Oct 09

Part I: What's Your Trigger?

Posted by Valentine Burr in Fair Is Not Equal on Oct 09, 2012

A Tool for Helping Kids With Their Anger

When I was in the classroom I worked with many kids who struggled with anger. Some of these kids were "slow burns" for whom perceived slights and perceptions of mistreatment built up slowly over time to reach a boiling point whose origin was not always obvious.

This is a stratgey I used to use with
elementary and middle school kids

Others had quick, immediate responses to environmental and internal stresses. For students prone to anger, I would use a strategy to help them begin to identify their “triggers” and find ways to “put out their fuse” (part 2 of this post is coming soon and will focus on putting out the fuse).

I’d often sit with a kid in a calm quiet moment, not in response to a recent explosion, but during a time when they were feeling good. I’d notice with them that sometimes it seemed like they got really angry and that I’d like to help them understand what makes them angry. When they were ready, we’d brainstorm together some of the things they and I noticed about their triggers.

Throughout these conversations an important focus was always an acceptance of their emotions. Anger is a normal feeling and an important one at that. The actions kids take when they are angry are sometimes not OK, but that does not mean the anger itself is not OK. The first step towards finding more adaptive responses to anger is often for kids to begin to understand what anger looks like and feels like to them, and what kinds of things make them angry to begin with.

In the spirit of FiNE, this is not a tool I would use with all kids (not all kids will need it after all), and there are many ways to differentiate its use. You could use all image and no text, all text and no image, change the image, have kids fill out on their own, have kids dictate, use in response to a scenario the class acts out, or in response to a character from literature… the possibilities are endless!

Coming soon…how do we help kids in developing more constructive responses to anger?

And here’s a question: What are your triggers in the classroom? How do you manage your own feelings of frustration and anger when they occur?

tagged anger management, strategies, tool
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