How to Face RAGE in Young Children

For this week I am focusing on the emotion called RAGE.

Have you ever felt rage? If yes how did it feel in your body?

Where did you feel it?

How did your breathing go?

Where did it happen?

With whom did it occur?

What thoughts came to your mind?

How did you handle it?

Now think of all those feelings, thoughts and body reactions. Remember the event/s that culminated to that RAGE.

How does it feel till now? Where do you feel it? What do you think about it?
Now think of that bottled in a 2 year old, or 3, or 4, or 5. How do you think children understand and process rage? How do they manage rage?

In this video by John Gray (author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) he mentioned why it is important for children to express negative emotions. So I decided to take rage as an extreme emotion and learn about it.

Here are crucial insights I learned about rage in children:

1) Violent Rage Just Don’t Begin at Age 20 – Dr. Laura Markham of AHA Parenting was spot on with this article on how violent rage just don’t happen to adults. It is something that is brewing and being battled with for years. Dr. Markham pointed out essential questions that parents/guardians need to ask:

What can the parents or other adults who see the child or teen’s anger do to get help for him?
How can ordinary parents help their children learn constructive ways to handle anger?
When parents have a child who tends to be explosive, how should they handle it?
What are the warning signs of a child who might act out violently?
When does a child need professional help?
Dr. Markham also shared 11 ways to understand rage. My favorite is #3 . Set limits on behavior; allow and acknowledge feelings: “I won’t let you hit me… I see you’re very angry…Tell me in words…(or Show me by stomping your foot)…I’m listening.”

2) Learn about the warning signs of explosive childhood rage– In this Oprah interview on childhood rage with Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School emphasized on putting the right perspective in identifying between temper tantrum and rage. The biggest takeaway I got from this article is the challenging question, what conditions cause challenging behaviors? Are we as parents capable of seeing the precursors that lead to anger and recognize the overflowing anger that leads to rage?

How many times do we tell children not to cry when they are crying? or shushing them to keep from bursting out their emotions? We’re in such a culture of “fixing” and “denying” emotions with our lines of “don’t cry”, “alles komt goed (everything will be okay)” without letting the person process what his/her emotions are. As a parent I am so guilty of that and have for the past few days been recalling, how do I allow my children to express their anger? and if in their “regular” bouts of anger I cannot support them, what more with overwhelming ones?

Anger overload in young children can be difficult to handle because of its intensity. It describes the intense and quick reaction by the child to a perceived insult or rejection.

“The rejection can seem quite minor to parents or others and the response out of proportion to the event that triggered it. The problem is called anger overload because it is more severe than a temporary anger reaction lasting only a few minutes. With anger overload, the child may become totally consumed by his angry thoughts and feelings, or their reactions to those emotions. He or she may be unable to stop screaming crying, or in some cases, acting out physically.”

3) Support children by understanding how to deal with children’s emotions (and yours) and be their primary life coach. Karen Stephens in her article Anger Management: Coaching Children in Self-Control offers key strategies in competent anger management. I personally am focusing on encouraging children to manage stress by

“Help them to recognize and monitor their unique warning signs for anger overload. They may become red in the face, grit teeth, tense shoulders, or feel short of breath. When that happens prompt your child to notice the physical sensations as reminders to calm down.”

I created this worksheet to help anger be visible to children using the Compass Points Visible Thinking Routines. Hopefully it can be a starting point in discussing with your children about anger and how to manage it before rage sets in.



This artile has been previously published on Smart Tinker

Lana Jelenjev