Teaching Self-Control - TeachersAndFamilies

Teaching Self-Control
Strategies for Parents
From the National Association
of School Psychologists


Skill: Dealing With Feeling Mad

Feeling angry is a natural reaction to some of the experiences we encounter in everyday life. Teaching children how to effectively manage this emotion at an early age will improve their individual ability to cope and can improve tolerance. At a time when school and community violence appears to be on the rise, teaching children to effectively manage their anger and choose pro-social actions to resolve problems is an important task for teachers and parents.

Teach children these steps for problem solving:

1. RECOGNIZE you are feeling angry (face is red, hands are clenched, possibly beginning to cry)

2. COUNT to 10.

3. THINK about your choices:
· Walk away for now.
· Relax and take some deep breaths.
· Tell the person in nice words using an inside/calm voice why you are angry.

4. ACT out your best choice.

Good Choice/Bad Choice Activity:

Young children can learn to understand how to identify their choices when they are in potentially anger-provoking situations, and they will begin to learn independent pro-social decision making skills. This activity requires paper (like butcher paper or poster board) and markers or crayons.


1. Tell your child that he is going to have to practice very good listening skills, because he will have to decide "what would you do?"

2. Make two columns on the paper, one titled "Good Choices" and the other "Bad Choices

3. Read the first scenario provided in the list below and ask the child to think of several actions she has seen or taken in response to similar situations. Then ask the child to decide whether this action was a good choice or bad choice. (It may be necessary to prompt him to identify if it was a bad or a good choice using questions such as, "What did the person's face do? What did the person's body do? How do you think the person felt? How could you tell? What happened?")

4. At the end, place a big "X" over the bad choice column, and transfer the "good choice" answers onto another sheet of poster/butcher paper that can be hung up as a reminder in an appropriate location (child's bedroom, den, etc.). Encourage your child to draw illustrations on the poster.

Sample situations:

  • A neighbor child calls you a name that you don't like.
  • Your friend broke your new toy that you got for your birthday.
  • Your mom won't let you go to the movies with your friend's family.

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This material is adapted from "Self Control Skills for Children" by Louise Eckman (in Helping Children at Home and School: Handouts From Your School Psychologist, published by NASP, 1998) and from the "Tolerance in Action" Curriculum (developed by Deborah Crockett and Howard Knoff, released in late 2002).
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