Helping children deal with anger

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, May 14, 2019

By Nathan Rice

His face scrunched up, his hands turned into fists, and he let out a scream. These tell-tale signs let everyone know he was upset. He was a sweet and loving first-grader, but he was still learning how to deal with anger.

I would walk to him when I saw that he was getting angry, so I could try to help him through that emotion and ensure he didn’t take out that anger on another student.

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Many adults have trouble dealing with anger, so it shouldn’t surprise us when our little ones have difficulty understanding and controlling that emotion.

Therefore, we should be helping our children understand what they are feeling and teaching them how to deal with anger.

First, we should make sure that we are not discounting their anger. Sometimes we may consider what they are upset about as unimportant, so we dismiss it as trivial without giving it any attention. But their anger is real whether we consider it worthy of something to be upset about or not. We should not dismiss, laugh at or ignore their emotion.

We can help them deal with anger over smaller issues by acknowledging their anger, reminding them that things don’t always go the way we wish they would and sharing something positive.

“I know you’re angry because they ran out of blue Jell-O before you got any. I know it’s upsetting, but we don’t always get what we want. You can still have some red or green Jell-O.”

Helping them learn about their anger and how to handle it when they are upset about smaller things will help them learn how to deal with justifiable anger over more significant things.

There will be times the cause of their anger isn’t something as minor as missing out on their desired dessert. Someone may have done something or said something to them that caused them to be justifiably angry.

We should teach them acceptable ways to respond to anger as well as making sure they know that anger is not an excuse to act any way they wish.

Tips to help them know how to deal with anger can include teaching them how to walk away from situations that make them upset or getting a trusted adult to help them with a problem.

Helping them after they become angry may involve praising them for responding appropriately, such as not being mean to a student who was mean to them. “I’m sure what they said made you angry. I’m very proud of you for not being mean back to them.”

If they didn’t respond as we expect we should remind them of what they are not allowed to do in their anger while still acknowledging the cause of their anger.

“I understand you’re angry because Billy called you a name. I know that hurts. I’ll speak with Billy, but you are not allowed to push him because he called you a name.”

A phrase like this acknowledges their anger while still holding them accountable to the expectations you have set.

We should teach children that anger is a normal emotion. Teaching children to deal with their anger will take a lot of time and patience, but it’s important to help them learn how to deal with their emotions.


Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at