Children and Emotions

How do we support children in expressing their anger?

Expressing Anger

I’m continuing my reading in “it’s OK not to share” by Heather Shumaker. I recently read the chapter titled “Let kids hit and kick.” It really got me thinking about how we support children in expressing their anger. I strongly believe in helping children through their emotions rather than trying to fix them. Every child has a right to every feeling and they have a right to calm down on their own time in their own way (as long as they are safe and others are safe). “Yoga and other calming techniques can work with kids, but many parents and teachers make the mistake of trying to calm a child too soon” (p 76). After reading this I realized how often I had been doing this. I can think of a particular moment when a child was crying very VERY hard and I told the child to take a deep breath. I took a deep breath and sighed out and the child paused took a breath and cried louder. Thinking about it now, I wonder if the child was yelling at me saying “I need to be mad right now!!!!!!”

I have to say it again, I’m a strong believer in letting children move through their emotions and I’m shocked that I even did this (tried to calm a child before they were ready)! I didn’t even view taking a deep breath as trying to calm a child down but that’s exactly what it is. On the surface I know that children need to work though their feelings but deep inside I want them to feel content. I know this is unrealistic; no one can be content all of the time. I also think my urge to calm a child down too soon, has to do with my personal experiences with anger. I know when I get really angry (doesn’t happen very often) I hold my fists tight, I cry, I stomp my feet and I hit. I feel totally out of control and I don’t want a child to feel like this. It’s scary.

So how do we help children feel in control when they feel intense emotions? How do we support a child when they are so angry that they need to hit, kick, or scream? Shumaker states “action and anger go together.” We need to give them safe places where they can hit a pillow, kick a ball, scream outside, run as hard as they possibly can or whatever else you think the child needs. Maybe we need to change our view on hitting and kicking? The actions are okay. We need to find out what is safe for the child to hit or kick, that won’t hurt the child or damage the property. I feel that there is no emotion worse than built up anger that just builds and builds and builds until it explodes and something truly awful happens. If we don’t help children express their anger in a healthy way in the early years what’s going to happen later in their life?



Shumaker, Heather. It’s OK Not to Share…and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids. New York: Penguin Group, 2012. Print.

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