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Emotional Wellness · Parenting ·

How to Help Your Child Control Anger and Strong Emotions

Paolo Pirjanian Paolo is the founder and CEO of Embodied Moxie. A NASA scientist turned robotics entrepreneur who has helped create technologies for many products ranging from the Sony AIBO to the iRobot Roomba. Paolo believes that robotics can be used for good. He is committed to the Moxie mission not because it's easy but out of a shared boundless optimism that together, we will put a dent in the universe.
How to Help Your Child Control Anger and Strong Emotions

Communicating difficult or unpleasant emotions is hard enough to do as an adult. Even with the right vocabulary, and coping and communication skills tucked into our tool belts, feelings like anger, grief, or anxiety can prove overwhelming and may have an affect on our behavior or our ability to advocate for our needs in a moment of emotional volatility. 


For children, who may not yet have the words to describe their big or scary feelings, soothing, regulating, and talking about these emotions can be even trickier. But learning to do so is a normal part of growing up, and as a parent or guardian, you are in a position to help foster healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills in your kid. Let’s talk about it. 

What are strong emotions in children?

Kids experience all the same feelings we experience as adults. Their emotions may be less complex and carry fewer associations than ours do, however the neurochemistry and relevant brain structure responsible for signaling emotion is very similar. 


Our ability (both adults and children) to regulate emotion is highly individual, and can be affected by things like past trauma, and challenging mental health. Neurodivergent people, including those with ADHD or Autism, may also have a harder time controlling or modulating their feelings due to characteristic dopamine dysregulation, in addition to other factors. 


This means that when a strong feeling comes up, the way your child expresses that feeling can be distressing or even harmful to themself and those around them. But different feelings require different soothing tactics or intervention, and it’s important to know how best each big feeling can be handled. 

Anger in kids

Anger is a perfectly normal emotion, and your child should be taught healthy strategies for holding, expressing, and releasing anger when it comes up. 

But when anger is very close to the surface for your child at all times, episodes of extreme anger seem frequent, or the way your child expresses anger becomes volatile or violent relatively quickly, it can be difficult  to deal with as a parent or guardian. 


Some telltale signs that your child needs support in regulating this feeling are:

  • If they have trouble maintaining relationships because of their anger. 
  • If your familial routines and time with other children or partners are frequently disrupted because of your child’s anger. 
  • If they are aggressive and quickly reach for physical violence as an outlet for their anger. 
  • If they have volatile reactions to frustrating situations. 
  • If the way they handle or react to their own angry feelings does not change and mature as they age.

Anxiety in kids

Anxiety is typically described as an extended sense of dread or lack of safety which may or may not be caused by an identifiable trigger, or external stimuli. In children, long-term anxiety can be the reason for behaviors such as:


  • An intense need to stay with a parent or guardian which they do not grow out of.
  • Intense phobias, and worry about those phobias even when the trigger is not present. 
  • Fear and avoidance of people, places, or circumstances which are unfamiliar. 

Anxiety is another emotion which is absolutely healthy to feel under certain circumstances. But when that fear doesn’t go away, is coming up under circumstances where fear is unwarranted, or is otherwise affecting your child’s quality of life, it should be addressed. 

Children’s temper tantrums

Temper tantrums, characterized by crying, screaming, flailing, limpness, and sometimes physical violence, are often a daily occurrence in the lives of especially younger children. Temper tantrums typically happen when your child does not know how to regulate or express intense emotions like anger, grief, fear, or overwhelming frustration. It can be an unconscious attempt to seek validation, or support and soothing from an outside source i.e. a parent or guardian. 

 

Again, temper tantrums are normal, however they also represent an opportunity to teach your child better emotional regulation and healthy ways of expressing and asking for support around their feelings. 

How to help kids control their temper and strong emotions

As a parent or guardian, there are a number of strategies you can employ to help teach your child to better regulate their strong emotions, and make requests when they feel their needs aren’t being met. Here are a few suggestions.


  • Help name strong feelings. When your child has an intense feeling, ask them to describe the feeling: where it sits in their body, what color it might be, what animal it makes them feel like. Once they tell you, or once you know, you might respond by saying, “It sounds like you’re feeling (emotion).” This practice will help to equip your children with the vocabulary they need to begin talking about their emotions. 
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  • You might also try creating an anger thermometer to help your child express the level of emotion they feel. Draw out a thermometer on a piece of paper and fill in the tick marks with phrases like “not mad,” “mad,” “very mad,” etc. and ask them to gauge how they feel in the moment.

  • Validate their feelings. It is never helpful to ask a child not to feel what they are feeling, or to suppress a strong emotion. But over time, showing that you understand what they’re feeling and why they are feeling it can help your child to feel safe and learn new and easier ways to think and talk about their emotions.

  • Help your child identify their needs. What do they need when they are having a strong feeling? Do they need to move their body? Do they need to be in a quiet place? Do they need to be alone? Do they need a hug? Asking kids to associate these soothing techniques with their feelings is a great way to begin teaching better regulatory habits.

  • Engage purpose-made tools. You don’t have to teach your child all on your own. Child development experts across the world have worked to create toys, games, and other learning agents that will help to supplement your kid’s understanding and regulation of their own strong feelings. Moxie, for example, is an AI companion that teaches your child how to understand their own feelings as well as the feelings of others through play and conversation.

  • Seek help when you need it. Licensed professionals including therapists and psychiatrists can help support your family with trained advice. Don’t hesitate to research professionals in your area if you need a helping hand. 
  • When are temper tantrums and strong emotions in kids more?

    Tantrums and other strong emotions are likely just that: tantrums and other strong emotions. Sometimes, however, they can be warning signs for other, deeper emotional troubles or trauma. 


    Organizations including the Child Mind Institute and Very Well Family provide excellent resources and content that can help you begin to determine whether your child might need a little extra support. For parents of neurodivergent kids, groups like the Autism Self Advocacy Network can equip you with tools and information to better understand your child’s needs. 


    Other important resources include:

    Can Moxie help my child control anger and strong emotions?

    Moxie from Embodied is an AI-driven friend for young kids that they can talk to about their feelings, learn coping skills from, and even share space with. With Moxie, your child can learn how to understand and regulate their feelings with mindfulness exercises and by teaching Moxie how to understand their emotions, as well. This in turn will help them to express strong emotions in a healthy way, and ask for the support they need when they need it. 


    Learn more about Moxie here, and schedule a demo to see whether Moxie would make a great addition to your family.

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