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5 Creative Ways for Kids to Express Anger

Posted April 11, 2013

Picture this (it won't be hard)...

Your 8 year old wants to play with the GameBoy.  Problem is, his 10 year old sister is already deep into her game and isn't going to give it up.  And she's bigger and stronger, plus she had it first.  You brace yourself watching this scenario unfold because you know what's coming.

Angry Kid

If you are a a parent of a child between 2 and 12, you are no stranger to the occasional freak out and heaven forbid... a tantrum.  Kids express so many of their emotions by lashing out, screaming, throwing things, breaking things, and even hitting or kicking.  It could be anger, disappointment, or frustration.  I know when my daughter cannot accomplish a task as well as she would like to, she gets very frustrated.  This often leads to stomping around the house, a sour look on  her face, and an all around bad attitude towards everyone and everything for at least a half hour.  Sometimes more.  

I try not to get mad at his, since I too get frustrated and feel like lashing out every once in a while (like when my computer mouse won't do what it's supposed to or when I accidentally erase something I've been working on... before I remembered to save it).  I've been known to express myself with a few select words mumbled under my breath.  But, as adults, it's easier for us to control how we express our emotions.  At the very least, we know we can't go around slamming doors and breaking things.

Kids, however, are still learning this skill.  Also, since they don't have the vocabulary and/or the skills to communicate anger/frustration/disappointment as well as we can, kids turn to what they know.  And it's usually some kind of physical expression or act. So how can you help your child express these strong emotions?

We all know that hitting and throwing things are bad and screaming is mostly inappropriate, but these are the ways that kids tend to naturally express themselves when upset.  So, let's turn that into something that works, and turn it away from hurting other people or animals and destroying precious things.  The lesson here is to always remind your child that the following forms of expression are acceptable, but only at the right time and in the right place.  And, again, that it's never ok to hurt someone.

5 Good Ways for Kids to Express Anger, when they just absolutely, positively HAVE TO lash out physically:

1. Take it from Bruce Lee. Let him Judo Chop a large piece of paper, such as wrapping paper or craft paper.  The physical tearing and noise will offer a good release.  You can also use a bean bag chair as a punching bag, just make sure to explain that hitting people is never ok, but sometimes hitting safe things like bean bags is ok.

Karate Chop Aggression

2. Run some laps. Ask him to run around the house in a safe path, for 20 laps.  Offer a prize at the end.  Something small like a trip to the dollar store as a reward.  Explain to your child that the reward is for expressing his anger in a safe way and allowing himself to get less angry in a safe way.  The laps will also tire him out, the counting will distract him, and the anger will subside.

3. Scream and shout! Let him go into a room and yell as much and as loud as he pleases to get that anger out.  It's better to find a room, like a well-lit and open basement or bathroom, and not the living room.  This way, neighbors and sibling won't wonder what you're doing to your child!  Explain that you understand that sometimes when someone feels frustrated, they just want to scream.  Explain that this way is ok because you are doing it in a safe and controlled way.

Shout it out!

4. Angry faces to silly faces. Is he angry at you?  Ask him to go outside, make sure it's safe, and let him make faces at your through the window.  Remind him it can't be naughty faces or gestures like the "bird" or sticking out his tongue.  Hopefully the faces will end up being so silly, it will make him and you laugh.  Explain that making faces to hurt someone's feelings is never ok, but in this case, he is making faces to show how he feels and it's not meant to hurt anyone.

5. Chuck it! If he must throw something, and you're ok with him getting dirty, let him throw dirt at the fence or a tree.  I don't have a pile of dirt laying around, so I let my child throw bird seed at a tree when she really needs to.  It doesn't happen often, but heck, sometimes I want to throw something out of frustration sometimes!  Please don't use anything that another person/child or animal can hurt themselves with (like don't use rice, as rice is not good for birds to eat).  Bird seed really works well, as it is heavy enough to be a satisfying throw, and safe.  (I got this idea from a wedding when I asked why we weren't throwing rice anymore.) 

My brilliant idea!... You can make ready-to-toss "Emotion" bags of seed and name them something like "frustration" and "anger" and "disappointment".  Then your child can pick the bag that describes how he's feeling and throw the seed from that bag!

Emotion bird seed bags

Please supervise your child at all times.  You may not want to hear him scream at the top of his lungs in the basement, but please stay with your child so he knows you are there to support him and to make sure nothing unsafe happens.   Actually, most of these things can end up with everyone laughing (especially if you join in on screaming, kids love that!).

Again, always explain why it's ok to do these things and make sure your child understands the difference between throwing dirt at a tree versus at a person or car, etc.  Bear in mind that these are suggestions from a Mother, and not advice from a physciatrist or doctor.  Keep your kids safe no matter how you allow them to express themselves!

How do your children express themselves in safe ways?  I'd love to know!

Yours truly, Jade.

Jade is the founder and CEO of Ahh! Products. Find her on

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