Anger is like a balloon

With children, anger builds– like blowing up a balloon. Then something small can happen and the balloon bursts.

What makes children’s anger worse?

Your child’s anger will become worse

  • If they think that someone has ill-treated them on purpose.
  • If they have had a bad day or are already anxious or wound up.
  • If they think you always take a sibling’s side or treat their sibling as the favourite.
  • If the anger has festered for a long time because it was not dealt with effectively at the time.

How can you teach your child to cope with their anger?

If anger is like a balloon, you can teach your child to gradually let air out of the balloon by:

  • Recognising the early signs of anger as it builds, so they can notice they are getting angry and calm themselves before the balloon bursts.
  • Finding safe ways to express anger. For example, perhaps they could leave the room saying, “I’m feeling really annoyed. I’m going out of the room now, but I’ll come back when I’m calmer and we can talk then.” Or hit a pillow or throw bean bags at the wall. As long as they keep people and property safe.
  • Then finally it’s useful to find ways to deal with the situations that caused them to feel angry. Do they need to explain how certain behaviour makes them feel? Talk about how to resolve an argument? Or do they need to accept and come to terms a difficult situation that’s going on in their life?

How can you reduce angry outbursts?

Your child’s anger will be reduced by:

  • Positive experiences
  • Helping your child have a good self-esteem
  • Playing and having fun with them
  • Having a good, close relationship with your child where you spend time every day with them
  • And finding ways for them to let off steam

3 tips to reduce angry outbursts

1. Model good anger management

  • It’s really important not to get angry yourself when your child is angry. From now on, plan to stay calm and composed when your child gets annoyed or upset. But don’t speak quietly and passively – that will just wind your child up. You can speak with energy and match their intensity, but don’t shout. Then gradually calm your voice down and that will help your child to calm down.
  • Empathise with your child. The quickest way to calm your child is to guess what they’re feeling and why they feel that way.
    “You look mad. It must be so annoying when your sister takes your things.”
    “You sound frustrated. You tried and tried, but you’re finding that homework really hard.”
  • Show your child how you stay calm – not just staying calm but talking them through HOW you do it.
    There’s a good chance that what works for you to calm down, will help your child. So, whether it’s leaving the room, taking big deep breaths or saying a mantra such as “stay calm, you can handle this” it will probably help your child too.
  • Apologise when you get it wrong. If you shouted, swore or lost your temper, say sorry, and admit you got it wrong. Your child will then learn to do the same and realise that their parents can make mistakes! It helps if they know you’re human too.

2. Help your child with social coaching

Pay close attention to your child’s behaviour. If you see their anger building up, move next to them with your head below their head level. Tell them what you notice. Ask them how they could deal with it. “It looks like you’re feeling annoyed with your brother. How are you going to handle that?” Coach them, (remembering to stay positive and friendly) through difficult situations when you are playing together.

3. Try to be more playful and fun

Finally, it’s good to remember that often parents lose their sense of humour with the daily grind of looking after children, the jobs that need to be done, and just the daily pressures of life. If you can lighten up and start to have fun with your child, everyone will benefit.

Anger management for 5 year olds

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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