We have a rule in our house — you’re allowed to have feelings, you’re allowed to be angry, but you're not allowed to take your anger out on people or objects. Door slamming? That's a hard no. Throwing things? Also a hard no. Name calling? Not OK. But angry harmonica music coming from behind my 5-year-old's bedroom door? Play your little heart out, kid. If you’re feeling frustrated with your little hothead, there are some creative ways for your kid to deal with anger that are constructive and effective.
Feeling anger is a normal part of being human, and I want to teach my son that he's entitled to his feelings — but he's also responsible for how he deals with those feelings. Last week at 8 a.m. I heard the glass lid to our candy dish open from in the kitchen. Knowing exactly who the culprit was and what he was up to, I got up from the couch to investigate. Sure enough, there was my 5-year-old caught red handed, reaching for a lollipop. Knowing he's not allowed to eat candy for breakfast (oh, the horror), he closed the candy dish, and stomped off empty handed with a frown on his face. He stomped all the way to his room and before long, I could hear him making music with my old finger cymbals, followed by what sounded like some very angry harmonica playing and then fierce strumming on his guitar. Either he's joined a one-man band or he's exercising the options I've given him for when he's experiencing anger.
After several minutes of a very angry show coming from his bedroom, it got quiet. I poked my head in to remind him that he can come out when he's ready. When I opened his bedroom door, he was doing a puzzle on the floor. I asked if he was ready to come out and have breakfast, but he said he was busy doing "angry puzzles". So I closed the door and enjoyed a warm quiet breakfast by myself with no interruptions — which I think most would consider a mom-win.
If you're looking for some similar tools to help your kid with anger, this list is for you. I also checked in with New York family therapist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and mom, Marina Lenderman to get some expert advice. Lenderman says that "anger is a complex emotion which is commonly expected to present itself as violent behavior." She explains that anger can also be directed inward and some children may be extra hard on themselves when they're angry, which is another reason why it's beneficial for kids to have some anger outlets, like these.