Ask the Expert: How Can Parents and Children Manage Anger?

Certified peer mediation specialist David Wolffe shares tips to help parents control their anger with anger management techniques, as well as how anger manifests itself differently in young and teen boys and girls.

sad child angry parentsWhen parents get angry, how can they control their emotions so their children don’t see it as an example and emulate it?

There is nothing wrong with parent getting angry—it is how they get angry or show their anger that matters. Kids should know that being angry is ok and learn how to deal with it. There are multiple ways to deal with it: by taking deep breaths, counting, or walking away from the situation.

When we get upset, different things happen with the body. We need to calm down and tell other person why we are upset. Parents should let the other person or their children know they need time to calm down. This way they can deal with the issue [when they are calm], and the children don’t feel that the parent is ignoring them. Kids should understand it’s a feeling we have, but what we do with that anger and how we express it is different for everyone.

How does anger manifest itself differently in young and teen girls and boys?

The most overt thing kids will do is slam doors, walk out, yell, scream, and curse. Sometimes the anger comes out later if it is held in. They might internalize the anger and take it out on someone else or themselves. Kids might feel they can’t express anger and they might hurt the other person or the person might hurt them. With young kids and teens the worst anger is turned inward such as depression or self-mutilation, which could lead to suicide.

Anger takes many forms and could be expressed as sarcasm or comment, showing that they are angry. Teen girls and boys may not show they’re upset, but it might come out in different ways like sexual and risk-taking behavior with an “I’ll show them attitude.” When teens react this way, they are emotional and not thinking. Parents have to understand that children of any age need their parents to listen and hear them out. It is not just about stopping the behavior, but treating the symptom—the cause of the behavior needs to be dealt with.

Parents need to ask their children why they are upset, and the parents need to listen—the child needs to vent and calm down. Kids need to be heard and not disrespected. Before you can deal with what is going on, anger needs to be reduced to a lesser intensity. This way they can handle their anger in a positive way without doing something that is destructive them or others.

David Wolffe, author of Peace: The Other Side of Anger—Helping Teens with Anger Management, is certified as a peer mediation specialist from the International Center for Conflict Resolution of Columbia University Teachers College. He founded P.E.A.C.E., Inc. to help teens express anger and manage conflict in positive ways.

Also see:

What Anger Management Tools Work for Children with Special Needs?

How Can I Help a Bully Manage Their Anger?