These ten ways to calm an angry child are strategies that kids can use to deal with their anger in healthy ways. Many of these solutions give children a physical outlet for some of the feelings that are bottling up inside them.
Children can experience anger for a variety of reasons. If you want to consider more deeply why your child might be angry, please visit this post for more thoughts as well as solutions.
Anger in Children
When considering why your child might be angry, the first thing to analyze is your home. Ask yourself these question:
- Are your kids in a healthy environment, or is there a lot of stress they are experiencing because of things going on within your family or at their school?
- How can you help fix the turmoil that might be going on around them?
- What are you modeling? Do you handle things in anger? Try and work on that too.
Something to note is that a child’s environment will never be perfect. If they are in harms way, that needs to be fixed. Having a safe environment is extremely important for your kids’ well being.
If your marriage is a mess, make it a priority to invest in the health of your marriage. Get outside help when needed.
However, we cannot solve everything. We need to refrain from unreasonably trying to control their environment. Often, things won’t be perfect in life.
The question then is: How do we help them deal with the stresses around them in a healthy way?
For example, maybe a child has a hard coach. This coach isn’t abusive or harmful, but they might have a more challenging personality or be tough in their approach. We shouldn’t try and remove the coach or quit the sport, but we teach them how to successfully work within their situation.
This might involve submitting to the coach, or it might involve communication with the coach. Teaching them to have these hard discussions is important, and the degree they communicate depends on age.
Life will bring hard teachers, coaches, bosses, friends and people in general. Part of raising kids is learning them to handle difficult people in healthy ways.
Jesus was angry. In his anger, he did not sin. How can we learn to do the same?
If you have evaluated their environment (home, childcare, school, etc.) and it seems good, don’t be baffled by your children’s angry behavior. There are all kinds of personalities in this world, and some just run hot.
These kids need help to learn how to navigate strong feelings and behaviors in healthier ways.
Further, younger kids often lash out in anger because they are frustrated that they don’t have the words to express what is going on inside of them.
Sometimes what appears as “anger” is actually a deep frustration in wanting to do something, perform well, communicate better or understand their world more. This is a very natural part of a child’s development process.
It takes patience and training from a parent to know how to help your kids learn to deal with their emotions. Often times, helping kids identify their emotions and name them can be powerful.
It is healthy to say, “It appears you feel angry right now. Let’s get self control and then I can help you learn how to deal with the anger you feel.”
When kids are in a heightened sense of anger, they often move into fight or flight mode, and their frontal cortex beings to shut down. Giving them time to get control will help their brains tune in to your teaching or discipline. Read more about that technique here.
Staying calm yourself will help model the behavior you want as well. Lower your voice, lean away from your child and work to maintain your own control.
Breathing is very effective and can lower heart rate. As a parent, use this tool. Number 3 on this list here of ten ways to calm an angry child provides a child-friendly answer to teaching breathing techniques.
Ten Ways to Calm an Angry Child
Below I have listed a number of tools that should help you and your child deal with anger.
- Have them fold their hands. This is a proven method to help relax a child.
- Hold them close or have them put heavy covers on their bodies. The pressure on their bodies is calming. This is especially true for many kids that struggle with sensory processing. Weighted blankets or compression shirts can help too. My sensory kid liked to be wrapped tightly in a blanket and then sat on. Of course, this needs to be done in a loving way that is approved by the child. I’d wrap her up, at her request, sit on top to add the pressure that comforts and then we’d work through the alphabet to name animals or food. I must emphasize that this technique only works with strong, loving relationships and the child’s OK.
- Have them blow bubbles. This teaches taking deep breathes, which are soothing. In breathing, try and make the exhale longer than the inhale.
- Have them punch a punching bag or a pillow.
- Give them old paper and have them shred paper into a recycle bin.
- Let them write a letter about their anger.
- Encourage them to draw a picture about their angry feelings. Even scribbling can be relaxing to an angry child.
- Have them shoot hoops.
- Have them run around the house outside. Physical outlets like running, planks, or sit-ups can be effective. Read more about the benefits of heavy work here.
- Give them a warm bath.
If you are a mom or care giver working with a child who has anger issues, it is not easy. It will test your patience. Have grace with yourself as you work to model and teach how to remain calm when emotions run high.
Want More Ideas to Help Deal with Anger?
10 More Creative Ways to Calm an Angry Child
I think this is an excellent list, thanks for sharing it.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope it’s useful…but not too often, right? 😉
Very good advice. We have tried the blanket technique on my daughter and it works great. Also when I was a child I tore up old phone books. It worked great curbing my anger.
Ooo – I like that idea. Thanks so much for commenting.
These all seem great for kids not yet at school! Do you have some more portable suggestions for school aged kids? My daughter is eight, seems to struggle with life’s general frustrations following a couple of traumatic deaths in our family. She is attending a kids grief group, which has helped a lot, and she is dealing with these really tough, life changing things great, but her lack of resilience for the basic kid problems she can’t deal with. It’s like she can handle her Dad and Aunty dying, but god forbid someone be mean to her at school, it’s the end of the world and she gets so angry!
Man – I am so sorry for the loss you have experienced. The poor girl. No wonder she is angry. I think being in a grief group is very wise. I might talk to the leader of that to find out if she might need some extra individual counseling as well. I have a few thoughts. One that comes to mind is those stress balls that you can play with. I know you can make them. I saw a great post about that: http://www.somewhatsimple.com/wacky-sacks/ Here’s another post that might help: http://www.thehelpfulcounselor.com/category/counseling-activities/ I thinking teaching breathing techniques would be really helpful. Did you see my idea to have kids use their fingers to blow out the candles? This might alienate her a little with other kids, so that might be something to consider. You could look for a physical outlet, like karate, that helps her get her anger out at other times while learning self-control. I would encourage her to take time outs, talk to the school counselor, write or color (even scribble), throw a ball against the wall (think recess), or walk it out. The key is giving her a bunch of tools and options at school and letting her choose what seems to help. Get the teacher involved in helping to remind her of her options when she is angry. I hope that helps. Again, I feel awful for what she is dealing with. I don’t know if you have a faith, but I know there are some great Christian book resources about heaven if you’d like me to get some of those. I have found a lot of hope amidst grief with a better understanding of God.
Hey, thanks for the additional feedback. I think the wackysacks looks like a great idea … she can keep one in her pocket at school and give them a squeeze when she needs it. She actually had her first violent outburst last week, hit her friend, which is so out of character. She said she just got so frustrated with her friend because her friend was all up in her face and wouldn’t back off. Cant say I’ve never felt like that myself, but I never hit someone. She says she wants to run away. Good thing is, she wants to run away WITH me! The candle suggestion might make her feel a little weird. She does some breathing exercises, has just started taekwondo, and loves hockey. One on one psych sessions commence next week, hopefully that will provide her with that extra little level of support. Her school isn’t terrible, but they don’t quite know what to do with her, the psych has experience communicating with teachers also, was a teacher for many years, so they can help me bridge that gap. Not sure what we will do if that doesn’t work though.
Keep up the good work with this site! Its not only helpful to see that others have similar problems, but its also nice to get some alternative suggestions. Everyone is different, with different experiences, strategies and coping mechanisms, and its really nice to see that other side at times. 🙂
Love them all have used them except tearing paper that teaches them to destroy things in anger which causes larger issues as they grow older
I hadn’t thought of that. I thought it would give them the outlet yet felt controlled because you give the perimeters of grabbing something from the recycling bin. Don’t know if I’m opposed to the idea still, but I totally see your point. Thanks. I’ll have to think about that.
I wish parents would try these things FIRST instead of shoving pills down your child’s throat. So many children are on meds because of lazy parents. I know some may actually need it. It just breaks my heart to see some children begging for help from their mama or daddy and instead end up with a prescription 🙁
I agree with you. I, like you, think that pills are sometimes needed and very effective. However, I would just hate for it to become the easy solution, which often happens. Parenting is tough work and making those decisions must be challenging. I do see so many kids who are just needing some structure and coping tools. I also see really good parents struggling with difficult kids. It’s an interesting road. Thank you for your thoughts.
I like this list! will be handy as soon as my son gets older. Better if he can choose which would soothe him whenever he feels like.
Thanks so much for commenting. I’m so glad you find it helpful.
This is a nice list and i’m not trying to be critical here, but wanted just wanted to hit a few points:
the angry drawing idea- This can be peoblematic when they reach school age, if thus has aready become a habit or coping mechanism yoj might try to curb hem away from it, if they were to draw an angry picture of a classmate or such drawings were discovered in a school system it might be misinterpreted by society as a prelude to violence or a sign of psychological disorders. With violence in schools and constant fear mongering from the media school faculty are hyper sensitive to things like this. its a recipe for disaster.
Wriitting Angry thoughts- The same could be said as above for writting ones feelings. Children have wild imaginations and are capable of concocting a wide range of stories. As a parent if you choose these exercises have them do so in a designated notebook or drawing pad that you can monitor for red flags and coach them positively.
The hitting of a pillow- Rhis may not be a good idea either, as teenagers hormones only complicate their emotions and can increase their rage. You might be opting for holes in the walls and broken appliances when they are older, bigger or simply board with punching bags and pillows. Hitting an objects is just a step away from hitting people. You are basicaly teaching your child its ok to start swinging on something at the queue of anger. This is a terrible habit to have as seen in domestic violence case increases. There are healtheir ways to vent anger. How about exercise in general… just a few thoughts that I hope aren’T viewed as overly critical. We are often so determined to make lists in top tens or fives when 7 would be an excellent option. Thank you.
Please excuse the typos and grammatical errors. I’m awful at writing from mobile devices.
Thank you so much for your feedback. It’s so important to be able to talk about these things and navigate them with kids. I think it is helpful to teach your kids the constraints and mention the concerns you have put forth. There are safe times and places to write, and you are right that these kind of tools are good for monitoring for red flags too.
With my kindergarten students we do the deep breaths (sometimes we use our arms, to make it more physical-raise them on the in breath, lower them on the out breath). Deep breaths work well for everything but crying, I have found that it tends to make criers keep crying.
I also work with my kids to find their “calm spot”. When they aren’t angry, or are calmer, we talk about places that make them feel happy and safe, and then when they are very angry they have permission to go to those places to calm down. Usually this is a quiet spot away from other kids. With one child it was the swings outside. He would go out with a teacher and swing as hard as he could until he’d “kicked out all the angry feelings” and then he’d be fine. (of course this was after a lot of coaching and work together).
The most important part of anger training doesn’t happen when the child is angry. It happens in the in between times. You HAVE to work with them when they are calm. Discuss okay behaviors, feelings, role-play appropriate reactions, etc. You have to make clear rules about okay angry behavior and not okay angry behavior (it’s okay to be angry, but it isn’t okay to hurt yourself, others, or things). And then when they are angry, acknowledge their feelings, and those rules- “I understand that you are angry, it was not okay for him to tear your paper, but I am not going to let you punch the table, because I love you and do not want you to be hurt.”
I also find it’s very important to teach children that’s it’s important to express emotions before they reach the blow-up. When someone does something that makes them angry, they should say so (nicely) “When you color on my paper it makes me angry/sad, please stop.” “When you say I can’t play with you, it makes me sad. why can’t I play with you?” The other child may not give them their way, but at least the other child is forced to stop and think about the impact their actions have on the other person. Of course this also follows with teaching the child to respect the other person when they are told the same thing!
Such great advice. I find the same thing in teaching my kids. It’s always good to train when they’re not “in the moment.” Their brains have a hard time processing when they’re having a fit, so we do lots of practicing and chatting about it when they’re in a calm state. Thank you so much for heart for kids and the obvious efforts you put in to really teach them how to handle their emotions in effective ways! I really appreciate your contribution to the conversation.
i’m wondering if you’ve ever encountered a situation where the angry child refuses to take part in any of the calm-down exercises? i try MANY things with my daughter when she is angry, but she rejects every attempt at trying to calm her and seems to get even more upset. i’m wondering if i need to intervene sooner, or if leaving her alone to let it out would help? i’m just not fond of “abandoning” her in a moment of so much frustrating. sometimes that seems to be the only solution though.
Thanks for reaching out. I can relate to this, as I see it with my child. I have seen her try and reject what I am offering in terms of tools. There are a couple things I would suggest. First, I would try and get her to recognize the physical symptoms she experiences before she explodes. There are often body changes – feeling hot, heart racing, anxious stomach, tense muscles, etc. If she can catch it before it starts, she might be able to start an earlier anger intervention. You can begin to look for signs that the explosion is coming too. I understand your desire to not abandon, but I really have found the my daughter does better when I give her that time alone. She gets her anger out and then can return and talk to me about what she was feeling, and we can move forward effectively. I heard something once (haven’t written about it because I can’t find a reference and so am not 100% of my accuracy of understanding) – that the brain begins to shut down when anger sets in. The anger emotion takes over parts of the brain, taking away the ability to reason…especially in kids. That’s why I have found that giving them time to get self-control on their own has helped us get faster and closer to resolution. Of course, that’s just my personal experience after trying different things. Here’s a post I recently wrote on the topic: https://meaningfulmama.com/2015/01/speaking-truth-into-emotionally-intense-children.html I hope that is helpful. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. It’s not fun!