Updated: Apr 22, 2021
Differentiate Between Feelings and Behavior
Teach kids to label their feelings. Try saying, "It's OK to feel angry but it's not OK to hit." Help them see that they're in control of their actions when they feel angry.
Sometimes, aggressive behavior stems from a variety of uncomfortable feelings, like sadness or embarrassment. So, help your kids explore why they are feeling angry. Maybe they feel sad about a playdate being canceled, but they respond in anger because it's easier or it masks the hurt they're feeling.
Model Appropriate Anger Management Skills
The best way to teach children how to deal with anger is by showing them how you deal with your emotions. When kids watch you lose your temper, they'll likely do the same.
Although it’s important to shield your children from most adult problems, it's healthy to show them how you handle angry feelings. Point out times when you feel frustrated so your child understands that adults get mad sometimes too.
It's OK to say, “I'm angry that the car in front of us didn’t stop to let those kids cross the street.” Verbalizing your feelings will teach children to talk about their emotions.
Also, take responsibility for your behavior when you lose your cool in front of your kids.
Establish Anger Rules
Most families have unofficial family rules about what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to anger. Some families don’t mind doors being slammed and voices being raised while other families have less tolerance for such behaviors. Create written household rules that outline your expectations. Anger rules should center around behaving respectfully toward others.
Teach Healthy Coping Skills
Children need to know appropriate ways to deal with their anger. Instead of being told, “Don’t hit your brother,” explain what they can do when they feel frustrated. Say, "Next time, use your words" or "Walk away from him when you feel angry." You also can ask, "What could you do instead of hitting?" to help your child identify strategies that might be helpful. You also could create a calm down kit that can be used when they're upset, such as a coloring book and crayons, lotion that smells good, or soothing music. Engaging their senses can help calm their mind and body.
Use time-out as a tool to help your child calm down. Teach them that they can take a time-out before they get into trouble. Removing themselves from a situation and taking a few minutes to calm down can be really helpful for kids prone to anger.
Offer Consequences When Necessary
Give your children positive consequences when they follow the anger rules and negative consequences when they break the rules. Positive consequences, such as a reward system or token economy system, can motivate a child to use anger management skills when they're upset.
Follow through with immediate consequences if your child becomes aggressive. Effective consequences may include time-outs, loss of privileges, or paying restitution by doing extra chores or loaning a toy to the target of their aggression.