How a parent deals with an angry child can influence a kid's future behavior. Young children might not have the capacity to express emotions in an appropriate way, so parents can help teach kids the skills they need to do so. An irascible child might not cause a lot of damage, but older kids can cause damage to themselves and others if they allow rage to take over. Young kids learn behavior from parents, so the way a mom or dad reacts to stress or disappointment can influence the way a child behaves.
Avoid situations that you know can build up tension and frustration in a young child. Feed a child before taking him out shopping or to do chores. Make sure that he has enough sleep. Tired or hungry kids can overreact to any triggers.
Ignore small irritations, and praise good behavior. A parent can get involved and fan the flames of little events into major blow-ups. Small children do not have the verbal skills to explain why they get angry, so help them avoid unnecessary stresses. Engage small children in calming tactile activities such as filling buckets with sand or making mud pies.
Watch carefully for clues that an older child is upset, and engage her in a calm conversation about her emotions. Do not criticize the child for being angry, and do not ask her why she is angry. Rather, acknowledge the potential irritant and suggest a positive way of dealing with a situation, or clarify a misunderstanding a child might have about a situation.
Handling an Outburst
Ignore minor outbursts or little fits of temper. Continue eating if a child storms away from the table and runs to his room. Stay calm and speak quietly with an angry child. A soothing voice and an impassive affect can help diffuse a situation.
Separate two children if one is acting out anger with aggression. Remove a child from a group of people, and take her to a quiet area away from distractions. Tell her to sit down and think about what she is doing. Ask her to stay put until you return.
Praise a child when he calms down following an outburst. Do not get angry with the child, threaten him with future punishment or make fun of his anger.
Deconstructing and Redirecting Anger
Do not ignore continued angry outbursts in a child. Talk with your child about having angry thoughts. Admit that sometimes, you get angry, too. Suggest ways for a child to express anger in a controlled way.
Explain to a child the difference between feeling anger and acting with aggression. Give a child examples of people who get angry for good reasons, and then act to correct a wrong--such as telling a teacher or parent about someone hurting an animal, or taunting a sibling.
Assure the child that you are not judging her emotions. Give an older child a special notebook, and encourage her to write down what she feels. Give kids, especially boys, opportunities for healthy physical activities, such as running, swimming, soccer or other team sports. Organized martial arts can help teach discipline and control as well as self-defense skills.