Anyone who has seen Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler in “Anger Management” knows that you can go to extreme measures to teach someone the techniques of managing anger and communicating your needs. With children, the challenge is even greater, because they do not always have the language or emotional maturity to contend with feelings of frustration or rage. These simple strategies are geared towards children, but many can be used with adults as well.
Model goal behavior. If you are pulled into arguments and power struggles with your children, they may emulate your own emotional responses. Other methods for teaching anger management include using positive reinforcement, teaching tolerance, showing empathy, instructing them in concrete relaxation techniques (such as breathing, counting, meditating or yoga) and looking for the triggers and warning signs of explosive anger.
The function of teaching anger management is to show an individual how to remove themselves from responding impulsively to a given situation. If the person can learn to remain calm in the face of a distressing scenario, her success will be the building block for the next conflict. Some people can remain calm by giving themselves a time-out from the conflict. You can teach younger children to try counting to 20 or visualizing themselves in a happy place.
When a two-year-old has a temper tantrum, it is usually relatively harmless and just a typical aspect of his emotional development. When the tantrums continue into preschool and beyond, the significance of teaching anger management increases. Some children require concrete strategies and plenty of rehearsal and reflection before they can apply an anger management strategy at the moment it becomes necessary. By starting anger management teaching at a young age, you avoid bigger emotional hurdles later in life.
Many parents and educators are frustrated when a child practices an anger management strategy well in a closed setting, but then loses the capability to apply it in a challenging situation. Teaching anger management is not an overnight proposition. Children require consistency and patience, especially when they revert to tantrums. With regular practice, many children learn self-soothing techniques within a couple of months.
It is important to recognize that anger management is not about denying or suppressing anger. Instead, anger management is about learning appropriate responses and ways of expressing them. Once children learn how to communicate their needs and concerns, they will find that their angry responses diminish.