Anger management for kids is one of the most daunting parent tasks. In the following article, we will explain what is frustration and anger and how to teach children to manage it.
Anger Management for Kids: Frustration
When we speak about anger management for kids it’s important to know what is frustration. Frustration can be defined as a psychic state that we often experience in life when we are deprived or unable to satisfy a desire right at that moment. It is often accompanied by feelings such as sadness, or, in the worst case, anger.
From the moment we are born, our brains are engineered to meet our needs and seek survival. Thus, a baby cries, to capture the caregiver’s attention so that they can meet their needs.
At the beginning, the baby only demands the satisfaction of his most basic needs (he cries when he is hungry, when he is uncomfortable with his diaper, when he is sleepy and when he feels unprotected). But as his nervous system matures and brain structures unfold, the child acquires new achievements such as intentionality in his actions, thinking, language and greater autonomy.
Behavior then becomes more complex. He now shows anger and frustration when there is something he dislikes.
Anger Management for Kids: Tolerating Frustration
Teach children to tolerate frustration. Tolerating frustration means learning to delay gratification or desire. In our culture, it is important to understand that you can’t always have what you want whenever you want. We are limited by the functioning of a social structure, which determines how we should proceed to be and have what we want.
You can’t buy a car if you can’t afford it, nor can you be an engineer if you don’t get your degree, you will have to pay taxes and sometimes even fines you might deem unfair. This is how society works, things happen that are not always going to make us feel comfortable.
Therefore, do not doubt that an indispensable tool to ensure the good future is to teach anger management for kids. This will help them deal appropriately with frustration and anger when faced with unfair situations. Let us not forget that childhood is when kids must prepare themselves so that they can function successfully and autonomously in our society when they become adults. Therefore, we must make childhood a simulacrum of real adult life, adapted to the needs of each evolutionary stage, where there is room for happiness and joy, but also for sadness and dissatisfaction.
During child development, children must prepare themselves so that they can function successfully and autonomously in our society when they become adults. Therefore, we must adapt childhood where there is room for happiness and joy, but also for sadness and dissatisfaction.
Anger management for kids is teaching them to postpone some of their desire and help them feel integrated into their peer group. This gives them more realistic expectations about reality and when they become adults they will be able to follow a logical sequence that will allow them to achieve greater success than those who have not achieved a good anger management for kids. Imagine all the future problems we can avoid if by anger management for kids we avoid impulsive behavior and manage to deal with frustration.
Anger Management for Kids: Overcoming frustration
Anger management for kids is no easy task so do not despair in the attempt, because sometimes results are not immediate or might not be noticed until some time. Try not to frustrate yourself in the process.
I dare say that educating is probably the most difficult tasks that human beings can face, so let’s get air and try to decipher with our son what he is feeling.
- First thing is to help him name what he feels maybe even help him detect his discomfort somewhere in the body.
- With emotion, usually, other symptoms can appear like chest tightness, tummy ache, etc. So a good way to begin to understand what he might be going through could be to help locate his discomfort in some part of the body.
- We have to learn to contain his emotions and frustration. We must not forget that when our son behaves in anger, we continue to be, without realizing it, models that he will learn to imitate. Therefore, if we want our kids to learn self-control, we must show it ourselves. We must behave firmly without forgetting that he is not an adult and that his behavior escapes all intentionality. Empathy,
- Empathy, firmness, and affection are three basic qualities for anger management for kids.
- Empathy: to try to put ourselves in the skin of our son, to understand, to see and to feel like he does.
- Firmness: educating is always being aware that an inappropriate behavior is followed by a consequence.
- Affection: even when we reprimand him, we must manage to make him feel wanted and accepted.
- We want to convey that this particular behavior is unacceptable and not that he or she is unacceptable or misunderstood. We don’t need to raise our voices or punish, but rather keep consequences simple, always explaining why.
- We should remember to fulfill their desires or needs in the appropriate amount of time. We want to show him that there is room for desire fulfillment but at the right time. The values that they obtain during childhood should be seen as the foundation for adulthood.
- Each time we help our child to determine what happens to him, we help him overcome child frustration and teach him other ways to express anger. By helping with anger management for kids we contribute to his emotional intelligence and help him self-regulate (to understand what happens to him and to use an appropriate solution to the overflowing emotion).
Anger management for kids: An example
Perhaps a real example of child frustration can guide us through the process of anger management for kids:
Anna is the mother of Christina, a 7-year-old girl, whom her mother defines as charming but irritable when something is denied to her. Christina is an only child and her mother says they have tried to give her as much affection as possible. However, Christina gets angry easily and doesn’t tolerate frustration well.
Often, parents tend to fear scolding or reprimanding their children when they see their kids having an angry tantrum. Therefore, they use other strategies such as giving them what they want. This is a mistake since life rarely gives you want immediately and children must be exposed to these elements to learn how to tolerate frustration.
Anna: “I was in the supermarket with Christina when she, who was walking around, took a doll and asked me to buy it. I told her that it was not possible, that we were in a hurry and that we would buy her another day. Christina began to shout that she wanted the doll while I insisted that we weren’t buying her today. People started staring and I felt so mortified I agreed to buy her the doll.”
Without realizing it, Anna rewarded Christina’s behavior, so once again, the child learned that by screaming she will get what she asks for.
What can Anna do to stop Christina from acting like this? Here are some tips:
1- The fact that Christina hasn’t yet learned how to express her emotions properly doesn’t mean that Anna is bad at parenting. Children will learn how to express their feelings better with our help. Anna, regardless of Christina’s actions, should’ve continued to deny buying the doll. Her attitude should be firm, without raising her voice but maintaining our position.
2- Give an alternative option. In this case, Anna should suggest another day to purchase the doll and inform Christina: “Next week is your birthday and we will come back and buy it” or “this afternoon if you do your homework, tomorrow we will come back and buy it.” Always keep in mind: If you say it, you have to do it. Otherwise, I am teaching kids that words don’t mean much.
3 – If Christina is out of control and does not listen to Anna’s words: a simple and firm “no, come on we are leaving!” Should be enough. Let us not waste so much effort in gaining our son’s understanding when he is frustrated because he won’t be able to calm down. Anna might have to walk without him for a few feet, or go back and pick her up while she continues crying.
4 – When anger dissipates then both Anna and Christina can speak about what happened.
Anna: “I am angry at how you behaved, I understand that you want the doll, and I have already said that (tomorrow, next week, …) we will come back to buy it. But I do not like you crying and shouting like that “. Also, Anna should reassure Christina of her feelings ” I know you’re angry because you wanted the doll, but that is not the way to behave. Next time, calmly try telling me you what you want and I will see what we can do.”
Remember that you are dealing with a child and that sometimes their words don’t have bad intentions but rather they are trying to express something. Empathy is very important in this case, instead of paying attention excessively to the words.
To phrases like “I don’t love you mom, you’re not nice“, should follow expressions that convey acceptance and affection at all times. Being angry at how he behaved should not mean a withdrawal of affection.
The message that should always be: “I’m angry about how you’ve behaved, but I still love you and there are many reasons why I’m still proud of you because there are so many things you do well.”
5 – Making an agreement should always be followed through with what we promised. Therefore, always try to agree to things that are 100% sure to happen. If the agreement between mother and child was that for her birthday they would come back to buy the doll, then on her birthday make sure to make that desire come true. If the child notices that when he behaves correctly and waits she will get what she wanted or a positive consequence then that behavior will be reinforced and it will continue throughout development.
Anger management for kids means establishing age-appropriate limits, negotiating and granting what is promised. It also means being firm but empathic to our child’s needs and keeping in mind that affection must always be present.
This article is originally in Spanish written by Samuel Fascius Cruz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.