder interpersonal relationships.

Anger itself isn't the problem, but like other intense emotions, it can cause us to make poor decisions. When angry, we experience physical changes: Our heart rate and blood pressure rise and adrenaline surges. We may also experience muscle tension and vocal changes, sometimes without our being aware of it.

In some cases, anger can mask more difficult emotions. It is easier to feel anger than the more vulnerable sadness or powerlessness. Misplaced or mismanaged anger can lead to violence.

By teaching our children to recognize and deal with their anger, we may be able to prevent its negative impacts before they happen. Children need to learn to be assertive, not aggressive, and to express themselves without getting emotional or defensive. Fortunately, proven techniques exist, and like other skills, these need to be practiced.

1. Use your words

From the time our children are toddlers, we should be putting names to feelings. Having a word to express an emotion is the first step in dealing with it. Frustration, disappointment, embarrassment, and anger often manifest themselves similarly, but people react to them differently. While disappointment is generally met with empathy, anger can be met with scorn.

By giving these emotions a name, it is possible to encourage children to “use your words" to help you help them feel better. It is okay to feel angry, but it is not okay to behave aggressively.

Don't just tell them; model this behavior. Verbalize your own feelings. This may feel silly, but it can help your child work through the process. In some cases, it may also help you feel less frustrated and angry as well.

2. Visualize yourself in another person's situation

Remind your child that people are unique. Everyone's expectations and life experiences are not universally shared. People from different parts of the world have different customs and may find yours unfamiliar, even rude sometimes.

Children of different ages and abilities vary in their level of emotional maturity. Others don't always share your opinions. By getting angry at their behavior, you may be imposing your own values on them.

3. Consider the “whys"

Question the intent of the supposedly hurtful action. Did a classmate intentionally embarrass your child or did she misconstrue an innocuous comment? If a friend didn't respond when your son waved, was it because he was mad or because he was distracted? If your teen is left out of a group chat, was it intentional or merely an oversight? Sometimes our perceptions are not in tune with reality so this is something we should communicate with our children.

4. Practice relaxation techniques

While this sounds simplistic, it is almost impossible to be relaxed and angry at the same time. There are multiple ways to teach relaxation. You can use personal cues, such as words, phrases, or images to bring to mind in a difficult situation.

For younger children, thinking of a favorite song or story can be calming. As your child gets older, you can teach other techniques, such as breathing, imagery, or meditation. Kids can be taught to breathe from their belly button or practice “elevator breathing." Tell them to close their eyes and go to a “happy place." Have them slowly repeat a calm word or phrase while breathing deeply.

5. Use cognitive restructuring

Cognitive therapy works by helping people look at things in a new way. Instead of saying everything is awful, think everything is awesome (maybe even sing it in your head).

Rephrase situations: It is not “the end of the world" but a “frustrating situation."

Put someone else in your situation. Insert some logic. Anger is sometimes irrational. Your teacher is not “out to get you"; you are simply having a hard time with a concept.

Drop the entitlement: Say “I want," not “I deserve."

6. Plan/practice alternate ways to handle situations

Focus on steps to take to face the issue, recognizing that not every problem has a tidy answer and that some problems take time to resolve. Encourage your child to think before acting.

Search for solutions together. Talk about how things could have been different and what your child might do differently next time. If there is a conflict with another person, see if a compromise can be reached. Suggest an apology if it is warranted. Practicing this first can help alleviate anxiety.

7. Work on communication skills

Don't jump to conclusions. Learn to express what you want appropriately. Stop and listen to what others are saying. Learn active listening skills (mirroring ensures you are hearing others correctly) and think before speaking. Avoid the temptation to get defensive. Ask questions so you know what others are trying to say. Avoid name calling. Keep cool.

Talk about the source of the anger. In children, frustration and disappointment often bring on angry outbursts. Look for the underlying concern. The source may be a skill not mastered or a difficulty in school. There may be issues of self-esteem or problems getting along with peers. Anger and sadness can be intertwined in childhood.

Once the problem is identified, it is possible to provide help, possibly through getting help in school, explaining how things work, or guiding them through social skills.

8. Step away

Remove your child from a difficult situation. Used properly, time outs are not punishment, but a way to remove an individual from a situation, providing time to reflect. It allows the individual time to calm down and collect him- or herself, and to regain control. It also is acceptable to put yourself in a “time out." Doing so retains some control over the situation, making one less likely to feel trapped.

Teach older children to make a conscious effort to not act – to remove themselves from the situation and take a break to cool down. Advise waiting before sending an email or text. Suggest walking away when someone antagonizes your child, creating time to think before deciding the next step.

If your child is sick, tired, or otherwise stressed, feelings of anger are more likely to erupt. If possible, don't put him or her into a difficult situation at these times. Teach older children to pay attention to these cues themselves. Those in an “emotionally-compromised state" are more likely to react in an extreme manner.

9. Encourage empathy

Encourage your child to see things from another point of view. Even young children can understand when someone else feels sad or angry. If they don't want to talk about their feelings, try inserting a favorite character from a book into the story. Ask questions to prompt your child to see another side of the issue and relate it to the situation at hand. How would the characters feel and react?

Remind them to forgive themselves and others. Even good people sometimes behave badly. Losing your temper once doesn't mean you can't change. Children especially need to believe that they will not be forever judged for their actions.

10. Use humor

When we are in the middle of an emotional situation, we can't always find the humor in it. Often disagreements are over rather silly things. Pointing these out in a gentle way can diffuse tension and lead to a solution. The use of silly words, like Doodyhead, can send the conversation in a new direction and the source of the anger may be forgotten.

11. Be generous with hugs and praise

Physical contact can help defuse a challenging situation. A well-timed hug can ward off feelings of jealousy or frustration that can lead to anger. A gentle touch on an arm can help calm escalating nerves.

Remember to praise your child for their attempts, not just their achievements. Sometimes people fail, and there is much to be learned when things go wrong. Remind your kids of their strengths and what they have accomplished thus far. Pointing out your own failures can help your children see that they can move forward and try again.

12. Encourage exercise

Exercise can be an effective way to work off negative emotions or “burn off steam." A good workout can make you realize that an annoyance is just that and nothing more. Regular physical exercise may also reduce frustration, a frequent anger trigger. Exercise increases endorphins, and that feel-good feeling from regular exercise may carry over and keep a minor annoyance from growing unto something more.

13. Self-reflection, literally

Encourage your child to look in a mirror when angry. In all likelihood, he or she will not like the image. Anger is not an attractive emotion. It is said that watching video of his tantrums on the tennis court caused Roger Federer to stop his notorious behavior.

14. Be a good role model

Be aware of your own anger. Studies show that parental emotions influence their children. If you think you don't exhibit anger often, pay attention to how many times you yell or otherwise show anger (maybe keep a journal), noting what triggers it and how you react (yelling, punching the wall, hitting the steering wheel).

While anger is a normal part of life, it is sometimes indicative of a more serious issue. When anger falls outside developmental norms—for example, if a teacher reports your child's anger is out of control, or if it's impacting your child's and possibly your family's life—it is time to seek help.

Several developmental and mental health issues can contribute to emotional outbursts. A professional evaluation can help diagnose and find the proper approach for your child.

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    Boost 1

    Is there a shortage on Lunchables and juice boxes? Many parents believe so

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    If you've found a frustrating lack of school lunch items at your local grocery store lately, you're not alone. Many parents are taking to social media to share their thoughts on a possible shortage in things like Lunchables and juice boxes.

    According to the White House, the pandemic has majorly disrupted supply chains as a whole. Because many industries saw a dramatic reduction during the 2020, those industries have been unable to keep up with the increased demands and needs of workers and consumers.


    There have been shortages everywhere—from furniture to lumber, most notably—and there simply aren't enough products in inventory to avoid running out of stock. Though this issue is transitory, it's still frustrating. Especially when it comes to feeding our kids.

    Kraft Heinz is the company that produces Lunchables, and they say that there has indeed been an increased demand for them.

    "Compared to 2019, nearly 2 million more households bought Kraft Heinz brands in the second quarter of 2021," the company said in a statement to TODAY. "We are also seeing all-time high demand for many of our brands, including Lunchables, which in that case has been driven by proactive steps and investments in marketing and brand renovation that deliver on expectations of modern parents and kids. As such, Lunchables is seeing double-digit growth for the first time in 5 years."

    While supply chain issues are a valid issue, it's also possible that items like Lunchables have increased in popularity because parents everywhere are TIRED. Tired of cooking, tired of cleaning up, tired of washing dishes, tired of making meals where our kids take one bite and then sneer. And while we're always tired of this particular hallmark of parenting, after the last 18 months we are downright "I give up" tired.

    In addition to Lunchables, parents have been taking to social media to vent about a lack of juice boxes. Listen, Lunchables are one thing. We can always slice up some deli meat and cheese and a handful of Ritz crackers and toss it onto a plate and call it a day. But juice boxes are a little harder to replicate. Sure, you can buy the good ol' fashioned half-gallon jugs of Motts. But it's just not the same, and our kids agree. Juice boxes are a staple for daily lunch-packing!

    There are several Reddit threads where parents say it's impossible to find any brand of juice box in their local grocery stores as well as bigger chains like Walmart and Costco. It's also an issue that many school districts are facing for their own school lunch supplies. When the in-person headcounts in schools across the U.S. dropped significantly last year, so did the demand for lunch foods.

    The Wall Street Journal reports that with manufacturers facing labor and product shortages, many education systems are worried they won't be able to order enough food for school breakfasts and lunches when children return to the classroom en masse this fall. Juice boxes, beef patties, and chicken tenders are among items in likely short supply.

    While there's no quick fix to this (or any) supply chain issue, Kraft Heinz tells TODAY they're working on the problem.

    "We're actively investing in our supply chains and have teams working fast and furiously so our retailers and consumers can get more of the Kraft Heinz products they love, wherever they like to shop."

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    The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

    Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

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    As Scottish mother-of-two Kirsti Clark recently told STV, she had no idea that infants shouldn't be left in car seats for more than an hour at a time until her 3-week-old daughter, Harper, had a seizure following a car trip that went longer than expected. It was a situation not unfamiliar to many other families: The Clarks simply got stuck in traffic and then left Harper in the seat while they put their older daughter to bed.

    When Harper's father then took her out of her car seat she seemed like she could not get comfortable on his lap, Metro reports. Her father tried to settle her on a play mat and that's when the baby suffered a seizure. The Clarks rushed to the hospital where she was treated and thankfully recovered. But, Clark says one of the biggest shocks to her was that these guidelines even exist.

    "I've never once been told a child should not be in a car seat for any length of time," she told STV. "Nowhere in the instruction booklets or any guidance that we've seen online has there been anything mentioned about breathing difficulties."

    This is why some hospitals do what's known as a "car seat challenge" with preterm babies before discharge, which allows professionals to monitor the baby's cardiorespiratory stability when they're in their car seat.

    Make sure all care providers know to never use a car seat for naps 

    Sharon Evans, a trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children's Hospital, told WFAA News the idea that car seats can be used for naps outside the car is a pretty common misconception that needs to be cleared up.

    "There's nothing about the car seat that's designed to sleep," she told WFAA News. "Of course, if the straps aren't tight, the child can kind of slump down."

    Safety experts say parents should make sure everyone who looks after the baby, including daycare providers and babysitters, understands that they should not be placed in the car seat outside of the vehicle.

    Lisa Smith tells WFAA News she did understand the risks associated with car seat naps and didn't let her baby daughter, Mia, nap in the car seat. Tragically, at nearly 18 months old Mia was left to nap in a car seat at her licensed home daycare, and lost her life to positional asphyxia, or restricted breathing. Now Smith, like Clark, is on a mission to educate other parents to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.

    "I walk around town and see people using a car seat on the seats at restaurants or putting them on the floor at tables," Smith says, adding that she will tell Mia's story to parents when she sees a baby napping in a car seat, letting them know kindly, "'I just want you to be really careful.'"

    What parents should do

    Researchers with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society agree with Smith: The most dangerous time for a baby to be in a car seat is when they're not actually in a car. So while it may seem convenient to leave a sleeping babe in their car seat after a long trip or while you're at a restaurant, it's best to take them out right away.

    The AAP recommends that when you are using the car seat as intended in the car, plan"to stop driving and give yourself and your child a break about every two hours." In the case of babies younger than one month, some car seat researchers recommend avoiding unnecessarily long road trips.

    "Restrict it to say, no more than half an hour or so," Professor Peter Fleming, a noted car seat researcher, told the BBC. (If you've got to go farther than that, just plan for rest stops to get baby out of the car seat.)

    All this comes with one significant note: While baby is in a moving car, safely buckled into a car seat is always the safest place to be. As noted in a study The Journal of Pediatrics, babies riding in a car seat as per the manufacturer's guidelines have a very low risk of suffocation or strangulation from the harness straps.

    If we're aware of the risks and make sure to take breaks and take the baby out of the seat when the car stops, everyone can ride safely. Car seats, when used properly, are a literal lifesaver we should all be thankful for.

    [Update, September 13, 2018: Added information regarding Lisa Smith's case.]

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