Updated: May 29
Bea Inclusive TV and Podcast Episode 015
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In this episode of Bea Inclusive TV, I will talk about anger management and why to use games to support healthy anger management.
If you are new to me – my name is Bea, and this VLOG is dedicated to advocating truly inclusive school provision through well-researched, safe and recommended approaches such as Lego®-based Therapy.
So, I invite you to follow my journey in creating genuinely inclusive provisions that will help you support children and develop your skills. Are you ready? Let's go!
Let me start by saying that:
Anyone can become angry – that is easy. However, this is a standard type of human feeling, and we must develop a healthy approach to anger management.
But we must learn to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the proper purpose, and in the right way – and this is not easy.
So, the first thing I want you to remember is that:
Anger is a normal, healthy human emotion.
Children need help in learning how to manage anger successfully.
Children need help with how they see and interpret situations and events, which can have important implications for anger management.
Anger is not something to be feared, denied or repressed (even when dealing with anger is sometimes scary).
Most anger occurs in the context of a trigger event or is secondary to another underlying emotion.
Several core elements are crucial to the development of healthy anger management.
So, let's look at these crucial core elements of developing healthy anger management in childhood. This complex process contains several factors that will help a child successfully manage angry feelings. What are they:
The ability to communicate what it is that they want.
The language ability to be able to name the emotions.
Self-awareness – the ability to be aware of the feelings and what they involve.
Empathy – the ability to see things from another person's point of view.
Self-control – the ability/skill to control strong feelings.
Self-reflect on their behaviour, actions and consequences.
Self-distract, self-calm, ability to relax.
So, it's not easy teaching children anger management as you must assess children against the above elements and plan to target deficit skills in this area. So, what is the best way to teach children these skills, you will ask? Well, I believe the best way to teach children is through PLAY.
The natural way of developing skills through play, in my modest opinion, is the most effective for children:
Children love playing, and they are engaged and motivated.
Games provide structure, rules, and predictability and can offer a safe environment for exploring their own and other people's emotions.
Games reflect on the natural aspect of life.
Games can be created and organised around many different areas of development: communication and language, emotional, behavioural, social, and cognitive.
Remember! Never try teaching anger skills, relaxation skills, self-reflection skills, etc., when the child is angry! I did see plenty of times educational staff trying to teach the child in a state of distress, and I can promise you that you can only make the child feel worse. There is always the right time and place to talk and teach children, but NOT when angry or distressed.
Children who experience out-of-control anger often look to adults to give them a sense of containment and safety. However, if their needs are unmet, they may become more anxious, and their angry behaviour will increase in their desperate attempt to gain attention and recognition of their distress.
Remember that you must adapt and differentiate the game (language, difficulty, resources) for the individual child's needs, strengths, and experiences. In addition, make sure that you will consider your personality, knowledge and skills in dealing with your emotions.
Before you play the games, don't forget to teach and practise self-regulation, breathing techniques, grounding techniques, etc. Give them tools and show them how to use them. Make sure you will think about the way of communicating their needs. Don't forget to repeat what they say and reflect on their emotions. Empathise with them and wonder aloud. There are plenty of things that you can do to help with anger, and you have to learn the whole package.
Remember that people express anger differently, some through verbal or physical expression, while others are more likely to repress their anger or say it indirectly through tears.
It's easier to notice those more physical/verbal reactions as there is more distribution for the setting, but let me say that if children suppress their anger, then they are more likely never to learn the skills for emotional regulation. They may become unaware of their feelings, which can lead to many mental health problems in the future. Children who have specific behavioural difficulties very often have self-esteem issues. There is a strong link between self-esteem and aggressive behaviour, and depression. When self-esteem is low, the threshold for anger may be lacking, and a minor incident, a word, a gesture, etc., can easily trigger an angry response.
I've mentioned low self-esteem as one of the factors that would increase the likelihood of angry behaviours. More factors will increase the risk of angry outbursts. They are:
Of course, there are plenty more triggers to anger, such as jealousy, embarrassment, disappointment, humiliation, lack of autonomy, lack of understanding, etc.
There are also basic needs/triggers such as hunger, tiredness, thirst, illness, pain, being hot, cold, etc.
So, there are plenty of things to consider if you support children with anger management problems. This is not easy, but the good news is that, like everything, you can learn how to do it. That is why I like Lego-based Therapy. This medium is so effective in the hands of the well-trained facilitator.
The role played by the therapist in supporting a child's emotional and behavioural development is tremendously essential.
So, you must be a skilful, mindful, and proactive facilitator when working around anger management through games.
Before delivering games sessions to children, make sure that you answer crucial questions such as:
Are there children who would like to take over the game, or are they passive?
What will happen when children become frustrated? What if they struggle with taking turns? Are they able to take on different roles at different times? Are they able to communicate their needs or emotions? Are they able to cope with not winning? Etc.
There you have it! I hope that this episode of Bea Inclusive TV made you think. Do you teach anger management in your setting? Please let me know how and what you find challenging if you do.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you.
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Until the Next Time
PS: If you would like to understand more about anger management and teach how to deal with this human feeling, then you can check the "Anger Management Games for Children" – Book by Deborah M. Plummer. The post above is a reflection of this reading proposition. You can find and read this book here.