Teaching Children to Manage Anger

Parents are the most influential role models for kids in every aspect of their young lives, including learned anger management skills. How we respond and work through our own anger, choosing methods that are socially acceptable and appropriate or offensive and inappropriate, this is what our children learn by example.

In my household we’ve ended up with little screamers and blamers. Yep, those are the skills I taught my children as I struggled to survive the early years. Of course, passing on my tendency toward aggression, teaching brash (and wholly ineffective) coping skills, was never my goal, but it became part of our daily routine.

Now, I’m working doubly hard to instill more appropriate – and effective — anger management skills. And let me tell you, it’s a slow and uphill battle.  Talk about testing my patience!

I’m reminded of an old, yet ever-timely poem, penned nearly four decades ago. It relates in just a few lines what could take me a lifetime to learn. I hope it speaks great wisdom to you:

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.