‘I Need Some Place To Put My Angry’: Helping Children Deal With Negative Emotions

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angry childWe were driving home from daycare and discussing my daughter’s day. Our provider had warned that Brenna had a rough day. “Her listener needs a little work before she comes back tomorrow,” Annie instructed.

As we made our way home, I tried to get my little one to talk to me about her problems that day. “Were you upset?” I asked. “Tired? Hungry? Grumpy?” I wanted her to think about why she had made poor decisions and what we could do to keep it from happening in the future.

After roughly ten minutes of the silent treatment, she finally acquiesced and started telling me about her issue at Ann’s. “My friends wouldn’t let me be the baby when we played house. I wanted to be the baby because someone else always gets to be the baby and it should’ve been my turn but they said no. So I played all by myself.” The social lives of pre-schoolers, huh?

“I can see why that would make you sad punkin…” I began. “But even when we’re sad, we have to listen to the adult in charge, right?”

“I wasn’t sad,” my daughter broke in. “I was mad. I was angry. It was my turn to be the baby.” We’ve been talking a lot about feelings lately. Obviously, she’s learned the difference between sad and mad.

“But that still doesn’t mean that we can stop listening, Bean. Maybe we need to figure out something that can make you feel better when you’re mad.” This was really our first foray into managing our emotions so don’t judge my approach too harshly.

After a few more minutes of silence from the back seat, my little girl said, “I need some place to put my angry, Momma. Cuz when it’s inside, it’s hard to listen. I need some place to put it.” I cannot lie, I was a little impressed with her amazingly astute observation. There are plenty of adults who never figure out that they need “some place to put their angry.”

At home that night, I dug through our library for children’s books that deal with handling emotions. We sat down to read stories like, Llama Llama Mad At Mama and Mouse Was Mad. The latter selection, by Linda Urban, actually had some great advice that my little one could pick up all on her own. Mouse gets hoppin’ mad, screamin’ mad and rolling on the ground mad. But none of these things help. Finally, he’s so angry that he’s “standing still mad.” He stands there taking deep breaths, until suddenly he realizes that he isn’t mad anymore.

My daughter quickly decided that next time she’s angry, she stood stand as still as possible and take deep breaths until the mad goes away. Once again, plenty of adults could use a little of this advice.

Most importantly for us, our little girl got to come up with her own solution to her problem. I think she’ll be more likely to follow her own advice than to take coping tips for her mother and father. It was at simple as presenting her with examples of handling your frustration and letting her pick the one that worked best.

We didn’t want to tell our daughter that anger isn’t allowed. Of course she’s going to have negative emotions sometimes. But I do want her to be able to process those feelings.

Kids are going to get mad. They’re going to have their own frustrations. And they’re all going to need some place to put their angry. How do you help your kids deal with negative emotions? What coping techniques have worked in your family?

(Photo: MNStudio/Shutterstock)