How to Control Anger

Updated on August 05, 2008
J.F. asks from Klamath Falls, OR
12 answers

Hello all! I have a 3 year old son who is absolutely amazing! But recently, I have noticed that he getsangry very quick and the anger is always intense, never just upset. He doesn't lash out or hit himself or anyone around him, but he yells with such fury and hits things around him. His father has ADHD and when he was younger he suffered from anger issues and had to have counseling. I also am quick to anger and have been trying to calm my emotions and the way I handle situations. I am afraid that he is getting bad habits from me and his biological make-up.

So my question is, are there any suggestions on what I can try to get my son to express his feelings in a more appropriate manner so that he feels he is being listened to and supported? Has anyone experienced something similar? Other than the anger problems, he is a perfectly happy and healthy 3 year old who is VERY active. He is starting pre-school this fall and I would like to get his emotions under control quickly. Thank you in advance for any and all suggestions!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all so much for the input and advice. Every piece was very helpful. I ended up going to the library and stocking up on all the books I could get my hands on and absorbing the info like a sponge. I have started using some of the techniques for both my son and I, and although nothing can be fixed over night, I believe we are off to a good start. Thanks once again for all the support and help!

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answers from Yakima on

there is an excellent book called "The Explosive Child."It not only talks about this but gives you ways to dealwith it and you are so lucky to be sarting this early. i have a 16 year old that has ADHD and anger ssues to deal with...he is doing great now but this book helped so much. I recommend gives you tools to work with and also tells how to avoid and recognize tigger issues.Please get it...I know it will help you so much. L.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Eugene on

I have heard that ADHD is hereditary, so it might make sense to have a professional take a look so that you are not spinning your wheels using a squirt gun to put out a fire! On the other hand, I am also all for basic good advice and having read literally hundreds of parenting books, the first two that come to mind (that would be great for ANY parent in almost ANY situation) are

1) Harvey Karp's "The Happiest Toddler on the Block". It gives great ideas on immediately and simply handling tantrums in a way that communicates to your child and makes them feel heard, and therefore they get over it way more quickly! A main technique is matching the toddler in tone, intensity and message in a *SYMPATHETIC* way, until they notice that you get it (usually a few seconds) and then telling them why it is not possible.

Example: "DON'T WANT DON'T WANT DON'T WANT TO LEAVE!! I KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO LEAVE!!!", over and over until they feel heard and start listening to you. "But we are going to leave to park now so we can go have dinner." I saw the video (which I rented from Netflix) so if you don't have time to read a book, you could just check out the 69 minute video from your library or videostore if they have it.

The benefit of this is acknowledging the toddler's feelings instead of just ignoring it or distracting her/him, which sends the wrong message that their feelings don't matter -- otherwise, they are taught to be out of touch with how they feel (which is a major problem for many adults). This is a major tool in promoting emotional intelligence! But also there are many other important concepts such as 'feeding the meter', 'avoiding trouble situations', 'routine and play', 'teaching patience', and much more that make this book and video worth examining in full.

2) The second book I'd recommend is: "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish -- this is the one parenting book in general I would recommend if a person could only read one parenting book ever. Once again, it is about understanding how the other person thinks and feels so you really 'get' each other. I think this is the singularly most important skill to know in raising a child because it creates a sense of security as well as covering most bases of life troubles and preventing many problems from getting out of control.

This is just what I've found to be helpful, but I hope it can help you in some way. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

It sounds like the whole family could work on this together. It's also ok to teach your child that there are times for all emotions, including justified anger. We do have to learn to control ourselves though. We don't have to be violent when angry. I read the book Raising a Nonviolent Child by John Rosemond, and found tons of eye opening information. I read it when my kids were about 4 and 1. It is a powerful book. Also by John Rosemond is the book Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children. He says that children need lots of opportunities for frustration in their lives, so that they can learn to handle frustration and be well adjusted as adults. Both books are worth their weight in gold. His website is I get his books cheap on amazon.

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answers from Seattle on

I have to say that I am SO impressed by your candor in saying where he could be getting these habits.

I would actually suggest taking an anger management class to help you deal with your anger in a more managable way.

First, I'd say that it's not realistic to expect your son to have his emotions under control in less than a month. He's only three and they are not supposed to be in control of their emotions - these are the YEARS in which they learn what these emotions are and they learn (or at least are supposed to learn) how to react appropriately to those emotions. He'll almost certainly be having temper tantrums and outbursts for at least a couple more years - longer if he doesn't get good direction.

Also, you mentioned that your son is starting preschool. Is it a drop-off (day care) preschool or is it a cooperative (parent-run) preschool? My now-five year old was in a co-op preschool and they usually have a parent education component (which allows you to earn college credit). So you get to work reasonably closely with a parent educator on topics that concern you. It's wonderful to have that kind of a resource!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on


This is not a solution but one suggestion you might try in combination with other ideas you might have or receive. My son, now 6, has been doing kids yoga since he was 18 months old. In his video the poses are active, so V is for Volcano. And for volcano you start with your hands together (like in prayer) and then up, open and down. When he is upset, to this day, we do volcano and imagine all the icky feelings flowing OUT. We do this in unison with a deep breath. My son also immediately will do deep breaths when he's upset. You can try teaching your son to do 10 deep breaths, maybe starting with 5 and by the end of that he should be somewhat calmed. I also always tell my son he can make funny noises on the exhale. Inhale is green, happy, positive energy going in, exhale is red, unhappy energy going out.

We all lose our cool sometimes, being aware is the first step into changing that pattern. When that happens in our home, I take the time to tell my son that I should have taken a deep breath and that it was not fair for me to become upset and that I made a mistake.

Good luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I remember growing up with a father whose temper was triggered very easily. His four younger children all grew up without learning how to deal with anger in a healthy way(including M.). His oldest son whom he adopted at the age of five (my mother's son from a previous marriage) is the only one of us siblings who is mild tempered. Now, you can look at it as genetics or as environment.....but I think it all has to do with modeling in the first 3 years of life. Just think about how much they learn from their primary care-givers---they learn GRAMMER and a language! I truly believe they learn how to handle adverse situations from WATCHING us! Just as in teaching anything, it is ALL about MODELING the skill or behaviour you want. I disagree with the person who suggested letting a preschool teacher handle the problem with teaching social interactions! IT IS YOUR JOB!!
My advice is to start with the family's anger issues. Your son will continue observing and learn how to deal with his temper through YOUR appropriate reactions to difficult situations.
I wish all the best to you and your family!

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answers from Portland on

my daughter use to do this but what i did was give her a pillow and tell her that it was okay for her to be angry . If she was she could hit or squeeze or yell in the pillow. It helped her a lot. Also when he is done you can ask him how he felt and what made him feel that way.

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answers from Seattle on

Emotional people tend to have emotional kids. I can tell you that from personal experience. Our spiritual life helps more than anything else. In the Orthodox Christian Church ( we have icons of Christ and Mother Mary and sometimes when we lose it, I say, "TIME OUT", sit down with my kids and we look at the peaceful icon and pray until the emotions pass. That usually stops everything from continually escalating to infinity. Also, If I don't go to church regularly, I noticed the stress and anger mount up and up in our household. And I was ADD as a kid, my son was ADD and my kids are very high energy, although not ADHD. Spiritual centering in my opinion helps this more than any psychiatrist or anything else.

Also, most kids TV is centered on making them excited and riled up. The less movies and TV my kids watch, the more peaceful our household is.

If you learn how to do this, then teach your kids. In our church we have the Jesus prayer, Lord Jesus, have mercy on me. It difuses a lot as well.

When I get really upset I go to the monastery to cool off for a few days. In fact, I'm going today with my daughter. They are actually open to anyone.

Gob bless. It's hard to have a volatile household.



answers from Bellingham on

When I saw your post I thought I was reading my own words.
My (now 10 yr. old) was the same way (same family situation too.)
I know it's taken years for me to recognize my own anger habits. I don't recall learning much about my emotions or how to express them when I was a kid. It seems, to me, that the trend now is to teach what one other mom just called "emotional intelligence".
Two things, though: Part of a preschool teacher's job is showing kids how to interact with eachother appropriately. If you've enrolled him in a good one then I wouldn't be too worried. Your son needs to get in there and learn socialization, which is the exact reason kids this age need preschool. You don't need to have him 'prepared' completely.

He may surprise you and act completely differently when he's there, too.

Another thing: You have an intense child. I bet when he is happy, he is REEALLLY happy. What a joy to see! He is the gift you are given to make you a better woman. Learn together. Make mistakes. Give him lots and lots of love. Don't lose your control when he loses his. He needs to feel like you are in charge and things are okay because he feels out of control. That's scary at any age, but very much when you are 3.
Good luck. All the books mentioned are very informative, but I can't stress enough: Don't worry there is something 'wrong' with your son. There is no magic word, there is no magic pill. Model appropriate behavior and use consistent and gentle discipline. Some kids just ARE different, and is that really so bad?
I certainly don't want a little robot for a child. How boring.



answers from Seattle on

Hi J.,

You sound like you have a lovely son. Chldren learn from those around them and love to imitate the good and the bad. One day my daughter was playing with her phone and I was laughing. I asked her what she was doing and she said being mommy. I looked at my husband and he shook his head yes. There were other not so funny thng too and I became aware of the true meaning of role model. He may be showing you his vision of how you look to him when you get angry. This is not to say that it could not be something else but weteach our children by things that we do and how we react. If there are other adults around he learns from them too. Show him by example how to handle his anger. He is three and you can talk about anger in words that he can understand.

You sound like you are a very busy mom and a very loving one too. He will give you so many years of laughter,tears and tons of hugs.



answers from Seattle on

Well I have a very active little guy. To keep him busy, socialize him, and teach him some good ways to handle frustration we enrolled him in Karate. We tried a few sports he enjoyed them for the social part but got frustrated at some. We looked into Karate for a few reasons. It is personal so they are not learning or doing things except for them. Sure they have group classes for interaction but the actual skills and to move up belt levels depends on them. Karate is great for discipline and learning self control. It has been a great thing for my son and our family.

My husband looked at a few around the area and well some are just studios that are only as good as the instructor. Some of them have so many students, the instructor might not be english speaking, or they might just be worried about the rent. But the place he found is a larger company and they are in many states too. It is called United Studios of Self Defence (USSD). You can check out their website or call them their numbers are on their website. They have 5 locations in WA and they offer a free trial so you and your little one can see how they like it.

I have talked to some of the other moms their and we love it cause when all else fails (timeouts, taking away privlages, etc.) we can say that they can't go to karate, they will have to talk to the sensi or something like that and well that is all it takes. We love having now a new thing or person that they like to help us in dealing with our challenging little ones.

I hope this helps and maybe just give it a try and just see how he likes it.


answers from Seattle on


There is a book I've read that, I think, would really help you guys out. It's called "When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really, Angry". I forget the author, but it's about a girl, about 4 years old or so that gets angry that her big sister took a toy. The pictures are wonderfully colorful. I remember one picture when she's super angry her head (I think) is erupting like a volcano and all the colors of fire.

Another thought is a Sesame Street episode with Baby Bear and Whoopi Goldberg. Baby Bear is frustrated about something, and Whoopi give so advice on how to deal with the frustration without hurting anyone or anything. The advice is hard to portry in type but it went something like this "GRRRRI'msoangryI'msoangryI'msoangry" with a mad face. The other one is making a lot of frustrated sounds with an angry face.

You could also set up a certain spot in your house where he can go when he's mad and punch pillows or some such thing.

Hope this helps,

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