Saturday, July 28, 2012

anger management tips for kids {5 ways to help your child calm down}



I know many of you have noticed we have been posting fewer projects and tutorials over the last year. A big part of that has been my family's two cross-country moves in the last 12 months, and the addition of our new baby boy in December. But there has been more to it than that. I struggle with how much of my personal life to share here, but sometimes I think we as women need to do more to reach out and help one another through the challenges of life, especially as moms. I have been working through some serious issues with my children, and I finally realized I needed to set my priorities straight. My children are more important than this blog or any craft project, and I have cut back my time crafting and sitting in front of the computer to be more hands-on with them. I don't want to put my children's personal lives on display, but I feel sharing some of the solutions we've found to help them in their conflicts could bless the lives of other families with similar trials. 

I know I can't be the only one out there who has struggled to help their kids through difficulties like anger management, depression, and adjustment issues, right? Or even just the Terrible Twos (or Sixes or Eights for that matter)! Many children in many different situations struggle with anger management and self-control. And learning to deal with that is a part of life. Our family counselor helped us create "tool boxes" to help the boys learn to control their tempers and deal appropriately with difficult situations. They may not all work for your child, but here are some ideas that might help your child learn to manage their anger, calm down, and avoid a fight.

1. Blow Bubbles
As adults we often try taking deep breaths to help us calm down in intense situations. But each time I would suggest that my son take a few deep breaths to calm down, he would get even angrier. Our counselor suggested blowing bubbles instead. Not only is a fun, happy activity for children, but the act of blowing air through the bubble wand requires them to breathe deeply. Soon they've relaxed and calmed down to a point where they can talk a little more rationally about whatever issue is at hand. 

2. Blow Feathers
Similar to blowing bubbles, a game of "don't let the feather touch the ground" works wonders for a child who is full of steam. Have your child hold a feather above their head and blow it into the air. Keep it in the air only by blowing--no hands! This again helps children engage in deep breathing to calm down, and the fun of the game helps them adjust their attitude.

3. Glitter Bottles
By the time my kids were 5 or 6, timeouts had ceased to be effective. Especially because they viewed it as a punishment rather than just a way to step away from the situation and calm down. Now, instead of a timeout, I hand my son a glitter jar. He knows to shake it up good, then watch the glitter swirl and spin in the water, slowly settling to the bottom. It really has an amazing effect and it's quite soothing. It can take up to 5 minutes for the glitter to settle, and in that time he nearly always becomes calm and more relaxed. (See my easy tutorial here for these Timeout Glitter Bottles!)

4. Target Practice
During one of their therapy sessions, the boys helped make this target on a piece of butcher paper. Each of them wrote something on the target that made them mad or lose their temper. She gave them each several pom poms (puff balls) to use as amunition. We hung the target on the wall in a quiet area of the house, and whenever they started errupting in anger over something, I would direct them to the target. The act of throwing something as hard as they can is a great way to release angry energy, and helps them to release their anger in a way that is not violent or harmful to others.

5. Model Positive Behavior and Walk Away
What do we do when our children cause us to lose our tempers? Our counselor helped me see that my children were often emulating my reaction to difficult situations (like yelling or rolling my eyes). She suggested I model the type of anger management techniques I wanted to see my children use when dealing with feelings of anger. And the best way to do that is often to walk away. Instead of showing my anger and frustration, now I tell my children, "I am feeling really upset right now, so I'm going to go to my room for a minute to calm down and we'll talk a little later." After I've had a good cry or screamed into a pillow, I am usually able to gain control of myself and deal with the situation in a better way. After doing this just a few times, my 6-year-old tried them same thing on me! As we began to argue, he told me he was going to his room to lay down and he'd talk to me later. I couldn't believe it. After all the times I had tried to send him to his room to calm down and being met with an even bigger tantrum, he had decided to do it on his own. Probably because I didn't mention it--he came up with the idea himself! 

This last year has been challenging for our family as we left the only home our kids really knew and moved across the country to a new home, new school, new church congregation, then added a new baby and another cross country move. I was excited for the change of pace, a bigger home and yard, and the chance to meet new people, so I figured my kids would feel the same way. But after a few months we noticed a profound change in our oldest son, including problems at school, angry outbursts, loss of interest in activities he loved, difficulty sleeping, and just general negativity. Our second son started having uncontrollable tantrums that became violent and seemed to go from 0 to 60 in seconds, over the smallest things. After talking to the school counselor, our pediatrician, and a dear friend, I finally made an appointment with a family therapist. It took me a while to do it because I hated the thought that I couldn't figure this out on my own--that I wasn't able to solve the problem just by giving my children more time, love, prayers, and patience. And there is such a stigma associated with therapy in our society, which I think is a shame. (Here's where I get on my soapbox.) I don't believe our Heavenly Father expects us to be able to deal with everything on our own as parents or individuals. I know prayer works, but sometimes you can't just pray away your problems--you've got to act for prayer to work! I've learned it's okay to reach out for help from someone who is trained and experienced in handling things that we may not be equipped to handle ourselves. That's why God made therapists! ;)

Both a friend and our pediatrician suggested a great therapist, so I swallowed my pride and made an appointment. Each week we met with a family counselor who first spoke with me, then met with each of the boys separately to help them address specific issues. She used some play therapy, talked to them about their feelings and behavior, and would often give them homework assignments to work on during the week. And for me it was such a relief to have someone to share my frustration, sadness, and helplessness with, who could not only listen, but actually help me improve the situation and become a better parent. Within just a couple of months, we saw such an improvement in the attitudes and behavior of our children, and I felt a new-found confidence in my parenting that has helped even after the sessions ended. I would strongly encourage anyone who is struggling with similar issues to seek out help from a professional like a family counselor, and don't feel badly about it for one minute! You don't have to do it on your own!

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53 Comments

53 Responses to “anger management tips for kids {5 ways to help your child calm down}”

valthecraftygal said...

I think you'll encourage a lot of mothers with being so honest!! Ill pass this on and take some ideas myself! Its easy to let my interests take over whats really most important--family first! God Bless.

beetree said...

I can totally empathize! We have moved several times (we now have 6 kids), and each move has brought both blessings and challenges with our kids. Thanks for being transparent in order to encourage others who might be dealing with hard situations. You are so right- nothing we do matters more than our families! :)

Ethan Mashimo said...

Mandy I read your blog And I want u know that I am glad u shared your story and wanted to give u a big hug afterwards. :) you are still a super mom and always have been! Miss you plenty!

Suzie McFloozy said...

Thanks for the advice my, nearly 7 year old, son is a usually calm and gentle soul and is now starting to struggle with some anger issues and as a family of all girls I find it difficult to help him cope with it. I will try these methods and I also see that I need to check my own reaction when I become annoyed as I am a door slammer - perhaps I'll try the target too !
Thanks glad you shared x
((hugs)) Suzie xoxo

jknapp00 said...

Good for you! I wish I had some of these tips when my boys were young - genius. Parenting is the toughest job out there and it seems to be getting tougher and tougher.

acoure said...

This is a really great post. Thank you for being so honest and forthright in your post. I don't have children (yet) but I am a high school teacher and I love what I do. There are so many times I wished that parents would open up about experiences and not feel that because things may not be perfect, that in some way they feel that they may be judged. Parenting is the hardest thing to do and your sincerity and honesty is really appreciated. You're not alone in your experiences. The ideas you present are just fantastic and I could see how they would work. It's all about modelling the right types of behaviours in difficult situations. You sound like a great woman.

Tia said...

Thanks so much for sharing this. I have a son 9 who has pretty much been dealing with anger issues his whole life and quite possiblly always will - he was just born an intense little boy and it's so sad because you see how great they are but their anger often clouds that. Anyway I am so pro therapy who cares what everyone thinks right? I love these tools and will absolutely use them!! The only thing i wonder is about the consequences I mean i understand you cant fix anger with more anger - we've tried it just escalates the problem however some of the things he does are outrageous and there has to be consequences right? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks
Tia

Sheila said...

I think it's wonderful that you posted this. Parenting is so hard, and it helps so much to share what has worked to deal with different types of situations. Your examle of modeling behavior is great. I few years ago, I really took note of some things in myself that I didn't want my kids to emulate. Sadly, I had to see them doing them to realize it was coming from me, but I'm glad that I did notice. My kids are 15 and 12 now, and I know that I have such a short time left with them to teach them as much as I can. Thank you so much for presenting practical ideas for handling anger!

Craftyhomemade said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. This week I was thinking about how to deal the anger that my 7 years old is having. I told to my husband and we`re looking how we can help him. I really grateful that you decide to share with us your experience. We`ll try to look for some help, but in the mean time your advises will help us, thanks again.

Indira

Melissa said...

I am so glad you shared this. You are not alone. My, just turned 9, Maitlyn started having temper tantrums 2 years ago. I finally took her to the doctor and he diagnosed her with anxiety. I cant wait to try the glitter bottle.
Thank you for sharing :)

Kathryn said...

This post is great, thank you. I also have boys who are dealing with anger issues and I didn't know how to help them any more. I am definitely going to try these ideas!

Sabrina said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. We have 3 kids and they have taken turns being emotionally turbulent. Right now as one is firmly in his adolescence and the middle is entering hers, we have increased issues. I often "drop off the grid" from my crafts and definitely my blog because I don't cut out the time and also don't have the energy to deal with it after the kids have worn my down. I so appreciate you sharing, and confirms my feelings that lot's of people have this drama going on but don't like to reveal it. Thank you, thank you!

Becky R said...

I love this post. My 9 year old has been diagnosed with ODD, which is Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

Basically he goes from zero to angry and acts on it. We have been working with him for years on this. He gets so angry he hurts the dog, his brother, and me. He also has punched and kicked numerous holes in the walls.

Prayer is very helpful, but I also need outside help as well. We all go to a behavioral therapist (we each go separate once a month and have one family session a month.)

I am single mom, which I am sure adds to the situation.

I know how important it is to model but in the moment it is hard, thanks for the reminder.

I wonder if he will like the glitter jar and think I will make him one.

Drew and Brandi said...

I have always loved your parenting posts, they are helpful and encouraging as a new mom. Thank you for sharing you family and life lessons with us.

Pat C. said...

Thank you for such an honest and heartfelt post. I understand your reluctance to discuss such a personal, family matter in a public forum, but I can promise you that your generosity in doing so will have been a huge comfort to countless other moms.

How I wish that I had been given the tools suggested by your therapist when my own two (now grown) children were younger! But my daughter has two little ones of her own now, and I will pass them on to her, and I'm going to incorporate a couple of them into my own life! No matter how old we are, I think that we can all benefit from productive ways to deal with anger and frustration.

Thank you again. xoxo

Deanna said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! It is so comforting to know that I'm not the only one who deals with this. My almost 8-year-old son has had anger issues pretty much since birth and over the years has affected every member of our family, most sadly his older sister (who now also has more anger issues). I have struggled so much with going back and forth about getting counseling for him and the rest of us. I am glad to hear that it has been met with some success for your family!!

Michelle said...

This is exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

Jenn M said...

What a great post!

I love the glitter bottle idea.

My daughter is going through a rough spot, and we've been trying to figure it out on our own. But I think it may be time to suck up the pride and go a different route.

MM said...

Thank you do much! Sometimes I start to feel Kim the only one who's life isn't a pinterest board. I love these ideas, and really need to remeber to model the behavior I want to teach.

Angela said...

What great ideas, thanks!

Rebekah said...

Good for you for doing what is best for your family. Thanks for sharing these tips. My little one is still pretty little but I am going to save these.

gypsyjen said...

I also have a son with anger issues. I just want to say thank you for the post and also thank you for helping me realize that I am not alone. I beat myself up on a daily basis about my parenting skills because I don't know how to help him deal with his emotions. Now I have some tools. Thank you so much again. Have a blessed day.

maria mcclure said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm going to go drink a bottle of water right now so I can make one of those bottles for my three year old. Maybe I'll even make one for myself! ;)

Sam said...

thankyou for the ideas and info, my 3 year old has not been handling the transition from only child to big brother very well and life has become even more chaotic and hard. I will try out some of your tips, fingers crossed

Marianne said...

Okay, so crazy to read this...just this afternoon I tried the "let's take some breaths" moment with my 4-year-old, in an attempt to calm her down, only to have her scream in my face that she "DID NOT WANT TO BREATHE!" Wow. I even had bubbles nearby. I'll remember that next time!

Bits of Tidbits said...

I can't thank you enough for this post. A true answer to my prayers...especially since I have been feeling alone and like a failure as a mom with my sons temper. ( tho I don't view others that way). Anyhow, thank you.

Jenny said...

Thank you for this post and the great ideas. It is truly an answer to my prayers :)

mschiddy said...

I completely agree with you on seeking help from a therapist. Some parenting and family challenges are just too big to struggle through alone. My kids have also had difficulty adjusting to our move last year, especially my oldest son. Best wishes to you!

Stash Avalanche said...

Thanks for the ideas. i shall try some of them on my 17 motnh old - he's started early on the Terrible Twos.
And thanks for sharing too. I also like to keep my personal life out of my blog but as you say, some things are worth talking about.

Romie said...

Thank you for this! Great tips, and well written :)

Abbey Trimboli said...

Wow! Thanks so much for sharing. You probably have no idea how many people you have helped. I will definitely keep this post in mind as my little boy gets older. I might make a glitter bottle for myself for when it is "one of those days"! :)

Sare said...

I wish I had seen this earlier today. This is wonderful and I am going to make a tool box now too. I have 4 kids and my oldest has been particularly frustrating lately as far as anger management. We have a new baby, and he adores her, but I am sure the shift in my attention, and the increase in his responsibilities has something to do with it. I really really appreciate this post. And good for you for putting the blog aside and being an amazing mom to your kids. So true that no craft is as important as your children :)

Little Birdie Secrets said...

Wow, thank you so much for all the sweet comments--you have no idea how much they mean to me! I almost didn't post this after I wrote it, but I'm so glad I did. We really do need to stop trying to look like we have perfect lives and share our ups and downs with each other! Love you all!

Tia--I agree, consequences are still a necessary piece of the puzzle. Our counselor suggested we wait until after the storm to issue them, but to make them pretty immediate (like go to bed 30 minutes early tonight, not tomorrow night or the rest of the week) so the kids don't forget what the consequence is for. She also instituted reward programs that would encourage them to stop themselves before the behavior issue started. So I could give stickers when I noticed them choosing not to argue or yell, or listening the first time, etc. So far it is really working for us! Good luck with your little one!

Amanda Bartley said...

excellent tips for foster moms too, different suggestions will work for different types of kids that come in and out of my house!

Liz said...

We could all use a dose of reality when it comes to parenting. Nobody wants to show the dark, frustrating side of parenting that is just a normal part of it. I'm glad you shared! I will definitely be putting these to use. I also like that you included no shame. I suffer from depression and there is such a stigma that goes along with it. You can't just pray it away! Thanks for the encouragement!

Jamba Holly said...

I love this...so glad you shared. I've been struggling with Ava and her massive temper tantrums, and how quickly she goes from happy to angry. When we suggest she takes some deep breaths, she gets even more angry. Time outs are a power struggle. I'm going to make a glitter bottle this weekend and see if it helps her! Hugs to you and the family...we still miss you!

Ali Hall said...

I could use some of these tips for myself too! One thing I have learnt as a new parent is that I am often quick to anger and that I have trouble expressing my frustrations to my loved ones = I have to calm down before I can talk! I am aware that at times I am not modelling the best behaviour to my daughter. Your post has given me a great place to start!

Erin said...

Great job putting out there the fact that you struggle with your kids. We went to a family therapist six or so months ago--when our daughter was only 22 months old! So I sure also believe that there's help available, and I second the relief that comes from venting to someone else and that someone else being an unbiased professional who responds by saying that it looks like you're struggling and life should be happier. Thank you for posting some of your tips! If you have any tips for toddlers, or younger kids, please post those, too!

Jord said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It is exactly what I needed to read after a week of struggling with my child.

LeAnne said...

This is wonderful! I work in a day care and often don't know what to do with the kids I have. This will help so much! You are wonderful to share.

Sharae Peterson said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I know it's always hard to share personal things but I sure do appreciate it and sympathize with you completely.

Sarah said...

We decided to take our 9 year old to a therapist last year too. I was worried that if we didn't address his issues, which ended up being anxiety, that it was going to change the person that he could become. When you feel like there is going to be life-long consequences, all of the sudden going to a counselor doesn't seem so hard anymore. In a short time, he had tools to help him, and we knew a better way to parent him...things I would never have known to do or say without help. I truly think that our Heavenly Father would want us to take our kids to the doctor if they were sick, and when they are having struggles with emotions and such, he wants us to get them help then as well. It's totally been a blessing for our family.

I've told people about our struggle and I know of two families that have seen a counselor now because of sharing that. As hard as it is to let people know about our trials and struggles, I'm glad other have been blessed because of it. Thank you for sharing your story! It's always nice to know others are going through the same thing, and we're not alone.

denai Paragallo said...

After months of research on behaviour problems and trying to find someone with the same problem I've been having with my 6 year old today of all days I stumbled upon your blog the same day I started seeking a child therapist. Your story pretty much sounds the same as mine It's unreal. But thank you so much you have made it easier for me to go ahead and make an appointment like I told my husband today we can't deal with this alone anymore.

Scrappydo said...

Oh my goodness! Thank you for posting this!! We have had issues with my 11 year old - he's always been loud and physical when he's tantruming. He is definitely improving as the gaps between are so much longer - but the thing he has been saying to me quite often in recent times is that he doesn't know how to calm down.... I am so going to try some of these ideas. You actually don't know how much just reading these ideas excites me - they are such simple things, but I would never have thought of them myself! Please feel free to share any further insights you have - I think you have just become my guru! (seriously, though - thanks for sharing something that was probably quite hard to do xx)

Shellyluwho said...

Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful message of hope for moms and kids who are struggling.

ranela said...

Thank you for this post. Exactly what I need to hear.

Cardon Family said...

Thank you for taking time away from your family to share your life with us. I reflected a lot as I read this article and this advice has given me courage and hope to wake up and face another day as a parent :) Believe it or not, you shouldn't limit your scope to just sharing with mothers...there are several dads who are scouring the Internet for little gems such as this { those of us who take an active roll in the lives of their children ;) }. Anyway, thank you again for such a personal story and the valuable information we can all implement in our families.

shellyl1107 said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I wish that I had that kind of wisdom when I was raising my children. My son has always had anger management issues and I had to put him in counseling at the age of 3. He had a dream one night we think about someone named Michael that he believed was his father and he lived in CA. We lived in MA and we have no idea where that came from. He had a great relationship with his Dad and his Dad was devastated by him constantly telling us that we should let him meet his dad. I should also add he looks exactly like his Dad not an ounce of me to be found lol. Anyway counseling back then (over 20 years ago) did give us coping skills but nothing like this. It was more of a give him his own time away from siblings Nothing worked and i will never forget the day when my 18 year old son sat on my bed and cried and said he needed help with his Anger that he was scared that he would some day lose his cool. I just thank god that he was able to come to me with that fear. I am happy to say we got him some help and he is an even better version of the amazing man I raised. I can't wait to share this with my daughters and son so they can use these techniques with their children. Thank you thank you thank you

Sariebear20 said...

I may not be a parent but I do help watch two nephews and my niece which is a challenge everyday. The oldest is 10 going on 11 soon and throws big temper tantrums over the least little thing. I have tried everything to keep him calm but I found now that we just clash in arguments lately which is sad. This is will help us both greatly. Thank you so much.

Meags Keogh said...

Wow, I'm gald I found this, thank you. I have been trying to help/deal with my 8 y/o daughter who is dealing with many of the above things and you're right I think my attitude is being mirrored (which isn't always nice) I'm going to try a few of the above things too and if all else fails I'm definitely going to get help. Thank you for sharing.

Julia said...

I can't thank you enough for getting on your soapbox. I share your sentiments! My stress this morning lead me to find your blog, and I'm thankful. We have 3 boys, and our eldest is our intense one. He feels things so strongly and reacts with such anger to the littlest things. It has gotten worse this year, and I too have noticed the things you mentioned....loss of interest, apathy, trouble sleeping. Where has my sweet, spunky, smiley toddler gone? I am not sure if it is the expectations of third grade or maybe the developmental growth that occurs at 8, but we too reached out for help. I have therapists in my family and so for me it was easier to reach out for help without worrying abotu the stigma, but it was NOT easy admitting that this is a problem that I can not manage on my own, with extra love and prayer ( as well intentioned friends and books have assured). I worry for how it affects his younger brothers, and it is a strain on our marriage, it's all we talk about. If you don't mind, send up a little prayer for our family. I am so glad you all have seen improvement, that is so hopeful!!! Your family will thank you for reaching out at a very critical point in time to get the help that was needed. Love and peace, Julia

Peg said...

I was really glad to find this blog. I will use the tool box myself. My grandson has exhibited anger issues since age two, not normal temper tantrums. But trying to get the pediatricians to pay attention to what we were saying was nearly impossible. I am a teacher and have worked with children for 35 years so I know what is normal. Finally, this year, 3 years later we got a referral to see a therapist! And I was told at the last session that he is full of anger and it will take a long time for him. He will not open up about his anger. He has been through many issues in his young life. It shouldn't have been so hard to get help for him. I

Suzy Frame said...

Thanks for sharing these tips. I have a child who has anger management and it is hard to get him to calm down a lot of the time. I hope that these tips will work with him. We have gone to family counseling and that has worked quite a bit too. But I am certain small activities like these will work as well.
Suzy | http://www.fcaalaska.org/individual_and_family_counseling.html

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