Hug It Out – Calming an Angry Child

by Alissa Marquess on March 14, 2014

I have a technique that has been really helping with dealing with anger in my family.  It sounded almost too simple when I read it, but often it’s the really simple shifts, the ones that we think could hardly work, that help us most.

This idea for dealing with anger comes from a recent comment on the Parenting an Angry Child post I wrote some times ago.
Bringing peace to an angry mom and an angry child - this works

I read it and at first I thought, oh he’s too old for that now, but it resonated with me so much – it makes such sense given my son’s sensitive nature. He may be frequently angry, but he seems to feel everything very intensely, so he’s terribly sensitive to my aggravation and frustration over his anger.

Hug it Out With Your Angry Child

Here’s what Mary wrote about her angry child:

“Same here, angry 4 1/2 year-old boy. Solution: HUGS to calm him down.

We haven’t figured out how to always prevent the crisis, but only how to stop it: by not getting into a discussion/lecture/time-out or whatever. We see each tantrum as a cry for love and affection, get down on our knees and open our arms. Sometimes he rushes straight into our hug and sobs in remorse for a few secs, then completely relaxes. Sometimes he claims he doesn’t want to come anywhere near me, but I remain in my open arms position and say “I’ll be waiting for you to come, come when you’re ready” – a minute later he’s here. Some other times he will scream that he will never come close to me, I leave and go about my business after I state that “as soon as you feel ready, come give me a good hug”. Sooner or later, he always comes.

When relaxed, we can talk about the problem.

so HUG away! :)

My arms are open.

Adopting this “My arms are open.” position has been opening my heart, and allowing me to shift into listening mode rather than defensive “This Yelling Is Too Loud” mode.  Giving space for hugs and calming before jumping into the work of talking through what is happening has allowed me to hear my son better and offer tools rather than just recrimination.

No, it’s not always as simple as that, but many times it is.  I’m not sure why it’s taken me this long to get to the point of using this as a default, but somehow Mary’s words spoke to me, and I wanted to share them with you in case you too need another way to deal with anger that helps you and your child calm down and reconnect.

What do you think?  Have you tried hugs for dealing with anger, or do you think you’ll give it a try?

117 comments
Tricia Dol
Tricia Dol

I have used this with my 7 year old since he was 2. Sometimes kids reach a point where they no longer know why they're upset. A simple hug provides security.

Finn Dudaniec
Finn Dudaniec

Hugs should be the answer for almost every conflict situation with child, it's just a matter of getting to the point at which the child is ready to hug.

scheatham777
scheatham777

I do this with my seven year old Aspian. The closeness and comfort for him is very calming... He eventually gets up and walks away...couldn't have done it several years ago he would push you away if you got that close.

Sarah Harradine
Sarah Harradine

I wish it would work for my 7 year old :-( I'd end up with a black eye or broken nose he gets so physical when angry.

Stephanie James
Stephanie James

Doesn't work for all kids but works very well for mine

Liban Hallam
Liban Hallam

A 3 year old boy in my classroom recently faced a parents serious problem at his home and his behavior totally changed to crying for no reason or aggressive with his classmates, the only solution I found to get him back to a normal kid is giving him a big HUG every morning. Btw I'm with my 16 kids at the kindergarten for almost 9 hours everyday for five days a week.

Tina Brown Musselman
Tina Brown Musselman

Thankfully I haven't needed to try this yet with Bug. There are times when I can see this as the way to go.

Brooke Raymond
Brooke Raymond

Tina Brown Musselman- funny we were just talking about this! It worked this am!

Paula Berman
Paula Berman

Yah I guess it would work if your kid didn't develop a case of temporary rigamortus every time you try to put your arms around them.

Gill99
Gill99

hugs really do work! an angry child is a terrified child - we need to reassure them when their feelings overwhelm them and they are unable to cope! We need to make them feel safe, not out of control and bad!

Karen Patane
Karen Patane

So agree, anger breeds anger, hug them till they melt in your arms

Beverley Rademeyer Moreland
Beverley Rademeyer Moreland

My kids were given a choice Love it out or fight it out! But sometimes they are so worked up then don't even want to be touched but it is a much more loving way of dealing with things

MaryGoodson
MaryGoodson

I did something similar with my daughter when she was little.  I'd take her into a room, pull the shades or curtains to darken the room, lay her on my chest with my arms around her and rock side to side, gently sing-songing, "Rockyyyyy-rock.... rockyyyyyy-rock, rooooockyyyy-rock" until she calmed down.  She often fell asleep, as tantrums were generally a signal that she was tired and/or over stimulated.  The solution worked for both problems. =)


She's now almost 22, and still remembers "rocky-rock" time with Mommy.  ♥

Heidi Rubel
Heidi Rubel

I really believe this to be effective.

Lou Mitchell
Lou Mitchell

That's me today........ I'm the angry one needing a hug! x

Kelly W
Kelly W

Thank you for this. I have been feeling so hopeless about my 6 year old and her anger issues. This post led me to your Parenting an Angry Child post and before I knew I had tears streaming down my face. I realized I needed to do the same thing you did, accept my girl for who she is and stop looking for a way to solve her!

Eve Nucifora
Eve Nucifora

Whatever works.........and a hug is always welcome, sooner or later. OOO

Angela MacMillan
Angela MacMillan

I did something similar yesterday. My 32 month old had a tantrum because he wasn't allowed a sweet before tea. I said: "I Love you" a few times and it was like a magic wand. It won't work every time but I'm going to adopt the arms open one too!

Janelle Hogan
Janelle Hogan

Naomi Kylie some good things in here plus links to other sites.

Lucy MacDonnell
Lucy MacDonnell

Works every time- even if at first they're so worked up they fight it- hugs and big deep breaths.

Jenny Seymour
Jenny Seymour

Thank you - I'm going to try this with my over sensitive little boy x

Jo Johnson
Jo Johnson

It depends on whether your child likes hugs

Karen Crombie
Karen Crombie

My daughter is 6 and this is something I have to do to help her calm down sometimes.

Coleen
Coleen

I use this with my 6-1/2 year old. Not for every situation but I'm going to try it more often now. Still looking for a way to reach him when he's angry and lashing out physically at me or his twin brother. He's super impulsive and I am struggling as a parent to help him find a way to overcome that.

Reuben
Reuben

As nice as this sounds this is not a cure all solution for all children. Like adults children are varied in experience, preference, and personality. This method was helpful for my oldest and middle child but for my youngest only increases the problem. My youngest turned 4 not to long ago and is fiercely independent. Her fits are less of temper tantrums and are more akin to a roid rage, any attention by this point only throws gas on the fire and makes the situation worse. Through observation my wife and i realized that attention was the problem and learned she needed cool of time. when the fits happen she is set aside and it is explained to her that she has alone time, that she is not allowed to leave that spot until she is done being mad. Once she cools off we can then engage her with positive attention and find out why she was upset to resolve the situation. I will be very proud the day she learns how this works and applies it herself as stress management. From what I've learned, this method, the hugging method, and many more stem from one thing we should be as parents, selfless. When the tension increases because our children are upset is to first set our own emotion and wants aside and not react. By doing this we can be objective to the situation, not make it worse, and find the best solutions. It truly is a task but having the mindset of solving their problem to calm them down as opposed to solving our problem by calming them down provides an opportunity for them to learn and for us to bond. Trust me no situation is perfect and I've found myself snapping back at m screaming child, but this is something that I've kept in the back of my mind so that when i do, it puts me in check.

Ashley
Ashley

As simple as it sounds I haven't tried this with my 4 1/2 year old. I am going to give this a try see how he reponds. Reading the posts made me cry a little because it describes my son very much & ive been trying to figure somethings out as timeouts dont work it only hightens the tantrums. I dont want to spank, I have grown up in a culture that that is how you discipline but my family doesnt seem to understand why I dont want to spank. My son is soo sensitive I dont want to hurt him I want him to understand. I feel spanking only instills emotional pain & fear of me in my son both of which I do not want. thank you very much for sharing.

Kelli
Kelli

I do this several times a day. A good combo is hugging and then "shhhhh" - ing in his ear. The "shhhh" - ing helps to let him calm him by reminding him of being in the womb. It is a way for him to stop screaming and listen instead of just hugging me and screaming. He responds very well to this way of handling tantrums :-)

L
L

What if he just has almost too much anger? I agree with this method but it seems like our anger is much bigger than and past hugs?

MoM2JPS
MoM2JPS

I like the sounds of this hug it out theory. I will defiantly have to try it. I have been trying with my 3&4 year olds to have them blow it away when they get angry or really upset. My 4yo is a very sensitive boy and his 3yo sister love to rile him up which a lot of times turns into an argument between the 2 of them. When ether of them start to get angry or threw a tantrum I tell them to blow it away and within a few minutes it's over and they start laughing again.

Sandra
Sandra

It works with my son too however I fail to try this method out when he hits me or hits his little sister. How am I suupose to hug him when he hits any of us? Wouldnt this reinforce the bad behavior and show him its ok to hit, mummy will hug you anyways?? Im quiet confused here how to react in this situation. I know that by hitting hes crying out for help, attention most of all and love. But I find it impossible to hug him afterwards. Pls advise what should be done if that case and if applying this method would still be ok or not. Thank you :)

Sandra
Sandra

My son is 7 and gets angry and lashes out. He is so much better than he used to be. The hugs work sometimes but often he just needs me to say. Take some down time. You are angry. Collect your thought then we can talk. If he yells louder kicks screams. I calmly say I love you too much to argue. When you are calm I want to hear what you have to say. It validates him then he knows I'm there when he is ready to really talk and not yell. I'm learning not to be reactive but calm.

Krysta
Krysta

You may want to try the outward facing bear hug/ wrestling hold when your mad. It allows you time to calm down, and stops him from hurting others (and sometimes a chance to calm down. Also we have had success with "mad feet" (we have him stomp the floor when he is angry) or since mine headbutts things I will put him in the recliner and have him headbutt that. Maybe having him hit a pillow would help you, at least inthe short run until you can find some other acceptable way to release his anger? Also have you tried writing down when/why/where he is hitting? You may discover a changeable pattern.

Sandra
Sandra

I forgot to mention that my son just turned 3, his sister just turned 1 and his main problem is to adapt with the presence of his little sister eventhough its been a year now.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Recommend for you:Evolution of a Mama Tantrum – and How to STOP One100 Ways to be Kind to Your ChildParenting an Angry ChildDone with the Power Struggles of Time Out  […]

  2. […] Hug it Out for proprioceptive input and children that respond well to touch […]

Previous post:

Next post: