Content of the material
- Anger Management Therapy for Kids 101
- Anger Games: A Super Fun Way to Learn Anger Management Skills
- Super Fun Anger Management Games. My 4 “Top Picks”:
- Types of Anger Management Games
- Top 3 Activities and Games for Kids
- Scenarios and their outcomes
- Who’s in the driver’s seat?
- About EduDingo
- Other Anger Management Resources for Parents
Anger Management Therapy for Kids 101
Anger is a difficult feeling for children. It can make them want to destroy things or hurl comments that hurt others. With the right tools and techniques, even young children can be taught to see anger differently and maintain or regain control over how they feel (Snowden, 2018).
Many of the most helpful techniques in anger management therapy are ones that children can take to adulthood. The approaches that follow encourage healthy habits for life, where the child chooses what works best for them (Peters, 2018b).
Mastery of such techniques is important in childhood and crucial as children reach adolescence, where unchecked anger can have a “variety of maladaptive adolescent outcomes” (Ho, Carter, & Stephenson, 2010, p. 246).
Early anger management therapy relied on applied behavioral interventions, such as manipulating environmental stimuli, punishment, and reinforcement, and typically required individuals with challenging behavior to receive ongoing support (Ho et al., 2010).
Cognitive-Behavioral approaches to anger management, on the other hand, empower the child. They involve the client and therapist working together to think through and practice new behavioral solutions, including (Ho et al., 2010):
- Problem solving
- Self-control and coping strategies
- Cognitive restructuring (teaching alternate ways of thinking)
- Stress inoculation (gradually increasing exposure to triggers)
When compared with the traditional behavioral approach, developing self-control and coping skills leads to better maintenance and generalization (Ho et al., 2010).
Despite the early onset of aggression in children, it needn’t develop into unstable personality traits in adulthood. Through effective interventions, at-risk children and adolescents can learn to deal with situations in nonaggressive ways and lead productive lives in adulthood (Nelson, Finch, & Ghee, 2012).
In anger management, kids are taught to recognize when anger is likely to show up, how it makes them feel, see behavioral patterns, and find healthy ways to remain or return to calm (Snowden, 2018).
Anger Games: A Super Fun Way to Learn Anger Management Skills
Today, I´m presenting you with a selection of anger management games. Anger games can work really great when practicing/learning coping skills at home, at school or in the counseling environment.
These fun anger management activities are a great way to gain engagement even from kids who would otherwise have been reluctant to work on their anger issues.
Super Fun Anger Management Games. My 4 “Top Picks”:
1. Mad Dragon (ages 6-12)
Mad Dragon plays like the popular game UNO. Players race to get rid of their cards while learning anger control skills. This therapeutic card game helps kids:
- Control their anger in the moment;
- Practice 12 anger management techniques
- Understand what anger feels and looks like;
- Avoid anger-provoking situations;
- Express and understand their feelings;
- Identify anger cues;
- Learn that they have choices about how to express anger.
Why I like it:
- It is great for all kids. Therapists use them also with kids with autism, learning disabilities and emotional problems.
- It covers a wide range of activities: understanding triggers, expressing feelings or practicing anger management exercises
- it builds on a tried and tested game (UNO)
- if you are playing with kids with learning disabilities you will need to read the cards for them. You may also need to rephrase a sentence, sometimes, to make it easier to understand.
2. Temper Tamers in a Jar (ages 8-11)
Temper Tamers in a Jar is a great way to engage children in a discussion about anger and help them adopt new ways to deal with their angry thoughts and feelings. There are four different type of cards: Share (the child shares a real-life experience), Act (the child can role play a positive way to manage a situation ), Tips, and Do (what would the child do in a specific scenario).
Why I like it:
- It gets kids to talk about their own experiences and to think about what should be done in a specific situation
- I really like the role-playing part. I feel kids learn a lot when they role-play situations.
- you can use them with kids of different ages, but some people find it useful to make a selection to fit the age group they want to work with.
- you may be a bit disappointed when you see the cards. They are thin cards / pieces of paper. (they still do the job, though)
3. Thoughts and Feelings
Thoughts and Feelings 2: is a therapeutic tool designed to help parents, teachers, and mental health professionals engage children of all ages. The deck contains 35 cards especially effective in helping children identify, process, and work through a variety of issues including changes within the family, trauma, grief, anger, depression, anxiety and fears.
Why I like it:
- they are a great tool to get kids to open up and express their feelings.
- I really love the illustrations
- they are great conversation starters, but sometimes younger kids may get a bit confused when the picture does not relate to the sentence. They still work wonders, though.
4. Anger Management Thumball
Anger Management Thumball is a soft stuffed ball to throw, roll, or pass in a circle or randomly. When you get the ball you have to look under your thumb and respond to a prompt. It encourages the use of interpersonal skills including taking turns, eye contact, listening, responding and respecting individual differences.
Why I like it:
- I just love this anger game concept. It is so fun to throw a ball around and take advantage of that enjoyable situation to start a conversation about anger
- Don´t expect a big ball
Types of Anger Management Games
Some of these are individual games that you can play on your own computer.
Below is an example of a Skullkid game (may take a minute or two to load):
Such games encourage a form of passive aggression wherein you express your anger on objects or persons on your computer screen, with the idea that once you let it out on your screen, you will no longer retain it inside, or feel the need to express your anger on another person or object in the outside world.
While such games can be entertaining, their effectiveness in dealing with real anger issues is unknown.
Other kinds of anger games are designed to be in a group format, with various discussion points after the game, that serve to help us realize that we cannot control everything that happens in our lives; and must learn to deal with things that are not entirely in our control, instead of getting upset over them.
Like hypnosis sessions aimed at controlling our anger, these anger management games also help us get a handle on ourselves and our emotions and let us deal with the anger triggers like frustration, disappointment, jealousy, and resentment in a mature, non-confrontational way.
Top 3 Activities and Games for Kids
Children often learn best when they are playing. Games and activities promote self-learning and, when focused on emotions, help children identify their anger and associated triggers and behavior (Peters, 2018b).
The following activities and games offer a fun and insightful way for children and their parents or teachers to understand the situations that lead to anger and how they can react differently (modified from Peters, 2018b; Snowden, 2018).
Children sometimes have to do things they do not enjoy: completing homework, turning off the TV, or going to bed at night. The gap between what they want to do and what they must do can be a source of anger (Peters, 2018b).
Self-discipline is an essential skill for children to learn and helps them manage their more reactive and emotional side.
Role-play can be a valuable way for children and adults to explore particular anger triggers such as being told to stop doing something or perform an activity that does not factor in their plan despite being good for them.
For example, you could role-play that the child is asked to clean their room, but their emotional side takes over and starts acting up.
Peters (2018b) refers to our reactive, emotional side as our “chimp.” Encourage the child to practice saying ‘stop’ to their emotional chimp and talk through how they will get things done. It can help to have them speak out loud to their chimp, telling it not to argue, stop misbehaving, and be sensible so that everyone can be happy (Peters, 2018b).
Such self-discipline can be a valuable approach to preventing the onset of angry behavior.
Scenarios and their outcomes
Understanding the different options available to them can help children choose thinking and behavior more appropriate to their own and others’ needs.
Work through several scenarios that typically lead to anger, and discuss three possible responses for each one (Peters, 2018b).
- I have been blamed for something I didn’t do. a) I am going to get angry and behave badly. b) I am never going to do anything again.
Or, more helpfully, c) I am going to explain that I am upset because I didn’t do it.
- I can’t do something new. a) I am going to cry and get angry. b) I am going to sulk and give up.
Or, more helpfully, c) I am going to talk to someone and learn how to do it.
- My friend has borrowed something and hasn’t given it back. a) I am going to get angry with them and demand they give it back. b) I will never talk to my friend again.
Or, more helpfully, c) I am going to explain that I am upset and would like to have it back. If that doesn’t work, then I will talk it through with an adult.
Encourage the child to explain why the two extremes (a and b) are not helpful or the best outcome for everyone involved. Then discuss why option c leads to a better result and less upset.
Who’s in the driver’s seat?
“Anger can change the way we see people and situations.”
Snowden, 2018, p. 80
Work with the child to help them understand and recognize the clues that indicate an angry or a calm mind.
A calm mind can enable us to:
- Consider the consequences of our actions How would the other person feel if I took away their toy?
- See different sides Perhaps it was an accident rather than something they did on purpose.
- Be understanding Perhaps they are just having a bad day.
- Hold back or walk away I need to calm myself before saying or doing something I will regret.
- See feelings more clearly I am sad, frustrated, or angry.
An angry mind is like this:
- Reactive I’ll do what I want.
- Does what it wants, when it wants I was hurt, so I should hurt them back.
Recognizing each of the above signs can help prevent angry outbursts and improve the child’s self-awareness and empathy.
I am François Guély, and I have created the Edudingo website to help parents, teachers, educators, and therapists leverage the educational potential of educational games (games purposefully designed for educational purposes), and games that were not initially designed to educate for educational purposes. I address here tabletop games, board games, card games, dice games, flashcard-based games, file folder games, indoor/outdoor games… basically any game that does not require the use of a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Other Anger Management Resources for Parents
- Anger Management for Kids– 36 Awesome Tips to help you with your anger management interventions at home
- Anger Management Activities for Kids – Includes a free set of calming down cards (30)
- Anger Triggers– Includes a free printable
- Signs of Anger Worksheets for Kids
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