It can be difficult to deal with a child who is feeling very angry, but every child gets that way sometimes. It’s helpful to allow children to talk about or imitate angry feelings when they are not in the heat of the moment. Choose a book like Little Critter’s I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayor or That Makes Me Mad by Steven Kroll to read at a time when everyone is feeling happy or content. As you read, you can ask your child how the characters in the book are feeling. Ask them, why do you think he feels that way? How can you tell he is mad? What would you do if that happened to you? But keep the conversation light – it’s not necessary to relate the story back to the child’s actual experiences or to use it to teach the child the “right way” to respond. Children might have fun acting out the story afterwards, giving them a chance to pretend to be mad when they are not.
No one likes to feel like they have lost control of themselves, and yet that often happens to children (and adults) when they get very angry. Some books about this more intense angry feeling include When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang and Angry Dragon by Thierry Robberecht. Reading these stories during a calm time can open the door for children to talk about how they feel when they get that mad. If children cannot put words to those feelings, it’s a great time to bring out some paper and markers. Allow children to draw what it feels like to be angry, to be happy, to be sad, etc. Then give them the chance to talk about their pictures if they want to. Both of these books use a lot of red to represent anger. Ask your child about his/her color choices, wavy lines versus straight lines, etc. It doesn’t have to relate back to emotions, but sometimes it is surprising what children will reveal when they describe their artwork.
My son’s preschool teacher turned me on to Becky Bailey’s website about “conscious discipline” and her humorous videos under the Managing Emotional Mayhem section that show both bad and good ways to respond to a child’s emotional outbursts. In the end, each video gives an example of a parent “coaching” her child through the emotional experience – being present, coaching the child with her feelings and finding a helpful solution. Her newest book, Managing Emotional Mayhem, is on order for the library and should be here soon. Jane Nelson’s positive discipline series is another popular choice for parenting without “blame, shame or pain” and recognizing emotions as a normal and important part of ourselves.