Anger management for children is usually very effective, but finding the best anger management program for a child may require some research and experimenting. Many different resources related to anger management exist including Internet sites, books, DVDs and anger support groups.
The Internet is perhaps one of the best sources for free anger management advice. There are countless sites dedicated to anger management and coping mechanisms. Prepared by governments, social programs and other concerned individuals and groups, these sites offer people plenty of detailed information and advice about anger management.
A simple web search for ‘free anger management’ will produce numerous links to useful resources, including sites designed solely for children and/or teenagers, adults, couples and families (and even for angry dogs!). However, always apply due diligence and common sense regarding any advice on offer; if in doubt, seek the opinion of a professional.
Books and DVDs
Anger management books and DVDs for children tend to fall into 2 main groups:
- Those to be used by the child. They will typically use a variety of illustrations/animations and stories to put across sometimes unpleasant or complex ideas in an easily accessible and fun way which children can easily relate to and learn from.
- Those geared towards adults who work through behavioral problems with children. These books and DVDs will often cover theory and delve into child psychology whilst providing strategies for tackling children with emotional issues associated with anger.
Counselors and Support
Finding the most appropriate and effective way to teach anger management to a child can present challenges. Self-help books and DVDs can be very helpful, but sometimes a parent will feel the need to talk to someone and have ‘hands on’ support and help from people experienced in this matter.
A child will not benefit from a standard or adult anger management support group or course. Such recommendations are too mature for children who are not developed enough to talk openly about their feelings. In fact, children frequently do not understand what’s happening themselves. A professional anger management counselor will be aware of this scenario and not necessarily expect a young child to open up and tell them the exact emotion which is making them angry. These details will often be discovered through a series of activities targeted towards anger management for children.
For a school-age child, free anger management advice is frequently offered by the school. Possibly the child’s teacher, a school guidance counselor or school nurse will be able to help a child with anger issues. If the problem is serious or involves the child’s family in some way, it may be necessary to have it passed on to a professional counselor. They will assess the situation and provide free advice regarding techniques, possible targeted support groups and other helpful details about anger management.
Although there exists programs designed specifically for children with anger issues, finding one that works for a particular child might require testing several methods. Every child is individual in their response, so what works brilliantly for one may be totally unsatisfactory for another. Given that children, especially young ones, cannot always express why they feel or behave in the way they do, finding the right approach may take some time. Until the issue is resolved or at least controlled, it is imperative to continue the search.
In addition, even when a program is suitable, both the individual working with the child and parents may need to be very patient concerning the rate of progress. Sometimes there is no ‘magic button’ and sorting out the issue(s), especially where problems are deep seated, may take many months or even longer. However, with suitable planning, a well thought out program – based on consistency, regular activities and daily practice – will greatly help a child learn to control their anger problems.
Games and Activities as a Useful Tool
Teaching children positive values and acceptable behavior through various games can, in some cases, be as effective as a one-on-one session with an anger management counselor. Children anger management activities will usually achieve better results if they meld teaching anti-anger interaction and decision making in a fun, engaging and enjoyable manner. Therefore, developing programs which incorporate some or all of these elements can be highly productive.
However, be aware though that trying to convey the concept of anger management to young children can be a challenge. Attempting to teach an effective lesson plan is problematic because at that age, children lack the facility to be able to decode their feelings and verbalize them in a logical manner. Furthermore, they may not be able to ‘read between the lines’ and decode the underlying messages present in anger management materials (e.g coloring sheets or puzzles, quizzes and activities) that help them work through their problems.
Many issues regarding anger in children arise from jealousy and competition. Playing games which teach children the concept of fair play (as well as how to interact with other children in a healthy manner) instills positive thinking and values that are highly beneficial for anger management. Teaching children that it’s alright to play games and not always be the winner or ‘the best ‘is conducive to a child’s behavioral development. Also, designing activities that include role-playing might help children realize that they can’t always be the center of attention. These aspects help equip a child with the tools to avoid certain confrontational situations and furthermore, a child with a balanced and healthy self-esteem will be able to take them in their stride.
Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
The key point to remember concerning child anger management as opposed to either teenager or adult forms, is that the subject is only a child! Their minds are still underdeveloped to handle grown-up situations, therefore one must approach the matter in a more sensitive fashion. As noted elsewhere on this site, good communication skills tailored to the age of child involve creating an open, honest, respectful and tolerant environment, as well the developing the ability to listen and give praise where earned.
Therefore, if a child is old enough to talk about their anger problem, getting them to be open up and share their feelings is highly encouraged. Teaching them from the youngest age to ask for help when they feel upset, threatened or angry is essential – so is providing them with the ability to talk to someone whom they feel comfortable with and trust. In addition, getting them to write about, or draw their emotions may help them to disclose their underlying issues, be it fear, hurt or sadness.
The use of anger management worksheets can help reveal underlying problems and these may prove helpful in the case of older children (pre-teenagers) who display signs of anger and upset. It might be beneficial to list various potential anger triggers and then make the child read them to see which points apply to them. The worksheets could use familiar everyday dilemmas encountered by children phrased in simple language. Useful information helpful in the treatment of anger issues can still be gleaned even when the child is not aware of the reason for the worksheets.
In order to create worksheets that will be of most benefit to a child, the adult should have an understanding of child psychology and of how a child’s mind works. Materials produced and assessed by a professional counselor or therapist will usually yield the best results.
Incentive systems can be effective in modifying patterns of behavior. Rewards should only be given for a genuine improvement and never given out freely. The child will then take pride when they receive one and build up the connection between action and consequence. Rewards do not necessarily have to be monetary or expensive, because the reward that has the most profound impact for a child is when they feel that their parents are genuinely proud of their achievements.
Depending on the child in question and the severity of their anger issues, the incentive system needs to be tailored to their needs. This can be structured in a multitude of ways and may need to be refined over time. Using a visual chart to plot frequency of tantrums etc. may be a helpful way to let the child see how they are progressing. Targets could be set incrementally on a daily (e.g. extra hugs, longer bedtime story), weekly (e.g. cook a meal chosen by the child, give an extra treat) and monthly basis (e.g. a family day out at the weekend, extra pocket money), and the reward should be given only if the target is met.