3 Calm Down Skills to Practice Before Anger Strikes
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When my son was 5 sometimes it felt like his temper was in charge of our household. Frustration would cause him to scream and get overwhelmed and destructive. This in turn would spur my own temper. It felt like one or both of us were angry all the time.
I knew we needed more tools to help us handle frustration, but trying to implement those tools when we were angry never worked. I realized after reading [easyazon_link identifier=”0553386697″ locale=”US” tag=”lissybug-20″]The Whole Brain Child[/easyazon_link] that doing this training while calm is the only way we’ll really make progress and be able to use these skills in moments of frustration.
3 Skills to Teach While Calm
My “unpeaceful” child was who inspired me to learn about handling anger better, but ALL of us can benefit from these skills.
Learn your child’s peace language
We did an exercise where we talked about what peace looks, feels, smells, sounds and tastes like. You can do this too.
- Make a list of what helps each person feel peaceful so they have something to refer to when they’re angry or out of sorts. (Draw pictures for younger kids.)
- Hang the list somewhere they can easily see it.
We learned that in our house, peace tastes like delicious cake. To one of my boys peace looks like his fish swimming around the tank and feels like being under a blanket when it’s raining. To my eldest boy peace feels like being alone – I didn’t know that about him. I don’t think I would have encouraged him to hide out on his bed, but now I know that when he says he wants to have time alone, he is being proactive about finding peace for himself.
Once I learned more about my kids “peace languages” I could better understand their needs and what resonates for them for calming down.
Breathing and Meditation
Practice breathing and meditation before difficulties strike and you will ALL be better prepared to deal with anger and upheaval. These are the sorts of skills your child can take out into the world and use when they are confronted with frustration at school or with friends.
A few ways to teach breathing and meditation:
- Do a kids yoga video together.
- Teach how to count to ten when you feel like exploding. Demonstrate this yourself when angry.
- Practice taking deep breaths together, again demonstrate yourself when angry.
- Meditation Jar – Make your own sparkly calm down jar to watch and tell your child they can get it whenever they want to relax.
- Put up your fingers and ask your child to “Blow out the birthday candles!”
- Teach how to blow bubbles to get calm with a bubble wand or straw in water with a bit of dish soap.
A good laugh helps us ALL calm down. In our conversations about peaceful breathing my boys told me they like to “breathe in and think of delicious cake and fart out the anger.” “Pbbbttttt” they do a raspberry with their lips to demonstrate. Of course.
So we practiced, “I am thinking of delicious cake.” ::big breath in:: “Pbbttttt, bye bye angry feelings!”
Model ways to deal with frustration
We get plenty of moments to model how to react to anger or frustration, we can use these daily moments to talk out what we’re thinking while we move from frustration to action.
- You might say, “Oh shoot! That’s not what I wanted to happen!” or “Bummer, I was really looking forward to that!”
- Let them see you move into solution mode “Ok, guess I have to change plans”
- Let them see you settle yourself and re-start your task.
If we never verbalize what’s going on in the small-but-annoying moments, our kids may get the idea that frustration only happens for adults in those BIG, super frustrating moments when we can’t help ourselves from “modeling how we deal with frustration.” Instead we can give examples more regularly, and for smaller upsets too, so that our children can see how to hit an obstacle and then keep going.
Give tools for calming down and then let them practice.
Practice lots while calm, yes, but another critical piece of learning to handle anger and frustration is letting kids have chances to be frustrated. Allowing them to feel disappointment and frustration over little things and acknowledging that it is a part of life but you have confidence that they can handle it, gives them practice for the bigger obstacles they will confront. This way they build resilience and an ability to problem solve when they make mistakes.
It all takes a lot of practice and we’re far from perfect, but ultimately I’m glad I’ve had the experience of dealing with a child who has such strong emotions. I don’t think I could have a stronger motivator for learning to handle my own emotions better, and each step I take in handling things well is a step that increases connection in my whole family.
Find lots more on dealing with the powerful emotion of anger here:
What helps you or your kids deal with frustration? Do you practice while you’re calm?
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It’s exactly what is happening to us. He’s almost 5 and the angry is all the time there, and shouting. I’m gonna try these advice’s, since breathing did work before, now it is not enough somehow. Hope we will figure this out soon. Thank you!
I love this article, it’s exactly what I’m working on with my own son. I tried your tip of blowing out the candles and it worked a treat. It’s been hard to get him to breath in and out really slowly, but I said if he blew too hard he’d blow the candles over and voila! Slow breathing.. and a smile 🙂 I’ve written about our journey here, plus a few more tips that have helped us: https://flyingstartkids.com/2014/08/31/meditation-tools-to-manage-kids-meltdowns/
That’s great, Jessica! Thank you so much for sharing a few more tips too, pinning those now.
These are fantastic suggestions, and I can assure you that they have work! I have used them with hundreds of children. I just provided a training to a local school on emotional management skills, because teachers need to know these skills, too.
Some points that warrant reiteration:
1) It’s ok, normal, etc. to feel angry, sad, frustrated, etc. It’s all part of life!
2) We are each responsible for managing our own feelings (ok to feel angry, not ok to hit)
3) It’s important to practice calm-down strategies when we’re feeling calm/good- the more we practice and discuss these skills, the better we will get at using them when we really need them the most
A few more strategies:
–Visualization:Think of some happy thoughts and see how it makes you feel. Some examples kids use are: think of my puppy, think of my favorite place, favorite person. It’s amazing that we can change our mood just by using our mind to imagine things we like. (The same holds true for the opposite, so mind your mind!)
–Throw it Away: Scribble out your frustration and use a mini-garbage pail or shredder to get rid of the bad feelings
–Music: Use music to express or change your mood- you can listen to different songs with your children and ask them which songs they think they would want to listen to help them feel calm, happy, etc.
It’s important that children build an emotional vocabulary and learn how to express their feelings in safe ways. That’s why I developed the Feel & Deal Activity Deck. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfXsjrzu3i8
Christi, thanks so much for the additional help!
please,from what age should a parent start this training on control of emotions. My children are 4plus,2plus and 2months. Thanks as you help out.
Learn your child’s PEACE language…wow…what an incredible tool for parents to appreciate their little person 🙂 Sounds like a wonderful course!
Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam
Great advice. One thing I have learned has helped a lot is praising our child, who angers easily, when he handles his anger in a calmer, non violent way. I will tell him I am proud of him for controlling his body, and it’s okay to feel angry sometimes. Now, he looks to himself for praise and will say, “I didn’t have a temper tantrum this time,” in a proud voice.
And I didn’t see outside help mentioned but it’s important for parents to seek outside help if their child’s anger is negatively impacting the family or child on a routine basis and making life generally very hard a lot.
Dawn @ PricklyMom
Hey Rebekah, my little one has recently been formally diagnosed with anxiety, and I’m learning that ANGER and TANTRUMS can be a symptom of anxiety (if you didn’t already know that). (I haven’t written about this on my blog bc we don’t really want my MIL to find out yet.) Also, by pure coincidence, my little guy’s summer camp teacher has been a HUGE HELP in giving me tips on how to deal with him, like praising the littlest baby step such as “wow! you TOLD me you were angry instead of screaming! Great work!” (what you said above about your son made me think of this).
The hard part in all of this is that no one ever taught ME to effectively deal with MY anxiety, so I have no idea how to help Pie!
Nice article! I like the idea of blowing bubbles to get them calm. I’m counting with my kids to help them gain patience and teach them to share. It’s like you say: “giving them tools for calming down and then let them practice”- now that we do this for a while, the kids even do the counting among themselves without parent intervention- as they understand better that they need to be just a bit patience to get what they want 🙂
That is so beautiful!