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Teach Your Child About Feelings

Kids are more likely to lash out when they don’t understand their feelings or they’re not able to verbalize them. A child who can’t say “I’m mad!” may try to show they're angry by lashing out. Or a child who isn’t able to perceive or explain that they're sad may misbehave to get your attention. To help your child learn to identify and label feelings, begin by teaching basic feeling words such as "mad," "sad," "happy," and "scared." Label your child's feelings for them by saying, "It looks like you feel really angry right now." Over time, they'll learn to label their own emotions. As your child develops a better understanding of their emotions and how to describe them, teach them more sophisticated feeling words such as frustrated, disappointed, worried, and lonely. [1]

Get Good At De-Escalating.

Your job when your child is angry is always to restore calm, because kids can only learn and understand how to "do better" when they're calm. Your calm presence, even when he's mad, helps your child feel safe. And that's what helps him develop the neural pathways in the brain that shut off the "fight or flight" response and allow the frontal cortex, the "reasoning brain," to take over. [2]

Model Appropriate Expressions of Anger

An angry parent often leads to an angry child. Anger that is expressed inappropriately blocks your ability to discipline wisely. For example, your four-year-old does something stupid. She covers the dog with spaghetti sauce, and the dog bounds off into the living room leaving orange-red paw prints on the white carpeting. This is not the time to blow your top. The more aggravating the deed, the more you need a clear head to evaluate your options in handling the misbehavior. Each situation is different, and you must be able to think straight to choose the reaction that best fits the action. Being in a state of rage clouds your thinking. Your unthinking expressions of anger cause the situation to escalate. You hit the dog (which causes him to run through more rooms leaving more sauce behind); you spank the child and send him to his room (which leaves you, still seething, to clean up the mess alone). By the time the episode is over, everyone feels abused. An approach less draining on everyone requires a level head and a dose of humor: quickly grab the dog and head for the bathtub, calling for your child to come along (in the most cheerful voice possible) to help de-sauce the dog and then the rug. Your child learns how you handle a crisis and how much work it is to clean up a mess. A temper tantrum from you can’t undo the childish mess, it can only add to it. [3]


[1] Morin, Amy. "7 Ways to Help a Child Cope With Anger." Very Well Family, 15 December 2021,

[2] Aha Parenting Editorial Team. "10 Tips To Help Your Child With Anger." Aha! Parenting, 15 December 2021,

[3] Dr. Sears Editorial Team. "6 Ways to Help the Angry Child." Ask Dr. Sears, 15 December 2021,

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