For many of our Mindboost clients, helping students learn anger management skills is a top priority. Developing the ability to curb anger and manage strong emotions in a healthy way at a young age has a positive lifelong impact on the student and on everyone they encounter.
For some students, managing temper is more of a challenge than it is for others. Children and young people who “run hot” tend to boil up over small irritants and to lose control of their emotions more easily.
Teachers and school administrators can help students understand that anger is not a “bad” emotion in and of itself, but it needs to be managed. Uncontrolled anger takes a toll on relationships, as well as personal wellbeing. These strategies and tips can help students find perspective when anger control is a battle.
Cool Down Techniques for Anger Management
Anger is an emotion we can struggle to use appropriately. Left unchecked, anger can turn into dangerous patterns of abuse and violence. Learning “cool down” techniques sets kids up for success. Let’s look at a few practical techniques kids can use to cope with challenging emotions.
- Talk about it. When students feel anger, teach them that it’s good to express that they feel angry and to articulate why they are angry.Let them know that it’s OK to talk it out with a friend, a parent, or another trusted adult.
- Breathe. Teach students the “rose and candle” breathing technique: Breathe in through your nose like you are smelling a rose, then breath out through the mouth like you are blowing out a candle. Returning attention to the breath can be a great tool for returning focus and finding calm in a heated moment.
- Take a walk. Teach students that it’s a wise idea to walk away from a situation when you feel mad or overwhelmed. Just take a break for a second or even excuse yourself for a walk. You can come back to the situation when your emotions feel level and your head is clear.
- Count to ten. Sometimes, the difference between an angry outburst that devolves into conflict and a peaceful resolution is just 10 seconds. Tell students to always take a moment to count to ten and look for perspective. Sometimes things feel bigger in a tense, stressful moment than they really are.
Anger Management Strategies for Students
Learning these cooldown techniques is a smart and practical way to start the journey toward anger management. It’s also good to teach kids larger lessons about the big picture of our emotions and how to think about healthy relationships.
- Be slow to speak – It only takes a moment to destroy a relationship with a thoughtless or angry word. When tempers rise, help kids think about taking a beat and carefully considering their words. Is this true? Is this helpful? What impact will saying this have on the situation? It’s OK not to say (or text!) everything on our minds.
- Be quick to listen – How many times has miscommunication or misunderstanding been at the root of an irritating situation? Help students learn the importance of listening and seeing a situation from the opposite perspective. Always assume the best or ask for clarification before rushing to judgment. When learning anger control, it is smart to get ahead of old habits by suspending judgement until both sides of a situation have been heard.
- Get plenty of exercise – In her book, “How to Effectively Control Your Anger,” author Vicki L. Schutt explains that exercise is one of the best tools for reducing anger and stress. Physical activity is a fantastic way to release tension. Young children need lots of physical activity, and countless studies have connected exercise to relaxation hormones and stress reduction.
- Practice relaxation techniques – Practices such as deep-breathing and mindfulness are extremely effective in activating the body’s parasympathetic system—the part of the nervous system responsible for promoting relaxation. In addition to the “roses and candles” method outlined above, there are many other breathing techniques you can teach students to help develop positive anger management habits. For example: Breathe deeply from the belly without letting the chest rise. Breath in for four seconds and out for eight. Close the eyes and bring attention to the breath. Whenever the mind wanders, bring attention back to the breath—concentrating on the sensation of air flowing in and out through the nose. Several minutes of this exercise can help a student fighting angry impulses feel significantly more relaxed and in control of their emotions.
- Brainstorm solutions – Anger is often triggered by very real problems. Talk about the “iceberg” beneath the problems. Encourage students to use rational language rather than emotion to process situations and the problems lying beneath their immediate feelings. Help students learn to talk it out.
- Teach the value of forgiveness – Model and teach the importance of letting it go. Holding onto bitterness crowds out positive emotions. Forgiveness requires determination, self-control, and patience. Teach students about the value of a life marked by forgiveness.
- Own every emotion – It’s helpful for young people to understand that feelings themselves aren’t good or bad, it’s what we do with them that matters. Help students own their emotions with “I” statements. For instance, rather than saying “You never listen to me,” they can focus on communicating their responsive feelings by saying, “I feel unheard.” In this way, they diffuse some of the tension by asserting something that is subjectively true from their perspective, rather than making an objective claim that is difficult to prove and likely to make the other party defensive. Making “I” statements helps students become aware of their own emotional state, which requires a level of self-reflection and transparency that can be helpful in deescalating tempers on both sides.
- Cognitive restructuring – Adults have years of practice and the perspective of time, but emotions are more overwhelming for young people. Teach students that when that familiar feeling of losing control comes, they can pay attention to the direction of their thoughts. Have those thoughts become exaggerated? Use a process of rationalization—for example, avoiding absolute terms such always, never, and completely and catastrophizing language such as disaster, ruined, and terrible. Reasonable self-talk is a powerful anger management tool. Instead of saying, “Everything is ruined, this is a disaster and my life will never be the same,” cognitive restructuring could reframe the situation and result in a response like: “Yes, this is a difficult situation and frustration is understandable, but I’m not going to allow my anger to prevent me from moving forward.”
Mindboost uses cognitive exercises to help users practice awareness and anger management techniques, including breathing exercises, customized check-ins, and gratitude journaling. Simple patterns such as slowing down or focusing on the positive can help students develop lifelong healthy habits and coping techniques to use in addressing strong emotions.
Learn more about our revolutionary mental health app and how it can make a difference for your students, as well as the mental health state or federal funding that could be available to you. Schedule a demo with our team today!