How to Help Preschoolers Deal with Their Anger: 7 Steps
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Try using humor to diffuse the situation.

An angry preschooler is not a pretty sight. Fists clenched, red-faced and ready for battle, he'll pitch a fit of epic proportions – and all because his Spider-Man T-shirt is in the laundry. You can't always prevent anger from rearing its ugly head, but if you choose your battles wisely and remain flexible when the stakes aren't high, you can reduce its frequency and severity. Keep in mind that anger isn't right or wrong; it's completely normal. It's what we do with that anger that can be wrong. And that's the lesson you need to pass on to your little firebrand.


  1. 1
    Understand the inner workings of your testy tot. Identify situations that provoke him and avoid them like the swine flu. If he can’t stand leaving the park, inform him ahead of time that you’ll be going for half an hour, and that’s how long his favorite TV show runs. Tell him you expect him to be a big boy and come without a fight when it’s time to go. Then let him know the consequences if he resists – no park for a week. Be sure to give him a few warnings before it’s time to leave so he can prepare himself.
  2. 2
    Help your child recognize when he's angry, and be a good listener. Show him empathy and help him work through his feelings. If he's freaking out that his sister won't share her prized doll collection, sit him on your knee and tell him you understand why that would make him feel frustrated. Explain that the dolls are very special to his sister, and she wants to take care of them herself. Offer an alternative activity, something special he only gets to do once in a while.
  3. 3
    Model appropriate coping strategies. If something isn't going your way, remember to be Zen. Having a temper tantrum yourself isn't going to diffuse the situation. Your calm will help teach your mad munchkin how to handle crisis. Calm isn't always possible, of course, but do your best. If you have a moment of anger, apologize and tell him you didn't mean to lose your temper. Show him how to let things go -- if he's throwing a conniption fit because you gave him the wrong fork, remember this isn't a big issue in the grand scheme of things. Smile and tell him that a fork isn't worth getting upset over. While your first reaction might be to send him to his room without dinner, calmly ask him if he'd like to choose his own fork. Then enjoy the rest of your meal in peace.
  4. 4
    Issue a time-out if he won't calm down. Make sure he's in a room on his own. Place him in a corner with no distractions. Leave him for a few minutes until he's calmed down. If he tries to leave, take him back and be firm and clear. "Sit here until you’ve calmed down. When you’re calm, we can talk about how to make you feel better."
  5. 5
    Review the rules calmly. “I know you're upset, but screaming is not allowed in our house. Next time, if you don't get the Popsicle flavor you want, you may ask me politely for another one." Guide him toward acceptable behavior and encourage self-control.
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    Let him know to err is human. If he's a perfectionist who goes freaky when he makes a mistake, let him off the hook. If you spill your drink, be a good example: “Oh, look at silly Mommy. You can't take me anywhere. I'd better clean this up. “ You'll demonstrate that not only are mistakes okay, but those who make them take responsibility and clean up their mess.
  7. 7
    Offer ideas for strategies to help him cope with his anger. Taking a break and walking away from a dicey situation is smart for anyone, preschoolers and adults alike. Or perhaps he'd benefit from running around a field screaming like a wild banshee to get his aggression out. Some kids might like to express their feelings through art. Find what works for your preschooler -- it might take some trial and error.


  • A tired preschooler can be volatile. Try and ensure he gets enough sleep.Get him out and active. Physical activity burns off excess energy and stress, and prevents boredom.Don't call him bad, or make him feel like a bad child, or he'll act the part.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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