Helping Young Children Deal with Anger

Helping Young Children Deal with Anger

Children's anger presents challenges to teachers committed to constructive, ethical, and effective child guidance. This article explores what we know about the components of children's anger, factors contributing to understanding and managing anger, and the ways teachers can guide children's expressions of anger.

Three Components of Anger

Anger is believed to have three components (Lewis & Michalson, 1983):

The Emotional State of Anger

The first component is the emotion itself, defined as an affective or arousal state, or a feeling experienced when a goal is blocked or needs are frustrated. Fabes and Eisenberg (1992) describe several types of stress-producing anger provocations that young children face daily in classroom interactions:

  • Conflict over possessions, which involves someone taking children's property or invading their space.
  • Physical assault, which involves one child doing something to another child, such as pushing or hitting.
  • Verbal conflict, for example, a tease or a taunt.
  • Rejection, which involves a child being ignored or not allowed to play with peers.
  • Issues of compliance, which often involve asking or insisting that children do something that they do not want to do--for instance, wash their hands.

Expression of Anger

The second component of anger is its expression. Some children vent or express anger through facial expressions, crying, sulking, or talking, but do little to try to solve a problem or confront the provocateur. Others actively resist by physically or verbally defending their positions, self-esteem, or possessions in nonaggressive ways. Still other children express anger with aggressive revenge by physically or verbally retaliating against the provocateur. Some children express dislike by telling the offender that he or she cannot play or is not liked. Other children express anger through avoidance or attempts to escape from or evade the provocateur. And some children use adult seeking, looking for comfort or solutions from a teacher, or telling the teacher about an incident.

Teachers can use child guidance strategies to help children express angry feelings in socially constructive ways. Children develop ideas about how to express emotions (Michalson & Lewis, 1985; Russel, 1989) primarily through social interaction in their families and later by watching television or movies, playing video games, and reading books (Honig & Wittmer, 1992). Some children have learned a negative, aggressive approach to expressing anger (Cummings, 1987; Hennessy et al., 1994) and, when confronted with everyday anger conflicts, resort to using aggression in the classroom (Huesmann, 1988). A major challenge for early childhood teachers is to encourage children to acknowledge angry feelings and to help them learn to express anger in positive and effective ways.

An Understanding of Anger

The third component of the anger experience is understanding--interpreting and evaluating--the emotion. Because the ability to regulate the expression of anger is linked to an understanding of the emotion (Zeman & Shipman, 1996), and because children's ability to reflect on their anger is somewhat limited, children need guidance from teachers and parents in understanding and managing their feelings of anger.

Understanding and Managing Anger

The development of basic cognitive processes undergirds children's gradual development of the understanding of anger (Lewis & Saarni, 1985).

Memory. Memory improves substantially during early childhood (Perlmutter, 1986), enabling young children to better remember aspects of anger-arousing interactions. Children who have developed unhelpful ideas of how to express anger (Miller & Sperry, 1987) may retrieve the early unhelpful strategy even after teachers help them gain a more helpful perspective. This finding implies that teachers may have to remind some children, sometimes more than once or twice, about the less aggressive ways of expressing anger.

Language. Talking about emotions helps young children understand their feelings (Brown & Dunn, 1996). The understanding of emotion in preschool children is predicted by overall language ability (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Teachers can expect individual differences in the ability to identify and label angry feelings because children's families model a variety of approaches in talking about emotions.

Self-Referential and Self-Regulatory Behaviors.Self-referential behaviors include viewing the self as separate from others and as an active, independent, causal agent. Self-regulation refers to controlling impulses, tolerating frustration, and postponing immediate gratification. Initial self-regulation in young children provides a base for early childhood teachers who can develop strategies to nurture children's emerging ability to regulate the expression of anger.

Guiding Children's Expressions of Anger

Teachers can help children deal with anger by guiding their understanding and management of this emotion. The practices described here can help children understand and manage angry feelings in a direct and nonaggressive way.

Create a Safe Emotional Climate. A healthy early childhood setting permits children to acknowledge all feelings, pleasant and unpleasant, and does not shame anger. Healthy classroom systems have clear, firm, and flexible boundaries.

Model Responsible Anger Management. Children have an impaired ability to understand emotion when adults show a lot of anger (Denham, Zoller, & Couchoud, 1994). Adults who are most effective in helping children manage anger model responsible management by acknowledging, accepting, and taking responsibility for their own angry feelings and by expressing anger in direct and nonaggressive ways.

Help Children Develop Self-Regulatory Skills. Teachers of infants and toddlers do a lot of self-regulation "work," realizing that the children in their care have a very limited ability to regulate their own emotions. As children get older, adults can gradually transfer control of the self to children, so that they can develop self-regulatory skills.

Encourage Children to Label Feelings of Anger. Teachers and parents can help young children produce a label for their anger by teaching them that they are having a feeling and that they can use a word to describe their angry feeling. A permanent record (a book or chart) can be made of lists of labels for anger (e.g., mad, irritated, annoyed), and the class can refer to it when discussing angry feelings.

Encourage Children to Talk About Anger-Arousing Interactions. Preschool children better understand anger and other emotions when adults explain emotions (Denham, Zoller, &Couchoud, 1994). When children are embroiled in an anger-arousing interaction, teachers can help by listening without judging,evaluating, or ordering them to feel differently.

Use Books and Stories about Anger to Help Children Understand and Manage Anger. Well-presented stories about anger and other emotions validate children's feelings and give information about anger (Jalongo, 1986; Marion, 1995). It is important to preview all books about anger because some stories teach irresponsible anger management.

Communicate with Parents. Some of the same strategies employed to talk with parents about other areas of the curriculum can be used to enlist their assistance in helping children learn to express emotions. For example, articles about learning to use words to label anger can be included in a newsletter to parents.

Children guided toward responsible anger management are more likely to understand and manage angry feelings directly and non aggressively and to avoid the stress often accompanying poor anger management (Eisenberg et al., 1991). Teachers can take some of the bumps out of understanding and managing anger by adopting positive guidance strategies.

National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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Keywords: anger managements, anger classes, anger workshops, online anger classes
Whoever requested large mega-doses of irony and paradox for our lives today can cancel the rest of the order. There is plenty---probably too much---to go around.  For instance, from childhood we are taught to strive for a first-rate education so we can graduate and land high-caliber jobs. Then, no sooner do we settle in to the corner office than we realize that achieving our goals comes at an un-advertised cost, and a big one at that.

With our demanding jobs, family responsibilities, and hectic lifestyles come boatloads of anxiety and stress. And if that's not bad enough, anxiety and stress   take it upon themselves to bring along their close traveling companion. wait for it.wait for guessed it: anger. Before we know it, our most common and destructive emotion, Mr. Clenched Fist Anger, moves in with us and begins to take over---usually without our realizing it. No wonder then that the number of people suffering from stress and anger problems is on the rise.

Our search for ways to "unwind our minds" can lead down a variety of paths. One such path is anger management. This is a system of psychological therapies and exercises that can help reduce the negative effects of over-the-top anger.  It should be no surprise that the number of organizations that provide anger workshops, like stress and anger, is also increasing.

Some good news is that there are various options for anger management available through psychological and motivational methodologies. The main objective of these anger workshops is to help people understand the harm that anger can cause them and the people around them, and to help them find ways to manage and control their anger. The anger workshops provide new insights, time-tested behaviors, and reliable techniques to teach people how to be keep their cool in potentially stressful situations. They also work for people who need to control other destructive emotions.

Anger workshops also teach how to stay more focused and motivated at work, at home, and in other settings, and to manage yourself in situations that typically cause you stress and anger. Those who offer anger courses know all too well that sudden eruptions of excessive anger can cost you your job, relationships and even marriage and family. That's why the courses focus on providing solutions to prevent such problems.

Another irony in our world today is that time to engage in constructive and helpful activities, such as anger management classes, is hard to come by indeed. It's a double-irony that people who are overloaded with stress and related anger find it especially difficult to make enough time in their schedules to attend face-to-face classes on anger management. For them online anger management classes can be a lifesaver. Over the past decade and a half, online anger management classes have become increasingly popular as an effective alternative for people who need help in stress and anger management.

Online anger classes are convenient and easy to access, and the cost of online anger classes is affordable. They often less cost than face-to-face classes when you figure in the costs of travel and childcare. Certified online anger classes courses are taught and facilitated by skillfully trained professionals. In addition, with online courses you can do your coursework at times and places that you choose. How's that for stress relief?
An old song says that "life is just a bowl of cherries." If the tune, musical style and cutesy lyrics didn't identify the song as being several decades old, the point of view of it would. The song came from of a time when optimism and positive feelings were common in popular music. In contrast, many of us today would say our "bowl" is full of frenzied daily routines, irritating complications, unreasonable deadlines, and increasing stress. Those who find a way to be generally happy, centered, and positive are few indeed. But those who are searching for ways to control stress, and the anger that can stem from it, are increasing every day. It's no surprise that classes in stress and anger management are springing up all over the place, and the supply can't seem to keep up with the demand.

Anger management classes teach individuals to control their anger by harnessing their emotional energy and channeling it in a constructive manner. Depending on the specific goals, the anger management classes rely on a variety of specially designed techniques and methods such as meditation, yoga, and practice in developing emotional intelligence. The classes also provide study materials and related resources.

Another kind of class that is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds is online anger management classes. When you think about it, it's easy to see why this is the case. The online anger management classes teach the same valuable course content as traditional classes, but offer much more flexible schedules. Participants can log on to the online anger management class anywhere they have a computer with access to the Internet. The time element is just as flexible, because the online anger class can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The online anger classes are designed specifically for online use, and they are taught and facilitated by qualified instructors and facilitators. The instructors lead students through the course content, often using video, interactive exercises, and relevant Internet resources. Some of the exercises give the participants the opportunity to interact online with each other. The facilitators are available to help students with problems using the online features and other computer-related issues. So just because participants may be in a room by themselves when they access the online anger classes, they are by no means alone.

If you have problems with anger management and are fortunate enough to recognize that, online anger management classes may be the answer you've been looking for: high quality course content, flexible schedule, and online interaction with the instructors, facilitators and other participants. What's not to like? Consider enrolling today.

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