Meltdowns & Anger

When His Anger Overpowers Logic — and Love

Your child needs to express his anger. It is healthy and cathartic. “But the emotion should be like a sneeze: It clears the passageways and is over,” says Dr. Ned Hallowell. Here are his anger-management strategies for kids who feel intensely and sometimes spiral out of control.

A little boy screams at the airport. He may need anger management for kids.
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The Trouble with Anger

Of all the emotions that can get a child into trouble, anger leads the list. While sadness or anxiety causes misery, it is anger that leads to trouble — punishment, suspension, expulsion, and a host of other outcomes we don't wish our children to suffer.

It is important that a child expresses his anger, but the emotion should be like a sneeze: It clears the passageways and is over. A child who cannot get angry is in as much danger as a child who cannot control his anger. Here are my 10 tips for anger management for kids.

A group of children do yoga together as part of anger management for kids.
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Exercise Away Hostility

One of the best tonics for the brain is physical exercise. My friend and colleague, Dr. John Ratey, showed in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain that exercise is helpful in promoting healthy brain function, including the ability to control agression.

A mom sits on the couch and talks about anger management for kids with her son sitting on the floor
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Learn to Put Feelings into Words

One of the more common reasons a child loses control is that he is unable to articulate his frustration. Saying, "I'm really angry" can prevent anger from morphing into violence.

A boy holds a TV remote and watches a program about anger management for kids.
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Curb the Electronics

Not only does staring at a screen all day numb the mind, it also precludes more useful exercise and face-to-face social interactions, which can help with anger management. Some electronic use is fine, even desirable. But too much, more than two hours a day, should be avoided.

A father talks to his son about anger management while he lays on a hay bale.
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Teach that Anger Is a Signal, Not an Outcome

When your child gets angry, he should learn to stop and ask, "Why am I angry?" If he can put that into words, it will be easier to control that feeling. Furthermore, if he is angry because he is being mistreated or is in danger, he can ask for help.

A mother talks with her daughter about anger management in front of a stuffed animal display.
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Practice Compromise and Negotiation

In his excellent book, The Explosive Child, Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., introduced a method he calls collaborative problem solving. Read the book, and learn the technique. It works wonders. It is based on negotiation, not giving orders or commands.

A doctor explains anger management for kids to a young patient.
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Check Any Underlying Problems

Various conditions, including ADHD, conduct disorder, seizure disorders, thyroid dysfunction, or brain tumors, can manifest themselves as uncontrollable anger.

A woman writes anger managent strategies for kids in a planner.
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Keep Notes

If your child has a problem with anger, take a few minutes every day to document what he's done. After a month, read through the entries. You may see a pattern that will suggest effective interventions.

A mother scolds her son with ADHD and lectures him about anger management.
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Skip Physical Punishment

Families run best if they have a shared agreement: "We never put hands on each other in anger." The days of spanking should be long gone. It will worsen a child's anger.

A child covers her face with her hands while her father lectures her about anger management.
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Be the Boss

That does not mean you should run your family as if it were the Marine Corps. But children do better managing anger when they know that their parents are in charge.

Mom with ADHD daughter talking about anger management with therapist
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Get Support

If none of these suggestions helps, talk to people you trust or find a support group of ADHD parents. CHADD hosts many support groups.

Almost every child who has anger challenges can learn to control them. It may take some time and some backing and filling, but solutions can be found. Never worry alone.