Dealing with the Angry Child Ages 6-12

Handling children’s anger can be puzzling, draining, and distressing for adults. In fact, one of the major problems in dealing with anger in children is the angry feelings that are often stirred up in us. It has been said that we need to remind ourselves that we were not always taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life during our own childhood. Our goal is not to repress or destroy angry feelings in children- or in ourselves- but rather to accept the feelings and to help channel and direct them to constructive ends.

To respond effectively to overly aggressive behavior in children we need to have some ideas about what may have triggered an outburst. Anger may be a defense to avoid painful feelings; it may be associated with failure, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation. In childhood, anger and sadness are very close to one other and it is important to remember that much of what an adult experiences as sadness is expressed by a child as anger.

Actions to take
Catch the child being good: Make comments such as:
“I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded”
“I appreciate your handing up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play”
“You were really patient while I was on the phone”
“I’m glad you hared your snack with your sister”
“I like the way you’re able to think of other’s
“Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened”
Deliberately ignore inappropriate behavior that can be tolerated This doesn’t mean to ignore the child, just the behavior. Even though this behavior could be tolerated, the child must acknowledge that it is inappropriate, remember to be consistent.
Provide physical outlets and other alternatives It is very important for children to have opportunities for physical exercise and movement.
Manipulate the surroundings Stop a “problem” activity and substitute, temporarily, a more desirable one. Sometimes rules and regulations, as well as physical space, may be too confining.
Use closeness and touching Move physically closer to the child to curb his or her angry impulse. Young children are often calmed by having an adult nearby.
Express interest in the child’s activities Children naturally try to involve adults in whatever they might be doing, and the adult is usually annoyed for being bothered. Very young children, and children who are emotionally deprived, seem to need much more adult involvement. Children about to destroy a toy will must likely stop if an adult shows interest in the toy. An outburst from a child struggling to read can be prevented by a caring adult simply saying to the child, “show me which words are giving you trouble”
Be ready to show affection Sometimes all that is needed to calm down an angry child is a hug or other form of affection. However, children with serious emotional problems many have trouble accepting affection.
Ease tension through humor Kidding the child out of a temper tantrum offers the child an opportunity to “save face.” However, it is important to distinguish between face-saving humor and sarcasm or teasing ridicule.
Appeal directly to the child Tell the child how you feel and ask for consideration, example:
“I know that noise you’re making doesn’t usually bother me, but today I’ve got a headache, so could you find something else you’d enjoy doing?”
Explain situations Help the children understand the cause of the stressful situation. We forget to realize how easily young children can begin to reach properly once they understand the cause of their frustration.
Use physical restraint Occasionally a child may lose control so completely that he has to be physically removed from the scene to prevent him from hurting himself or others. It shouldn’t be as punishment but as a means of saying, “You can’t do that”
Encourage children to see their strengths as well as their weaknesses Help them to see that they can reach their goals.
Use promises and rewards Promises of future pleasure can be used both to start and to stop behavior. Don’t confuse this with bribery. We must know what the child likes-what brings him pleasure- and you must deliver on your promises.
Say “NO!” Limits should be clearly explained and enforced. Children should be free to function within those limits.
Tell the child that you accept his or her angry feelings Offer other suggestion for expressing them. Teach children to put their angry feelings into words, rather than fists.
Build a positive self image Encourage children to see themselves as valued and valuable people.
Use punishment cautiously There is a fine line between punishment that is hostile toward a child and punishment that is educational.
Model appropriate behavior Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence of their actions on a child’s or group’s behavior.
Teach children to express themselves verbally Talking helps a child have control and thus reduces acting out behavior. Encourage the child to say, for example, “I don’t like your taking my pencil. I don’t feel like sharing just now.”
In dealing with angry children, our actions should be motivated by the need to protect and to teach, not by a desire to punish. We must teach them acceptable ways of coping. Also, ways must be found to communicate what we expect of them. Contrary to popular opinion, punishment is not the most effective way to communicate to children what we expect of them.