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You’ve made it past the toddler tantrums and breath a big sigh of relief. Just when you think you’ve got this parenting business down—BAM—you have a full-fledged preschooler on your hands with a whole other set of behaviors and emotions to wade through.

In my years of working with preschoolers, I have encountered a lot of children who get angry and a lot of parents who are at a loss for how to help them. My method to help preschoolers work through anger is to teach them about ALL of their emotions—positive and negative. Because, let’s face it, we all get angry—adults, children and everyone in between. The difference between a three-year-old getting angry and a 33-year-old getting angry is that the adult has developed coping skills and is more aware of emotions. By giving children the words and coping skills to deal with their emotions, they will be less likely to have outbursts and more likely to understand it’s OK to be angry—it’s all about what you DO with your anger.

First of all, don’t hide your own emotions from your children. It’s important for children to know that everyone gets angry, everyone cries and everyone smiles. Talk about your emotions. You don’t have to divulge the details, simply state, “Mommy is sad right now because my phone is lost,” or “I am happy about having everyone home for dinner tonight,” is enough. Also, talk about your child’s emotions openly. You don’t have to justify or over explain their feelings. But saying, “I see you’re angry because we’re leaving the park,” is validating you understand how they feel.

Along with talking about your emotions, read books that help children put their emotions into words. Here are some books I love to read to my class year after year:

Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day


How Do You Make a Baby Smile
When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry
If You’re a Monster and You Know It

Finally, I have an Anger Box in my classroom. Kids can go to the Anger Box whenever they want to take a minute with their thoughts. I encourage them to use the Anger Box whenever I see they are getting upset or losing control of a situation. Parents in the past have asked, “Doesn’t having an Anger Box encourage them to be angry?” This answer is twofold. First, the reason the Anger Box is always accessible is because I don’t want children acting angry simply to go use it. Secondly, the Anger Box is giving them an opportunity to regain control of their anger, to identify their emotions and to develop coping skills.

What exactly is an Anger Box? It’s a box filled with various calming items for a child to use when they are feeling angry or emotional in any way. When my daughter was preschool age, I kept these items by a comfortable chair in the living room. In the classroom, it is in our quiet area. The idea of the Anger Box is not that it’s a punishment, but a way to teach children to work through their emotions in a healthy manner. The items I used with my daughter at home varied slightly from the items at school simply because I can’t monitor use of the Anger Box all the time at school.

Suggested Items for an Anger Box: 

  • Feeling Wheel
  • Picture cards with emotions on them (ALL emotions, positive and negative)
  • Various squishy items such as a foam ball or small pillow
  • Beads and string
  • Bubbles
  • Bubble wrap
  • Small pinwheel
  • Playdough
  • A small mirror
Of course, you can add other items you think your child would benefit from. I chose the bubbles and pinwheel because you need to take deep breaths to make them work and deep breathing is important for calming down. I chose the mirror so the children can see how they look when they are feeling various things and use the feeling wheel or emotion cards to help identify that feeling. Stringing beads takes concentration, as does popping bubble wrap one bubble at a time. Squishy items such as a foam ball or playdough are good for relieving tension. Can you think of anything else you would add?