Dealing with Anger in Children

Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of young children.1  From babyhood the character of the child is to be molded and fashioned and virtues are to be instilled into his opening mind.2

It is not so difficult as is generally supposed to teach the little child to stifle its outbursts of temper and subdue its fits of passion.3  It does take an empathetic yet firm, decided and straightforward course of action in order to produce the best results. 4 

When dealing with anger in young children, the ideal is to train for long-term self-regulation.

The most effective way for children to learn how to work out anger is not to allow them to act out stressful situations. Re-enacting a stressful situation only helps to solidify into the brain and behavior the negative feelings and reactions.

Yet negative emotions must be expressed and dealt with. In working with young children over the past 25 years, Young Child Ministries and our colleagues have discovered the most effective way to manage and handle a child expressing anger is to first recognize that the child is upset. Being observant of facial expressions, words, voice intonation and body language is important.

The second step is to quietly get the child’s attention – no calling across the room or raising of the voice – a gentle touch, saying their name quietly in their ear, eye contact.

The third step is to find a calm, peaceable way of removing them to a quiet area where the adult and child can talk. Appropriate physical touch is important through hand holding, touching the child’s shoulders, or carrying them.

Next, the adult needs to explain to the child what is being observed and interpret these observations for the child. “I see your forehead has furrows right now. The furrows tell me that you’re angry.” “I heard you yelling into the telephone just now. The yelling tells me that you’re upset.” The key here is to (1) identify the behaviors, (2) identify the feelings, and then (3) offer to help with those feelings.

How do you help a child with those feelings? Sometimes they just want to talk; sometimes they need to put their angry feelings in a box, but always they need to pray. And so does the parent.

What they don’t need to do is to re-enact a scenario. Re-enactments will begin to create habits and the habits will then become part of their character and stay with them for life.5 Redirecting an angry child is not effective, either. Life is full of frustrations and negative feelings. It is our job to help the child deal with these while focusing our efforts on their overall character formation.

If you're new to these techniques and your child has a temper that can outlast your patience, these techniques will be very difficult - at first. God has promised to help you in your time of need. Be constant in prayer and try again. With practice, you'll fine-tune responses to your child's temper tantrums and in the end, your child will become more manageable, more self-regulated, more communicative.

Save the strength of one’s will, but give it proper direction based upon precept and true examples wisely fashioned and molded. In this way, the child will be taught to submit not only to parents and teachers, but most importantly, they will be educated to submit to God’s will.


© 2011, C. Gillan Byrne

Speaking appointments are typically scheduled 12 months in advance. 

To schedule a speaking appointment with Dr. Gillan Byrne, please use the email link or call (479) 216-9771.

Complete Published writings of EGW

Bible Gateway website for KJV


1, 2White, E. G. (1954/2002). Advantage of the Early Years (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 193, ¶1, 2). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

3, 4White, E. G. (1954/2002). Advantage of the Early Years (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 194, ¶4, 5). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.

5White, E. G. (1954/2002). The Power of Habit (Chapter Title). In E. G. White Publications (Eds.), Child Guidance (p. 199, ¶1, 2). Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association.