Angry, out of control children can be downright scary. When control is lost, destruction can happen, regrettable things can be said, people can get hurt. It’s my hope that these 12 ways to calm an angry child will help you out with your child.
1. Stay calm.
When your child is in the middle of a rage, it can be terrifying at times, annoying and frustrating at others. The most important key is to stay calm. Take a breath, get a drink of water and sit down if your child is yelling and screaming. Make sure he knows that his behavior isn’t affecting you at all, that you are the eye the center of his storm. Your calmness will help in the future, teaching him that it’s not necessary to react explosively when met with intense emotions. You can let him have the last word instead of arguing back.
2. Allow him to vent in an acceptable way.
Sometimes a punching bag can get aggressive energy out. There are lots of potentially acceptable ways to vent – writing, painting, walking the dog, jumping on a trampoline, throwing a ball around.
3. Don’t try to reason with him in the middle of a rage.
If your child is acting out in a way that is very out of control or dangerous, just do your best to move him to a safe place and wait until he has calmed down. It’s pretty much impossible to reason with anyone who has completely lost control of themselves. Sometimes trying to talk to your child in this state will make things worse, even if you have the best of intentions.
4. Punish the behavior, not the anger itself.
Allow your child to experience his emotions. Bottling them up won’t do anyone any good, especially when that bottle explodes one day. If he does something unacceptable such as destroying property or hurting someone, respond with clear and consistent consequences. You can validate his anger by repeating what he’s angry about, such as saying, “You’re angry because your older brother can stay up later than you and you want to, as well. When you’re his age, you can stay up, too.” Validation can go a long way in diffusing tense situations.
5. Check his diet.
Certain foods have been proven to affect aggressive behavior. These foods include anything he’s allergic to, artificial food coloring, preservatives, sugar, artificial sugar and oftentimes, gluten, dairy, and foods that contain salicylates, an amino acid found in
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries
6. Teach him meditation.
Now, now, before you blast past this tip, check out the free app called Breathe, available in iTunes and in the Google Play Store. There are surely more great apps but I like this one because it asks about how you’re feeling first and then gives a guided meditation that lasts for a few minutes. This is useful right after a rage has passed (probably not in the middle of one) and even at other times, when he is fine. It’s a good tool to get in touch any emotions that come up.
7. Seek out a third party.
If the problems with anger and aggression are ongoing and seeming not to go anywhere, consider finding a mentor or counselor for your child. You might be able to find one at your child’s after school program, or perhaps you know of a family friend who will take your kid under his wing.
8. Figure out the frustration.
There might be something legitimate really getting under your child’s skin. Little brother driving him nuts, breaking his things? Did he have a fight with his best friend at school? Sometimes kids don’t realize that they are taking things out on you, his parent, even though you had nothing to do with the problem. And we don’t often see our kids for the majority of the day. Maybe his teacher really isn’t being so nice to him, or perhaps there’s a bully that he’s embarrassed to tell you about.
9. Have family meetings.
One of the best ways to foster solving problems together and learn communication skills is through family meetings. Holding a non-wavering family meeting once per week will help your children learn cooperation, expression of feelings, respect for one another and cooperation. You can use these meetings for problem solving, clearing out old business, to schedule activities together and just have conversations. Just make sure that the television and the phones are off so that ever member in the family has full attention and an ability to speak.
10. Spend time outdoors.
Time outdoors is crucial for everyone’s health, whether you’re throwing a ball, going for a hike, doing some jumping jacks or jogging laps around the yard. These activities are great ways to let off steam and some of them facilitate communication of you do them together, too.
11. Monitor your own anger.
Children learn what they live. Be honest with yourself. Do you have a problem with anger?
12. Get a diagnosis.
Sometimes persistent, extreme anger and aggression can be a sign of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), intermittent explosive disorder (IED), anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another personality disorder. Sometimes a visit to the doctor is necessary to help your child.
I would love you hear about your family. How do you go about calming your angry child? Please let me know in the comments below!