Parenting Crash Course: Tips to Help Your Child Deal with Anger and Aggression

by Trilby Yonkovitz

Some days it comes out of nowhere. Your family is having a great day and suddenly your child is kicking and screaming, throwing toys at the wall, demanding it’s not time for them to stop playing. You want your child to stop being so angry, but telling them to ‘Stop acting out’, or ‘Please calm down’, never seems to work. Where could this anger be coming from? In fact, worry, grief, annoyance, stress, confusion, embarrassment, fear, and sadness can all be presented as anger in children. Anger is a common external emotion for children to express. Although angry is a very normal emotion for children, it can be difficult to deal with as a parent. Here are some tips to decrease anger and aggressive behaviors in your child:

How To Help Your Child With Anger

  • Stop Corporal Punishment. According to research, giving children spankings, or other forms of physical punishment, can lead children to develop high aggression, antisocial behaviors, or distrust in people (Glicksman, 2019). Corporal punishment is a quick solution to irritability, however it does not teach a child what behaviors they should be doing instead. Consequences, such as limit setting and taking privileges away, increase responsible behaviors and tell a child what went wrong. Setting limits creates expectations for your child to decrease undesirable behaviors. A clear limit to decrease aggressive behavior can be as simple as: “You hit your sister, we don’t hit, your playtime with her is over now.” In this case a privilege is also being taken away that is related to the bad behavior, to show that aggression will have consequences.
  • Breathing Practice. Taking deep breaths activates our Parasympathetic Nervous System, the system that controls our relaxation response; and shuts down our Sympathetic Nervous System, which is our stress response system (Princing, 2018). Practice some breathing techniques together, when your child is feeling calm, so they remember how to deep breathe when they get frustrated:
    https://copingskillsforkids.com/deep-breathing-exercises-for-kids
  • Create A Calm Down Corner. A calm down corner is a designated corner, or room, in the home that your child will visit when they are showing signs of anger. It is an active space that includes different activities to help a child soothe and self-regulate. They can include a soft blanket, coloring books, newspapers to tear up, bubbles, a toy to squish and squeeze, a music player, or really anything sensory based to engage the child’s relaxation part of their brain. Cellphones, tablets, or TV are not included in this space.
  • Identify Their Anger ‘Triggers’. Helping your child identify things that are causing their anger to escalate can save you both a piece of mind. Do you notice they always throw a tantrum going to school in the mornings, get upset when being told ‘No’, or are the most angry when they don’t have an afternoon snack? You can even discuss triggers with your child in a kid friendly way by asking, “What bugs your nerves?” or “What makes you roar?” Their response may give you a little insight into what is going on inside their head. You can also offer validation, and a coping skill that helps you in a similar situation, to help show your child that you not only hear them, but are willing to help them learn. “I would feel angry too if my friend didn’t want to play with me. I know sometimes asking someone else to play instead makes me feel better.”

Mostly Importantly: Remind yourself that you are doing an amazing job as a parent. Dealing with your child expressing anger and aggression is a tough parenting task. Be patient with yourself as you help your child learn to cope with their emotions.

Princing, M. K. (2018, June 4). This Is Why Deep Breathing Makes You Feel so Chill. Right as Rain by UW Medicine. Retrieved From: https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/mind/stress/why-deep-breathing-makes-you-feel-so-chill.

Glicksman, E. (2019). Physical discipline is harmful and ineffective. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved From: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/physical-discipline.

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