When you have an angry child who loses it, it’s a struggle for parent and child. As an adult, it can seem as though our children blow up over the smallest thing. If your child struggles with anger or big feelings, it’s time to focus on teaching them how to regulate their emotions. This learning takes time, and most of all, patience from their caregivers.
Teaching your child how to regulate their emotions helps build inner strength. It’s statistically shown that this kind of emotional resilience improves overall success in life. A child who can verbalize their emotions is less likely to lash out with aggressive or destructive behaviors. Let’s look at some steps you can take to support and encourage an angry child.
How to Help an Angry Child Calm Down
It’s important to understand how to approach this with love. A child who is taught emotional resilience and strength through love and compassion is more likely to be an emotionally intelligent adult.
Start Before the Tantrum
This isn’t a request for you to peer into the future and determine the exact moment your child will have their next tantrum. Working with your child while they’re in a calm state is the key to helping them regulate their emotions when they’re heated. Talk to them about different kinds of emotions.
It’s helpful to focus on feelings while reading with your child. Point to the character’s faces and ask your child how that person is feeling. Ask them why they think that and how their body feels when they feel that way. This activity helps build their emotional vocabulary and understand the accompanying bodily sensations.
Help Them Name Their Feelings
Building a child’s emotional vocabulary gives them the words they need to say, “I’m mad!” But there will be times when your child is too emotionally dysregulated to verbalize or simply doesn’t know the name of the feeling yet. Start talking them down by naming what you see. For example, “I can see that your fists are clenched right now. Are you feeling angry?”
When you’ve helped your child name their emotion, talk to them about how it feels in their body. By asking them to focus on the physical sensation, you’re helping ground them in the present. After you’ve talked about how “angry” feels like “having a hot stomach” or “feeling like screaming,” you can talk about how to process that anger in a healthy way.
Remember that What Your Child Feels is Okay
It’s important to keep in mind that an angry child is not a bad child. Everyone feels angry sometimes. Letting your child know they are allowed to feel that anger is another important part of developing emotional resilience. A child who is afraid to show anger or sadness may start bottling up their emotions, and we know how unhealthy that is for the mind and body.
If your child responds to their emotions in a negative way, do your best to keep your cool. They need you to help them understand how to do this. No human is born with the innate ability to manage emotions. Some phrases to use when your child has expressed their feelings negatively are:
- “I understand you’re mad, and that’s okay. But this is not how we handle anger.”
- “Sometimes parents get mad too. The way I deal with it is…”
- “I’m upset that you broke your toy, but I still love you.”
Don’t Give Up, Seek More Support
This takes time. That cannot be overstated. Your child’s prefrontal cortex and amygdala, the parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation, have yet to fully develop. Even though your child’s emotional intelligence will grow if you help them with the steps above, perfection is an unreasonable expectation.
Your child will still have tantrums. Even full-grown adults lose it sometimes. It’s part of being human. If you’re struggling to accept and help your child with positive emotional regulation, reach out to a professional therapist. We can help you navigate this growth together.