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Anger Management Group Activities for Kids: Mental Health Groups for Children

Updated on September 27, 2015
Blake Flannery profile image

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

Anger Management Skills are Important for Children

Children can naturally have anger management problems, so chances are you know a kid who acts impulsively and allows his anger to get out of control. Children can rage with anger over what adults might think are trivial matters. Anger management is an extremely important skill for anyone to learn including children.

When you are given the task to teach anger management to children in a group setting, there are some things to consider about kids and about the nature of anger. Anger is a physiological response, and physiological things are going on with an angry child. Increased heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure are natural results of anger. Unfortunately, children are less likely to know what to do with their angry feelings when they begin to feel them. As a parent, teacher, or counselor, you can teach them anger management techniques to help them help themselves.

Angry Kid

Don't wait until the kid is angry to teach him.  Teach him with your anger management group.
Don't wait until the kid is angry to teach him. Teach him with your anger management group.

Anger Management Activities

These following anger management activities are useful for anger management group education for youth. You will find more full descriptions of each below.

  • Milk and Spoon Frustration Game
  • Jenga Dealing with Being Told "No" game
  • Water Spill Game (refraining from escalating)
  • Coping Skills Identification Charade Game
  • Describing Your Feelings Game
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Demonstration of How Little it Takes to Anger a Kid

Understanding Differences in the Child's Response to Anger

Children, as you might expect, do not have a fully developed brain, and as a result they handle feelings differently than adults. It is important to know some of these differences so that you can educate children about their own barriers to anger management when using group education.

The prefronal cortex is responsible for "planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior." Common sense can tell you that children are likely to have difficulty controlling impulses and making good decisions. Teaching children to control impulses and make good decisions is part of teaching them anger management.

Teaching kids to think before acting seems like an easy task, but you may find yourself up against some huge barriers that you hadn't expected. Besides impulse control problems, children have more concrete thinking, are harder to reason with, and may be modeling behaviors they have seen from the adults they are around.

How to Approach Children with Anger Management

Standing in front of a group of children and talking at them about anger management is not likely to be the most effective group education format. Children can learn a lot by role play, seeing things in action, listening to stories, and answering questions you pose.

Getting and holding kids' attention is a prerequisite to teaching them anything. They must be able to focus and pay attention to what you want to present. Engaging children can take creativity and energy. That creativity and energy can be planned ahead of time, and you will find yourself more calm and relaxed when you have a clear goal for your anger management group before you start.

Approaching kids in a calm, confident way is also important. Kids can sense anxiety, lack of confidence, or impatience. When you show that you are not in control of your own emotions, not only do you discredit yourself as an authority, you also create negative reciprocity between you and the kids in your group.

There are some things you can do to make sure you are in the right mindset to teach an anger management group for children.  Remind yourself that you are working with kids who have emotional problems.  Remind yourself that you have a job to do and it isn't personal.  Tell yourself that it is an important job, because you have the potential to improve lives and keep people safe.

Anger Management for Children

Adults go to jail and really hurt people when they have anger management problems.  Let kids know that they will get bigger.
Adults go to jail and really hurt people when they have anger management problems. Let kids know that they will get bigger.

Build a Case for Anger Management for Kids

Here's a quick and easy way to demonstrate the importance of anger management for children in your group. If you are a large person, preferable male, this is extremely effective. Call the smallest kids up to the front of your group to use as an example. Ask him to stand next to you, and ask the kids in the group these following questions:

  • What do you notice that is different between me and your peer who is standing next to me? (size, age, etc.)
  • What happens when you get angry? Do any of you ever hit, bite, scratch, or kick others?
  • What do you think it would be like if I got angry and decided I was going to punch, kick, or throw things? (people would get hurt, I'd get fired, I'd go to jail, etc.)

Once you list some of the horrible things that will happen if an adult gets angry and attacks others, you can mention that each of the children will get older and eventually have the potential to really hurt others and damage property.  This gets their attention and allows them to think about their future and the direction they are headed.  This is a good introduction to teaching a coping skill for anger.

Teenage Kids Need Anger Management

Older kids can think in more abstract ways, and you can do deeper discussion.  Don't try to talk to kids when they are in a rage.
Older kids can think in more abstract ways, and you can do deeper discussion. Don't try to talk to kids when they are in a rage.

Cater Your Lesson Plan to Your Population

Deciding what group idea to use for your youth population will depend on a few factors. Here are some factors that you should take into consideration when planning your anger management lesson plan.

  • How old are your mental health clients?
  • What is the attention span?
  • How concrete or abstract should you be?
  • What level of anger control do the kids already have?
  • What can you use the scaffold in order to teach the kids starting with what they already know?
  • What format would be engaging and foster learning? (audio visual, role play, reading, etc.)

Once you determine the answers to these questions use the following group ideas for your anger management education for kids.

Kids Learn by Doing

Teach kids to be safe with their anger in a safe situation and environment.  Role plays work great for this.
Teach kids to be safe with their anger in a safe situation and environment. Role plays work great for this.

Anger Management Activity Ideas for Group Education

Use these group activity ideas to simulate experiences that might create a little anger in your clients. Warn them ahead of time, and let them know what you are doing ahead of time. Tell them that these are role play practice situations that are safe.

Anger Management Role Plays For Kids

  1. Opening a milk carton with a spoon: This anger management activity works great at schools or inpatient psychiatric units because milk cartons and spoons are readily available. Here are the directions. Tell the kids to hold the milk carton in one hand and the spoon in the other. Then tell them to open the milk carton using only their spoon and then drink the milk.
  2. Being told "No" while playing Jenga: Jenga is a popular game that already produces anxiety on its own. Build the Jenga blocks up in a tower the normal way. Then tell the kids that they are going to play a game, but at times you will be telling them "no" and they have to stop and choose a new block. Explain that they might feel frustrated during this activity. Then as the kids are playing Jenga, say "no" every once in a while. Watch for how the child reacts. See if he or she can use his or her words to describe feelings.
  3. Spill a Little Water on Each Other: In order to get kids to understand that not everything has to be blown up into a big deal, each kid can practice having a little water spilled. Get a volunteer to spill a small amount of water on you as an example. Yell and say "Oh man, I can't stand it, NOW I"M ALL WET!" Then ask the kids if they could get something spilled on them and react in a more calm way. Take examples and write them down. Then have each kids practice getting a little water spilled on him or her and say, "That's o.k."

These work best just after you have taught a coping skill for anger, so they can practice in a safe environment.  You can use these for almost any age group.

Coping Skills Identification Charades Game

Here's a great way to teach kids to identify coping skills for anger. Have the kids work in groups to identify as many anger coping skills as possible. Give them a time limit and tell them that they should be things they can do to keep themselves safe and calm when they start to feel angry.

When the time is up, ask for their two papers and have the kids play coping skills charades. So you can use the lists that they already made. This allows them to identify coping skills and act them out in a fun way. Hopefully, they won't notice that they are learning.

Teaching Kids to Use Self Talk to Control Anger

Describe Your Feelings Game

Place one random item in a box and ask a volunteer to come up and put his hand in the box and describe only what he feels.  Then the other clients will guess what is in the box after the describer has already given a few characteristics of what he feels.  Give the one who describes 2 points and the one who guesses correctly 1 point if anyone guesses without the kid giving away what the item is.

Follow up with a discussion about how difficult it is to use your words instead of your actions when you are angry.  For example, when a kid is angry he might kick someone because he doesn't know how to describe how he feels inside.  Talk about limited vocabulary and teach some new feeling words that the clients may not already know.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR is a way for kids, or any people, to relax any built up tension in the body. This can be a great long-term strategy for kids who struggle with controlling anger.

Use a progressive muscle relaxation script to guide the clients through what to do. Then encourage them to continue using this as a way to help them relax any time they feel tense. One of the advantages of PMR is that it can be done anywhere without any equipment. This is an advantage over many diversion types of coping skills that kids usually focus on doing.

Watch an Anger Management Video

Besides learning from doing, kids can learn well from watching videos. Kids attention spans are short, but video can help engage them for group. Use the video to initially grab their attention and then discuss what they watch after viewing the video.

Many great mental health related videos can be found on YouTube. Just be careful, because you'll find many videos that are not very good there also. Create a channel and playlists to keep all of your group videos organized. That way you can quickly access that show the videos you need for groups.

Funny Anger Management Cartoon Video


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