7 Tools for Calming Angry Kids

In the past three years John and I have adopted seven children from foster care, which means we've had to deal with a lot of angry kids. Anger displays itself in many ways. I've had children yelling, screaming, kicking, fighting, and throwing things. I've seen looks of pure hatred directed at me. (I know the meaning of "if looks can kill"!)

I've been told things like, "You're not my mom!" "I'm going to call my caseworker!" and "I want to leave!" Anger has been directed at me, my husband, and our other kids.

I've learned that anger stinks, and anger doesn't make anyone feel good — even the angry kids. I've also learned that if kids are allowed to make anger a habit, it perpetuates an environment that is unhealthy for all involved.

Here are four things I've learned about anger, and seven ways to combat it:

1. Kids get angry outwardly because they feel out of control inwardly.

Venting anger — or raging — may feel good for a short time, but deep inside a child often feels bad about his words and action. To feel better about himself, a child may justify his anger, believing he had no choice but to be angry. Soon he may believe that's who he is: an angry person.

2. Children who get angry do so because they are missing basic skills.

"Coping skills" should be learned and developed from a young age, but sometimes they aren't. For a typical 2-year-old, when a toy is taken and anger arises, there is a parent nearby who teaches things like sharing, taking turns, and how to settle down. Children a little older are taught to put themselves in another person's shoes. If a child doesn't learn these skills, they instead respond in anger.

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