13 Psychologist Approved Phrases to Calm an Angry Child
Calm your child down with a little help from the experts. Find out how here!
Kids of all ages are subject to the occasional temper tantrum or fits of anger. As a parent, it's important to lay the foundation of proper anger management skills so they can effectively deal with emotions. While it's easier said than done, it's very important that your children understand how to assess and deal with their anger in a practical way; however, the only way they'll learn how to do so is through you.
So how can parents effectively resolve a child's outburst?
In a recent post on Psych Central, Renee Jain, Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) shared recommended ways to assuage and soothe an angry child. Her helpful suggestions offer alternatives to phrases parents often utter when their kids are frustrated or angry. The phrases cover a wide variety of common situations and scenarios parents may find themselves in, and they're all very applicable!
Check out these expert recommended phrases that will help calm your angry child:
Instead of: "Stop being difficult"
Try: "I know it's tough, but we can work this out together"
According to Jain, "When children are digging in their heels, it is important to understand why. This phrase reinforces the idea that you are on the same team, working toward the same goal."
Establish the concept of a team with your child and work together to resolve the issue together instead of being frustrated with their stubborn or hard-headed behaviour.
Instead of: "Stop throwing things"
Try: "Do you not like/want your toys? Is that what's wrong?"
Jain suggests that this phrase offers a chance for a child to express their perspective, opens up lines of communication with the child, and also helps resolve a confrontational outburst in a non-confrontational way.
Instead of: "Stop whining"
Try: "Can you say that again in your regular voice?"
Asking your child to restate something in a more tolerable and relatable tone teaches them the lesson that how you say something matters a lot when you want to express a thought.
Instead of: "You're getting a timeout"
Try: "Let's go calm down together"
Jain suggests that spending together in a calm down space is more effective than a timeout. "This flips the script of 'time out' to 'time in,' allowing for reconnection instead of isolation."
Instead of: "I can't deal with you/your behaviour right now"
Try: "I'm getting frustrated and need to calm down"
"Teach children how to label and govern their emotions by modelling this in real-time," says Renee Jain. It's important that kids say what's angering them instead of letting a series of unreasonable actions do the talking.
Instead of: "Stop saying 'No'"
Try: "I understand you don't want this. Let's figure out what we can do differently"
According to Jain, "By acknowledging your child’s 'No', you are de-escalating the situation. Rather than arguing yes/no, change the script to focus on the future and the prospect of a solution."
Try establishing a team mentality and address the problem together.
Instead of: "Clean your room or you're grounded"
Try: "Let's clean this room. I'll help you get started"
Kids don't typically like being tasked with overbearing chores, even if they have to be taken care of. Try being encouraging when assigning tasks like this, and even lend a helping hand to get the process started. They won't feel so burdened if you offer some help!
Instead of: "Stop complaining"
Try: "I understand you're not happy. What would your solution be?"
Kids tend to complain a lot, Jain recommends that "next time your child is complaining non-stop about school/dinner/siblings, ask her to brainstorm solutions. Remind her there are no wrong answers, and the sillier she is, the better."
Instead of: "Big kids don't do that/this"
Try: "Big kids and grown-ups sometimes feel that way. Don't worry, your feelings will pass"
Prepare your kids for the inevitable fact that they'll deal with some pretty heavy emotions form time to time.
"Telling them that big kids don’t experience anger, frustration, or anxiety is simply untrue. It also encourages children to avoid or quash emotions and prevents processing them in a healthy manner," says Jain.
Instead of: "Don't hit"
Try: "It's okay to be angry, but you cannot hit/use violence"
Don't let your children use physical aggression to express their feelings. Using this phrase, Jain says, "gets the message firmly across that the emotion is okay, but the action is not. Separating the two will help your child learn to do likewise."
Instead of: "Eat your food or go to bed hungry"
Try: "What would you do to make this meal tastier?"
Jain is a big fan of reversing the responsibility back to your child. Let your child know that they can ask what they want. Within reason of course. Work together to make the meal something that everyone can enjoy.
Instead of: "Don't be mad"
Try: "I get angry too, let's vent your anger/get it all out together"
This is the most general, but also the easiest to implement. This can help your child understand different and effective ways to express anger in an appropriate way, and it's also another way of showing your child that you aren't the enemy. You're there to help them with their issues.