5 Ways to Teach Your Child Anger Management Skills

Help your child learn healthy ways to deal with angry feelings

Father talking to little boy on playground
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Anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But many kids struggle to understand the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Frustration and anger can quickly turn into defiance, disrespect, aggression, and temper tantrums when kids don't know how to deal with their emotions.

When left unchecked, childhood aggression such as fighting, spitting, and teasing can lead to additional issues. For instance, anger and aggression have been linked to academic problems, peer rejections, and poor mental health in adulthood. For kids who have trouble taming their tempers, use these five strategies to teach anger management skills.

Differentiate Between Feelings and Behavior

Teach kids to label their feelings, so they can verbalize feelings of anger, frustration, and disappointment. 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.

Talking about feelings often and over time helps kids learn to recognize their feelings better.

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 you feel angry. When kids watch you lose your temper, they'll likely do the same. But, if they see you cope with your feelings in a kinder, gentler way, they'll pick up on that, too.

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. But I’m going to stop so they can cross safely.” 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. Apologize and discuss what you should have done instead. Say, “I am sorry that you had to see me yelling today when I was mad. I should have gone for a walk to cool off when I was angry instead of raising my voice.”

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.

Address areas such as physical aggression, name-calling, and destruction of property so that your children understand they can't throw things, break things, or lash out verbally or physically when they're mad.

Teach Healthy Coping Skills

Kids 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.

Fill a box with items that can help them calm down, 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. 

Also, teach problem-solving skills so children learn to recognize that they can solve problems without resorting to aggression. Talk about ways to resolve conflict peacefully.

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.

A Word From Verywell

It’s normal for kids to struggle to manage their anger at times. But, with your guidance, your child's skills should improve. When kids struggle to get their anger under control, or their anger problems seem to be getting worse, it's important to seek professional help. A trained professional can rule out any underlying mental health problems and can offer assistance in creating a behavior management plan.

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