Turtles And Elephants Can Help Kids With Anger

Posted on: 3 September 2015


Too many adults make the mistake of telling children to just "get over" their emotions, especially when it comes to anger. Anger is a big emotion that can be scary for kids to feel. As a childcare specialist or a stay-at-home mom, you need to know how to teach angry children strategies that will help them calm down.

Recognize but Don't React

Children get angry and they need you to recognize that. Don't tell a child that they are not angry. If you discount their feelings, then they may get angrier trying to validate their feelings and show you that they really ARE angry.

Do NOT react with anger of your own. You are the adult in the situation, and you must maintain control so that you can teach children by word and by example the best way to handle their emotions.

Be a Turtle

The turtle strategy is excellent for children that usually lash out when they are angry. These children usually hit or throw things when they are angry. You want to teach them to focus their energy inward instead of outward.

Find a turtle puppet or show a video of a turtle to your child. Show them how the shell of the turtle protects it. Tell the child that when they are angry they can lie on the floor, or in a bed, in a ball like a turtle. (This is similar to the fetal position.) Have the child practice "being a turtle," and focusing on breathing and calming down.

Let them know that while they are in their "shell," they can focus on solving the problem. Once the child has calmed down and thought of a solution to their problem, they can come out of their "shell" and move forward.

*A word of caution to adults: do not use and teach this method of coping with anger if you get emotion when children are ignoring you. This method only works if you allow the child to stay in their turtle shell as needed. If you, as the adult, start talking to the child in the shell and feel like they are ignoring you, then you may start getting angry and will only make the situation worse.

Make an Elephant Nose

Some children don't like the abstract feeling of being a turtle in a shell. They need a way to calm down that is tactile.

You need a strip of fabric or paper that is one inch wide and twelve to eighteen inches long. Have the child place one end on their nose and you should put the other end on your nose.

Teach your child that they need to take big slow breaths so that they fabric/paper does not droop down. The goal is to keep the fabric either even with the noses, or rising slightly above.

This strategy helps teach the child how to calm down their breathing. It also gives them a physical goal to work on. This works very well for extremely young children who cannot understand abstract concepts. 

For trusted childcare, contact a school such as The Cottage School.