Managing anger

Published Categorized as activities, Anger, emotional literacy, Videos

I made this video about anger: What can we say about anger? to help (Key Stage 2 and 3) children reflect upon this tricky emotion. It covers a lot, so like I say at the start of the video, if I was using it as a teacher or parent/carer with children, I would stop and start it and discuss the different sections. Being a teacher, I would also want to do activities to further discuss and elaborate on the main messages.

I am writing this blog post, therefore, to support the use of the video. I make further notes about the main messages in the video and suggest a few activities.

I would also say that the messages could be simplified quite easily for Key Stage 1 children too.

  Anger topic   Further notes, activities and discussion points

Anger is a normal part of being human

Never tell a child that it’s wrong or bad to be angry. We do all feel angry     every now and then. If we feel shame for feeling angry – on top of feeling   angry – this complicates the emotion unnecessarily and makes it less likely to   subside without leaving an unpleasant ‘footprint’.

Anger is the emotion.

Aggression is a behaviour

We can’t always control the emotions we feel but we do have a choice about   how we behave in response to an emotion. Aggression rarely sorts anything   out and usually makes situations worse. Really help children understand that   anger (an emotion) is acceptable but that aggression (a behaviour) rarely is.   Behaviour can usually be far more of a conscious choice than emotions are!

Anger is not often as useful or necessary now as it was for our ancestors.

Revisit the reasons why we evolved anger and how it’s often redundant   these days as our need to be aggressive to protect ourselves physically is   very rarely needed in modern life. This is why anger can need a little focus in   order to manage it well. It’s good to acknowledge that anger can be a   tricky emotion because of the strong physical urges it can induce.

What can we say about emotions? Part 9 explores the evolution of emotions     and how this can sometimes makes them a little irrelevant or tricky.

Anger words

There are many anger words because anger is such a part of human   existence!

You child could make an anger thermometer. You could add different words   for anger alongside the thermometer as you learn them.

You could use the thermometer to ask your child to reflect on the day and if   they became angry at all, and if so, use the anger thermometer to show how   angry.

You could discuss different hypothetical situations that could trigger anger   and ask your child to point on the thermometer how angry they think they   would feel.

The physical symptoms of anger

Ask your child to notice what sensations they have next time they are angry.   On a ‘blob’ person they could draw and label these symptoms. Looking at the   physical symptoms of anger as we are experiencing them can be a good thing   to do because 1) it helps children recognise they are angry (some children do   struggle with this) and 2) It encourages their focus inwards and means they   are less likely to ‘act out’

Anger is usually triggered by either irritants, costs or transgressions.

Children don’t need to be able to decipher which category their trigger   belongs to but it can be good to unpick what it was about what happened that   triggered anger. Sometimes you can look at triggers quite deeply. We can   become angry about what someone did and perhaps not acknowledge that it   was because they were not listening to us and we hate not being listened to   or that we felt like we were being laughed at about something we feel   particularly sensitive about. Our triggers for anger are personal to us and not   everyone is made angry by the same things. Awareness of this can help   children ‘own’ their anger and acknowledge that what triggered their anger   would not trigger everyone’s. There is an individual interpretation and   response to most potential triggers.

Explore triggers for characters in books and in films. Ask your child if they   think they would be angry in the same situation and whether they think the   anger is justified.

Our thoughts when we are angry can either help us or make us feel worse.

When we are in the grips of anger, we tend to pur self-interests above the interests of others. You can make your child aware of this tendency and make it clear that this is part of the reason why decisions made when angry can often make things worse.

You could explore different situations that could trigger anger and look at   the different ways you can think about the same situation and which   thoughts will make you feel worse and which might help.

e.g. a child laughs at your new coat and says it looks awful.

Different thoughts could include:

  • They’re right – my coast does look awful.
  • He’s really nasty for saying that.
  • His coast looks ridiculous – how dare he insult mine.
  • He’s the one with the problem if he thinks it’s OK to go. round insulting people’s clothing.
  • I love my coat and that’s all that matters.
  • He must be having a bad day to feel the need to say that.

The video: What can we say about emotions? Part 6 explores the link   between thoughts and emotions further.

Expressing anger

The aim with anger is:
  • not to be passive or respond indirectly
  • not to be aggressive
  • but to be assertive

when expressing it.

But many adults, let alone children struggle with this and it’s good to help children understand this takes a lot of practice for most people.

Look at different situations (some are included in the video) and discuss what   would be an assertive response – remembering that an assertive response is   about asking for what you need to happen to sort out the situation for you –   that won’t annoy, put upon or anger other people either.

Cooling down techniques

There are several ‘cooling down’ methods listed in the video but you could   creatively discuss further ideas with your child. Remember some children   might already have worked out strategies that work for them.

It used to be believed that the only way to cool anger down was to use up the   burst of energy the anger response creates. Using up energy can be an   effective way of ‘cooling down’, especially if a child is very physical, but   equally effective can be soothing strategies. The aim is to distract away from   any urge to be aggressive in the six seconds or so after the trigger.

Males and aggression

Try to resist the conditioning of telling boys to ‘man up’, ‘be tough’ etc. Boys   do end up feeling that expressing emotions that make them look vulnerable   are not ‘allowed’ and that they will be teased for them. This can result in   ‘bottling up’ and eventually the suppression of emotions. Many males cope   with this conditioning but it can end up with males believing that aggressive   outbursts are the only way they are allowed to express emotion. In   extreme cases, this suppression contributes to the high incidence of male suicide as males rarely feel it’s OK to ask for help as this implies vulnerability and that they are not in control.

My book ‘It’s OK to cry’ was written with boys in mind. It helps all children   develop a greater emotion vocabulary but it also challenges the messages   many males receive.

Empathising with someone who is angry

When someone is angry it would be great if we could treat them how we   would probably wish to be treated. Which is:
  • be heard
  • be understood
  • have our anger validated
  • be reassured things have been acknowledged and will possibly be addressed

However, anger in someone else can trigger strong reactions in us: fear,   embarrassment, shame and also anger. To empathise with someone who is   angry, it’s great if we can try to understand what their issue is rather than   reacting to their emotion. In other words – try to see the issue behind the   emotion.

Try and help children see anger as a ‘cry for help’.

Further activities for exploring anger could include:

(Some of these are clearly aimed at a class rather than for parents/carers to use with their children).

  • suggest triggers for things that would make you: bothered, irritated, annoyed, angry and furious: increasing levels of anger.
  • attempt to draw emoticons for or take photos of faces expressing, each of the anger words in the last bullet point.
  • express anger using voice tone, body language and facial expression by using only the words, ‘I am a potato’ to show how much of communication is non-verbal and to explore what anger looks like in different people.
  • on a large blank piece of paper add anger triggers as they are encountered (they could be placed next to an anger thermometer to represent how angry they made the person feel).
  • decide what anger would look, smell, sound, feel and taste like if you could apply each sense to it! You could take this abstract idea further – what would anger be if it was: a weather, an animal, a flavour, an insect, a plant, a household tool, a shape etc
  • make a six second cool off poster with ideas of things people can do to prevent an aggressive reactions when they are angry.
  • make a TV advert ‘selling’ why it’s important to ‘cool off’ before reacting, when you are angry.
  • write the instructions for being assertive.
  • with group of children, create a ‘freeze-frame’ where one person in it is angry. Ask others to guess why the person is angry and give suggestions for what could be the best next thing to do for the angry person.
  • children could create a drama piece showing aggression’s appropriateness for stone-age people and demonstrate how it is less appropriate for modern living.
  • consider what advice Angry Anna needs to hear as she is a disaster with anger and regularly becomes aggressive or give her the top five tips for dealing with anger.
  • explain the contrast between aggression and assertiveness with mime alone!
  • compose a sound piece that represents anger – using instruments and/or objects