6 Steps to Helping Your Child Control Their Anger

I often work with children who struggle with anger.  When I am working in a group setting, we construct the components of my Anger Menu as a group, then I send the kids home with the assignment to complete an Anger Menu specific to them with their parent/guardian.  It is good for the kids to see the different ways their peers struggle with anger so they understand they are not alone.  It is also good for them to see the different ways that their peers control their anger and invest in self-care.  Seeing what their peers are doing on the solution side of the equation helps them become more creative in the ways they problem-solve or prevent their own anger.  The kids are able to learn from each other rather than feel adults are constantly nagging them.  I, of course, ensure the suggestions are ethical, healthy, and legal.

My Anger Menu is a modification of the Anger Menu activity utilized by Angela M. Cavett, Ph.D, RPT-S.  The menu I designed is conceptually based on Dr. Cavett’s though it is executed differently.  I designed a menu template that is a tri-folded piece of standard printer paper with a menu-inspired layout.  The menu has six headings that help you walk your child through the process of identifying their anger patterns, how to calm themselves down, who to enlist help from when needed, and how to prevent getting angry in the first place.  These headings are: Smoldering Starters, Fiery Sauces, Entrees, Cool Treats, Soothing Sippers, and Antacids.  Let your child/children decorate the front of the menu without judgement as long as it meets the above criteria: ethical, healthy, and legal.

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Here is what should go under each heading:

Smoldering Starters: What triggers you to become angry or irritable?  For example, a tone of voice, unexpected assignment, being behind in schoolwork after being sick, someone takes something of yours (classmate, sibling, parent, neighbor, etc.), poor lighting, too much noise.

Fiery Sauces: What is the catalysts to full blown anger or rage?  What takes you from irritable to rage?  For example, someone continues to tap on you, person does not give you your item back after asking nicely, someone threatens to take away a privilege/item/activity, you receive a bad grade on an exam after being sick, being teased on the playground, losing a game, feeling rejected, someone cuts in line, etc.

Entrées:  Things you do when you are in a full-blown rage.  For example, punch a wall, thrown furniture or other objects, hurt another person (student, teacher, sibling, parent, etc.), hurt yourself, sweep everything off of a desk or other piece of furniture, etc.

Cool Treats: What calms down your anger?  What things help stop your anger?  For example, taking deep breaths, taking a time out, a fidget toy, walking around, exercising, listening to music, drawing, etc.

Soothing Sippers: What can you do every day to lengthen the time between a smoldering starter and an entrée?  What self-care activities can you do that build up your emotional resilience so you do not become angry so easily?  For example, yoga before and after school, read something you enjoy, play fewer video games, give yourself quiet time before and/or after school, listen to positive/happy music, draw, journal, develop a positive hobby, etc.

Antacids:  Who can you call on to help you when your anger becomes so strong you cannot stop being angry on your own?  Who is another person who can help you calm down if you cannot calm yourself down?  Who can you call on to help you problem-solve?  As is sometimes the case with the foods we eat, anger can become so strong we need outside help to neutralize our anger.

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