From Rage to Zen (three steps to calm an angry child)

Posted by on Jun 1, 2013 in Blog, Ideas in practice | 0 comments

From Rage to Zen (three steps to calm an angry child)

You know that feeling you get when you see a massive storm front approaching? Black clouds roll over promising nothing but misery, the pressure suddenly drops taking with it your stomach and everything you ate that day.

You feel like you are about to plunge into the depths of darkness.

Bravely, your turn and face the storm because “Courage” is your middle name and after all, you are partially responsible for the source of it – that deceptively cute child that is currently preparing to unleash a wrath of fury.

And there is this one moment when you still have a chance to avoid a crisis… and then the moment passes and all hell breaks loose.

Enter the angry child.

Now you find yourself needing to go from rage to zen as soon as possible.

Fortunately, I’ve got some ideas for you.

Step #1: Give Yourself a Ground to Stand On

When an angry child storm hits, it hits everyone and it hits hard.

As parents, we are often left reeling and exhausted from the experience of just trying to survive the onslaught of anger hurled our way, let alone find ways of calming the rage.

Thus, in order to calm an angry child, we  first need to ground ourselves.

That means you need to find your zen-like self:

  • calm you mind – just close your eyes and breathe out loud. The idea is to block out as much of the angry stimuli as you can. By closing your eyes, you are shutting out the visual stimulus. By breathing you are giving your ears a soothing and rhythmic sound to focus on.  
  • calm your emotions – pay attention to how you are feeling and how those feelings are physically impacting your body (e.g. your heartbeat, your breath, etc.). Then deliberately bring those physical sensations down a notch (e.g. slow your breathing, relax your muscles, etc.).
  • calm your face, especially your eyes – we don’t think of this often, but your face is what your child is looking at and where they get their cues about your feelings. Make sure it reflects the calm you intend to convey.

Step #2: Give your Angry Child a Ground to Stand On

Here’s a secret–> an angry child has disconnected from their surroundings and is trapped within their anger.

Your job is to help them find a way to reconnect with their surroundings and pull out of the anger that has overwhelmed them.

To do that, try these:

  • Time-outs can be very effective if they are done well (i.e. as an actual time away from a tense situation rather than a punishment). To make this work, gently and calmly take your angry child to their room and explain that they are to stay there until they can calm their feelings, then they can come out. The point here is to remove them from the situation that is upsetting them and take them somewhere where they can connect with what is familiar to them.
  • Hug your child or hold their hand or simply put your arm around their shoulders. It sound counterintuitive but physical contact has a powerful effect on children and your touch can serve not only as a conduit for them to release some of their anger but also helps them reconnect with their surroundings.
  • The Quiet Circle or other ways of quieting one’s mind and body are effective in grounding your child through breathing and visualizations.

Step #3: Help your Child Understand her Anger

Just because your child has calmed their rage doesn’t mean they are no longer angry.

The key now is to help your child understand why they are angry and give them productive ways of dealing with their anger.

First, talk, talk, and talk.

Help your child understand what happens to them when they are angry (i.e. that they disconnects from her surroundings and have a hard time making choices that are in their favor). Encourage them to explain, in their own words, how this feels. Then, talk about what they did to re-connect and how that made them feel.


  • Help your child understand the connection between something that made them angry and the feelings it evoked
  • Explain the difference between feelings and behaviors
  • Help them find the words to describe the feelings they’re having and the behaviors they’re exhibiting
  • Talk about the actual physical reaction that they have when they are angry
  • Talk about how you react when you are angry

Second, strategize.

Help your child identify ways to express their feelings in ways that solve their problems or give them something positive to work with.

The point is to let them know that their feelings of anger are ok but they have options about how they express them.

For instance:

  • Create a “feelings toolkit
  • Talk about using words like wands and learning how to switch off the angry words
  • Help your child understand that they has a choice of behaviors that they can use when they are angry (they are called Feelings Pets) and even though the Angry Pet is the loudest and sometimes most compelling, it need not be the one they take out for a walk
  • Or simply go the old school way and give them a set of old dishes to break or pillows to punch.

At the end of the day, what you are trying to establish is a process that your child goes through every time they have these fits of anger.

Eventually, they won’t need you to guide them through it, the idea being that they’ll be able to manager their anger on their own (at least, one hopes).

Managing an angry child is no easy feat, but you know that already.

Sometimes you just need to walk away.

Sometimes you need a stiff drink.

Sometimes you need to have a good angry fit of your own.

And sometimes you have the energy and patience to take your angry child from rage to zen.

To help you out in those courageous times, have these ideas handy (print them up now and put them in your child’s room where you can easily access them).

They work and you’re going to want to be able to draw on them quickly and before your angry child storm hits in full force.

* image courtesy of lrargerich

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About the AuthorKarla Valenti is a writer, blogger, founder and CEO of NiSoSa, and Creative Director for Rock Thoughts. Get more on FacebookTwitterG+, or Pinterest.

© Tot Thoughts – smart parenting for smart child development

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