Anger is a natural human emotion. It is not only the most common “negative” feeling kids express but is typically the hardest to cope with. That is unless you are using an anger iceberg tool…
Surface-level anger management strategies often fall short. While calming strategies are essential for big emotions, they do not directly address the root of the problem.
The truth is anger is merely a secondary reaction to primary emotions: Fear, worry, and disappointment, to name a few.
When kids learn to identify these “under these surface” emotions they become better problem-solvers.
That’s where a carefully crafted, developmentally appropriate anger iceberg PDF comes in.
This post will cover 4 key anger iceberg activities you can use to help kids get to the root of their anger, increase self-awareness, and find healthy ways to cope with uncomfortable emotions.
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What is an anger iceberg?
An anger iceberg is a metaphor for how anger usually manifests in our lives. The tip of the iceberg is the surface-level anger we show to others, while the submerged part consists of feelings like hurt, shame, and confusion.
To identify and cope with these feelings, we must first pay attention to our thoughts and reactions when we feel angry.
The Gottman Institute, founded by renowned relationship researchers Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Julie Gottman, first introduced the anger iceberg metaphor.
What are primary emotions (“under the surface”)?
Emotions are the driving force behind human behavior and decision-making. They fall into two categories: Primary emotions and secondary emotions.
Primary emotions are the most authentic reactions people have to a stressor or event. People may not outwardly express their primary emotions.
Common examples include:
Why do we keep primary emotions under the surface?
Primary feelings are challenging to identify or express to others for a variety of reasons, including:
- Personal comfort level
- Societal norms
- Expectations are ingrained from childhood
- Fear of rejection or humiliation
What are secondary emotions?
Secondary emotions are the feelings we express to others when we are not comfortable with our primary emotions.
Anger is by far the most common secondary emotion.
Individuals raised with authoritarian parenting methods may be especially prone to defaulting to an “anger” response.
The role of parenting and secondary emotions
Aside from observing outward anger by their caregivers, children raised by authoritarian parents are told, directly or covertly, that “negative” emotions are unacceptable.
- “If you’re going to be upset, you can go to your room.”
- “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
- “There’s no reason to be scared. Get over it.”
In contrast, positive, authoritative parenting strives to normalize and affirm all human emotions for children, thus empowering them toward a healthy relationship with feelings.
How to Teach Kids about Primary & Secondary Emotions using an Anger Iceberg
Without conscious self-reflection, most of us are not even fully aware of our primary emotions.
As caregivers, we can support children in identifying and finding healthy ways to cope with their primary emotions. We will discuss how an anger iceberg PDF can help you do that.
Anger Iceberg PDF (Printable Worksheet)
Our anger iceberg PDF for kids contains 8 printable worksheets (a set of 4 activities in black/white and color formats).
School counselors, school psychologists, teachers, therapists, and parents can instantly download and conveniently print high-quality PDF files from the comfort of their classroom, office, or home.
Such a Little While’s anger iceberg worksheets are unique in that they are specifically designed for school-aged children and include:
- Short passages with kid-friendly language to help children learn about primary and secondary emotions
- Visual clip art images and text descriptors to help children identify emotions
- Key discussion questions to help kids gain self-awareness and insight into their “under the surface” emotions
- Blank anger iceberg PDF page for kids to identify and express their “under the surface” emotions
Anger Iceberg Discussion Questions for Kids
Designed by a seasoned former school counselor, our anger iceberg pdf for kids includes an essential discussion question page.
Once children grasp the concept of the anger iceberg, they can begin to consider how “under the surface” emotions play out in their daily lives.
Key questions include:
- “How do you know you are feeling angry? What clues does your body give you?”
- “How do others know when you are feeling angry?”
- “What are some healthy ways to cool off when you feel angry?”
- “Which is easier, to show others you feel angry or feel sad?”
- “What are some common “under the surface” feelings?”
- “Who can you talk to about your “under the surface” emotions when you feel angry?”
Where can I find a blank anger iceberg worksheet?
Once children understand the concept of “under the surface” emotions, they are ready to create their own anger iceberg.
Such a Little While’s anger iceberg pdf activity set includes a blank feelings iceberg worksheet, in both black and white and color formats.
The worksheet directions prompt kids to consider a time they felt angry. Then, write or draw a picture of their secondary emotions on the blank iceberg.
This powerful exercise is helpful for children as well as for the adults who support them.
The last thing you need to know about using an anger iceberg worksheet with kids
When it comes to young children and big emotions, remember that our actions speak louder than words.
Parents and caregivers can make the most impact by modeling a healthy relationship with anger.
It takes a conscious, positive parenting approach to refrain from disciplining in the heat of the moment and opt for effective tools that support children’s social-emotional development.
If you are ready to learn more about a positive approach to discipline, I invite you to join me in Such a Little While’s free 30-day challenge.
Thousands of parents worldwide have gained a solid foundation in positive parenting through this no-cost email course. You’ll also receive a complimentary PDF workbook, including our most popular “consequence cheat sheet.”
If you long to parent differently than how you were raised but need help getting started, this challenge is for you!
You’ve got this!