3 Simple Steps to De-escalating your Angry Child

1. Identify the emotion, narrate how you think the child is feeling if she is too angry to verbalize the feelings himself/herself.

a. You look like you’re really upset, are you angry? What’s happening? Ask questions and point out specific things that indicate the child’s anger (i.e. your face looks really angry, you’re crying, your fists are clenched).

2. Focus on addressing the emotion and helping the child de-escalate. Solicit and/or suggest ways to help the child calm down. For example: Facilitating deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, suggest kicking a ball against the wall for 5 minutes etc. If giving a time-out, provide a specific amount of time and tell the child what s/he should be thinking about or doing during the time out. For example, thinking about a favorite place.

a. Discussing the incident, focusing on consequences, or encouraging the child to have empathy for someone else should be addressed once the child is calm.

b. It’s crucial for the adult in this situation to remain neutral and calm, and have empathy for the child (which can be really hard sometimes). It helps to focus on the feelings the child is displaying instead of the behavior s/he exhibited.

3. Once the child is calm ask if they’re ready for a conversation about what happened. At this time you can discuss/negotiate consequences and the reasons why the behavior was inappropriate. It’s also important to develop and reinforce replacement behaviors. For example: the next time this happens I will _____. Make sure the replacement behaviors are concrete and easy to follow. This will make the child less likely to repeat the undesired pattern of behavior in the future.

4. Repeat