Anger is a powerful emotion in our culture, one that many adults don't know how to manage and express. So when kids have feelings they can't name and don't yet understand, imagine how easily they can become overwhelmed — and start screaming, yelling, or hitting.
How do we even start to teach our kids to express their anger in more healthy and appropriate ways? Circle of Moms member Jan P., who raised three kids and just recently adopted her granddaughter, likes using "feeling masks" to help children identify emotions. First, the kids make masks that depict the basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, proud, frustrated, etc., Then they practice recognizing their emotions throughout the day by choosing to wear the mask that best represent their mood at the time. This allows them not only to own their emotions but also to express them in safe ways. Wearing the masks also opens up opportunities for talking about why a child might be feeling angry or sad.
Starting an ongoing conversation with your child about feelings, whether through Jan's "feeling masks" or some other method, can only be good for your child and for your relationship with him. Here are some other tips, all shared by Circle of Moms members.
1. Accept the Anger But Not the Screaming
Once anger is identified as a clear emotion, experienced moms have various responses. Tasha M. tells her daughters that anger is a normal emotion, but that they should express it in the privacy of their rooms. Her kids all know that when they want to scream and yell and stomp their feet, they are free to do so in their own spaces, but not in common areas among the whole family.
Lara R. takes a different tactic: She encourages her four-year-old son to tell her he's angry, and why, but to do so without yelling, throwing toys, or breaking things. It's even within bounds for him to pound a pillow or stomp his feet. When he's gotten out the first wave of emotion, she initiates a conversation about how they might address the underlying problem together.
2. Teach Kids to Get to the Root of It
Many Circle of Moms members agree with Lara's underlying theory, that anger is a secondary emotion, usually the by-product of fear or sadness. Iysha J. counts herself among this group. When her daughter doesn't have the words to express what she's feeling, she just lets her cry it out. Then, like Lara, she offers comfort and conversation.
3. Be a Role Model
Juleah W. makes the excellent point that we must be good roles models for expressing anger. If we tell our kids to use their words, but they then see us throwing things or hear us yelling and screaming, we undermine the lesson we're trying to teach. Dealing well with anger is hard work, and our kids are more likely to take the easy pathway — copying our behavior — than they are to take on a more difficult task of working through difficult emotions by talking them through.
It's a high bar, but the potential breakthroughs than can be achieved are well worth the effort. For specific tips on how to start the conversation with your child, see The Silver Lining to Your Child's Outbursts.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.