Five Tips For Helping Angry Children Have Better Days


Oftentimes the most difficult part of an educator’s day is not the curriculum they teach or the long hours they work. For many educators, what keeps us up at night is trying to figure out how to best meet the social and emotional needs of their students. While this is an area in which I am learning everyday, I feel that I have learned some things that may help others find more success with students that seem to struggle to make it through the day.

Start Fresh Each Day

Students that show patters of misbehavior are accustomed to people treating them based on their worst behavior. Don’t be that person! Make it a point to give your students a chance to start each day over. With a smile on your face and a wide open heart.

Earlier this week I had a very difficult encounter with a young lady that I had to keep after school. She screamed at me, she yelled at me and she couldn’t wait to be out of my sight. But the next day I called her into my office. I told her it was a new day and that I loved her and then I gave her a hug. Before leaving school today she made it a point to come up to me and give me a hug. All students deserve the opportunity to begin each day anew.

Until we have seen someone’s darkness we don’t really know who they are. Until we have forgiven someone’s darkness, we don’t really know what love is.

Marianne Williamson

Give Them Their Anger

Many of the children we interact with each day have every right to be angry. For them life is very difficult. More difficult than most of us could ever imagine. They come to us already at 211 degrees Fahrenheit and water boils at 212 degrees. That is just one more degree! So events that seem minor to us, one degree events, may be all it takes to send a student over the edge.

Oftentimes when I meet with students I tell them that I completely understand why they got as angry they did. I tell them it is okay to get angry. I let them know that I get angry everyday. I don’t ever want a child to think that there is anything wrong with being angry. It’s a part of life. But, I then explain to them that what matters is what they do once they get angry. That is what we talk about it. That is what we work to improve upon.

Everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.

Ian Maclaren

Let Them Play

Sometimes what may seem to defy logic may actually be the best cure for an angry and irate child. We must remember that our goal should be to return a child to class in a better frame of mind than they were when we received them. We also hope that they will not repeat whatever it was that got them there in the first place. But more than anything, we need students in class.

I currently work with a student that has temper tantrums once or twice a day. At first I would lecture him and try to get at the root of his anger. Then finally I realized that nothing I said or did at that moment was going to have any effect. So I decided to let him play with a big tub of Legos. Within ten minutes he was calm and ready to return to class. To be honest, I still don’t know why he has his tantrums. As I mentioned earlier, some kids come to school already at 211 degrees. But I do know that allowing him time to play with Legos seems to get him back down to about 98 degrees. And usually that is enough to get him back to where he needs to be. In class.

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation.


Help Them Do The Math

It is easy to make a big mistake. But no one should be judged solely on their mistakes. Sometimes I will have students sent to me first thing in the morning. Before the day has even really begun. Their heads are down and they already have it in their mind that their day is ruined. I try to convince them otherwise. I explain to them that they still have the rest of the day to be awesome and that I can’t wait to call home and tell their parents what a great afternoon they had. Five bad minutes do not outweigh five good hours. They can’t and they shouldn’t.

I was a very poor college student in early days. Most of my grades were C’s and I often gave less than my best. Luckily for me I am not judged on those early years. I have done the math and my hard work and effort greatly outweighs my previous poor performance. Kids need to know that they can do the same each day. One mistake does not define a day. We mustn’t let it!

Don’t place your mistakes on your head, their weight may crush you. Instead place them under your feet and view them as a platform to view your horizons.

Author Unknown

Never Part Angry

No matter what has taken place during the course of a day it is important that our students leave knowing that we love them and that we care. Too many kids don’t ever get to leave on happy notes. They leave home alone. No kiss on the cheek. No hug goodbye. That can’t happen under our watch.

Today my school day ended with a student who was furious with me. This kid was determined that he was going to get on a certain bus and I knew that I was not allowed to let him. So I had to do all that I could to keep him from leaving. I was successful in keeping him off of the bus, but not in keeping him calm. I eventually was able to convince him that he did not have permission to get on that bus and that I was only trying to keep him safe. But it wasn’t easy. And when his bus was called I made sure that I gave him a hug and let him know how much I cared about him. He may have been mad at me, but he knows that I care about him.

The more anger towards the past that you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.

Barbara De Angelis

Working with children that have serious social and emotional issues can be very challenging. Every day I make mistakes, but everyday I believe that I getting a little bit better at figuring out how to help them have better days. I learn from my mistakes and I learn from the amazing educators that I have the pleasure of working with each and every day. If just one of these tips helps you in some way then I will feel like this post was worth writing. Please feel free to leave any tips or suggestions you may have as well. I have a long way to go, but I am constantly moving forward.

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Anger, for children who have been sentenced to 10 years minimum in school, is often the function of frustration because they do not know what to do or more precisely, how to do it. They are incompetent because we have failed to teach them. They are frustrated, especially when they see others, who are no smarter than themselves, succeeding. Their frustration leads to anger and sometimes aggression. Education as a “profession” has failed these kids and then blames them for the failure. Fifty years of proven effective methods exist to solve the problem, but we gleefully dismiss the science and send more kids to the scrapheap. My colleagues and I have used the science to teach more than 100,000 of these kids over the past 40 years. Our contribution is ignored just like sterile technique was ignored in hospitals for a century after it proved itself effective. Until education ignores bandwagons and adopts science we will ” help kids with math” and “play with students”. Time will pass they will drop out, likely to become part of the great social undercurrent and you will survive to still collect a paycheck or a pension.

Thoroughly enjoyed this article. As a specialducats in teacher and trainer…I agree with his philosophy and have used the same strategies with students having a meltdown.

Great insights Jon. It would be great to track the antecedents to the acting out which are the triggers for many kids. Tracking can provide insight for the students as a step to controlling the outburst. Play is a great way to take the pressure off and allow the info to be discovered when the emotion decreases. There is a communication model which we use to help structure resolutions for longer-term self-control. I feel….(statement of current feeling), because..(description of the behavior of a person or environment) . The I want or need statement focuses on the solution to the issue at hand. The behavior description can be “John took my ball and I need him to ask or give back without a hassle”. It can also be “the dining area is too loud for me and I get too stimulated”. Would be glad to share more about pairing physiological responses to emotions as an antecedent to emotional outburst which if identified can be used as a self-recognition strategy to disengage from the situation or use new behaviors to resolve. It all takes practice and time but can be great class worksheets and it stimulates group problem-solving.

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