Anger thermometers measure the intensity of anger in children and teens.
As anger management activities go, the anger thermometer is one of my favourites because it’s so simple to create, and has one of the biggest impacts.
According to estimates, 17% to 22% of under 18s struggle with emotional issues severe enough to hinder their development, with anger being the most common issue.
Anger is a normal and healthy emotion in moderation, but if regular anger outbursts can interfere with your child’s wellbeing and their everyday functioning.
Anger is often a sign of underlying anxiety or distress. If your child often gets angry, it’s important to look under the surface as well as employing tools like anger thermometers.
Anger thermometers are a wonderful tool to use both at home and at school. They can help children gain valuable insight and learn to manage their anger.
In this article I’ll give you an overview of anger thermometers, and you can put the tool into action using my printable templates!
What is an Anger Thermometer?
An anger thermometer is a visual tool used to help children identify and understand their angry feelings. It is sometimes known as a feelings thermometer.
The anger thermometer creates a visual representation of the level of anger, using a scale ranging from low to high. This helps children gain insight into their emotional state, helping them understand how they are feeling and how their anger is affecting them physically.
Your Anger Thermometer Printable Explained
The free worksheet I have created for you is a 10-point anger thermometer. For young children you may prefer to make the scale simpler e.g. you can use a 3-point anger thermometer or or 5-point anger thermometer. Through regular practise with the anger thermometer worksheet, your child will learn how different levels of anger feel inside their bodies at age step of the 10-point scale.
The anger thermometer is just like the temperature scale of a real thermometer in that the lowest point of the thermometer represents low or no anger (heat!). The highest point is the highest possible level of anger (or heat).
Download Your Free Printable Anger Thermometer HERE
You can download your anger thermometer pdf directly below. I have also given you an anger thermometer example for three children of different ages.
Angus’ Feelings Thermometer
In the first example, seven year old Angus has rated his anger level as a 5 out of 10.
On his personalised anger management scale, a 5 means he is getting easily frustrated.
He feels “fizzy”.
After talking it through with his dad, Angus notices that at this level he starts kicking things, ripping up paper and shouting out in class. He might deliberately annoy others to get a reaction, like flicking paper at them.
What helps is when his teacher notices these small behaviours and gives the whole class a movement break to release pent-up emotions. Angus then moves back down the anger scale to a 1 or a 2.
Ana’s Anger Thermometer
In my second example, thirteen year old Ana regularly rates her levels of anger.
On this occasion she reflects on a trigger that caused a “level 9”.
Someone deliberately tripped her up in the school corridor. Ana remembers that at level 9 she “snaps”. She ran after the other student, grabbed them by the hair and tried to wrestle them to the floor. For this, both students got in big trouble.
Ana realises that she doesn’t want to get to a level 9 in the future.
She realises she was actually already at a level 5 because she finds corridors noisy and stressful.
She decided that in future she would take a different route to her next class.
Sammy’s Emotion Thermometer
My free printable emotion thermometer can be useful for older teens and young adults too.
In my third example, 17 year old Sammy reflects on her anger at being told by her parents that she can’t go to a party tonight.
Her anger level is a 6.
She is seething inside but she knows that if she smashes up her room (which is what she feels like doing) it will make the situation worse.
She still has some control.
At a level 6 Sammy knows she has to disperse some of her anger. She goes out and sprints for a mile along her usual running route. Her aim is to get more in control so that she can return and negotiate more calmly with her parents.
How to Use The Feelings Thermometer Printable
The feelings thermometer can be used “in the moment” if your child is not in the red zone (above a 6).
In other words, they can use it whilst they are feeling irritated or frustrated.
However, once in the red zone (in the midst of an angry outburst) your child won’t be able to think rationally and it won’t be helpful to use the thermometer.
Instead, use it retrospectively.
Once your child is calm again, get them to rate how angry they felt and reflect on this.
The first step is for your child to understand the different sections of the thermometer. The bottom of the thermometer is the calm zone, which represents no anger at all.
The middle section (yellow and orange) represent mild to moderate anger. In this zone your child may notice the anger building up. They should look out for signs such as balled up fists, increased heart rate, and emotional responses like frustration.
The top of the thermometer (red) represents the maximum anger level. In the red zone the person will experience overpowering physical signs and inner feelings such as being completely out of control.
One of the most important steps in using the anger thermometer worksheet is to use it regularly when your child is calm, to reflect on previous situations.
Over time your child’s self-awareness will improve.
They’ll start to identify the physical signs and emotional responses when anger rises. This can include facial expressions, changes in body posture, or an increase in heart rate.
The anger thermometer pdf uses a different color for each of the different zones or levels of anger. This helps children to see that different strategies are helpful for each zone.
Spotting Signs of Rising Anger With The Anger Thermometer
Spotting the early signs of rising anger in your child is crucial in helping them to manage their emotions effectively. These signs can manifest both physically and behaviourally and are often your child’s natural response to stress or frustration.
Physical signs that your child’s anger may be escalating can include clenched fists, body tension, rapid breathing, or flushed cheeks.
On the behavioural side, you might notice increased restlessness, a louder voice, intense staring, or even a sudden retreat into silence.
Your child may also become more argumentative or show signs of defiance.
What are your child’s signs of rising anger?
These reactions often signal that your child is grappling with feelings too overwhelming for them to handle on their own.
Recognising these early signs of anger can help you step in promptly to assist your child in calming down and expressing their feelings in a healthier, more constructive way.
This early recognition is the first step towards effective anger management and can make a world of difference in your child’s emotional well-being.
Using the Anger Thermometer to Enhance Coping Skills
At each level of the thermometer your child is going to write down several coping skills. These are anger management skills that have helped them manage big feelings in the past.
Don’t use coping strategies that have not worked for your child in the past.
Having said that, my one exception is deep breathing. If your child has not practised the skill of slow, deep breaths, they may not be doing it properly. The art of breathing is so important that I recommend you work on this with your child even if they have tried it before and “it didn’t work”.
So, to reiterate, slow calming breaths should be an essential part of your child’s “calm down kit” and are also essential for everyday prevention of heightened anger in different situations.
Try these deep breathing exercises for kids. I also love this simple video for younger children:
Anger Thermometer Example: Spencer
Nine year old Spencer was having a difficult time at school.
He was being assessed for learning difficulties and found it frustrating that he couldn’t keep up in class.
He had begun to make growling noises in the classroom when frustrated, and for this he is teased by some of his peers.
Spencer’s whole family was concerned about him and wanted to support him in any way they could.
Together, they worked with his teachers and psychologist to identify potential anger triggers and developed strategies to manage his anger symptoms.
They used the blank thermometer printable and together, Spencer regularly rated his anger levels. He discovered which calming strategies could work, at each level of the feelings thermometer.
The last time Spencer had a difficult day at school, his parents and teachers sat down with him once he was calm, and talked about how he was feeling.
They encouraged him to express his emotions and offered him coping techniques like deep breathing and taking breaks when he felt overwhelmed.
With the support of his family and teachers, Spencer started to better manage his anger symptoms and this improved his overall well-being.
Anger Thermometer Example: Millie
Millie was an 11-year-old girl who was struggling to manage her symptoms of anger.
She would often lash out and become aggressive, leaving her feeling upset and frustrated with herself.
Her family decided to try using a feeling thermometer to help her manage her emotions.
They introduced Millie to my anger thermometer, using a 10 point rating scale to help her with identification and analysis of emotions.
The thermometer helped Millie identify emerging signs of anger and understand how it escalates.
Whenever Millie felt upset, she would rate her anger on the thermometer and make notes, which allowed her to track her emotions over her time.
Using this technique, Millie learned to recognize her feelings earlier. She started to use coping techniques such as taking breaks and deep breathing, to prevent her anger from escalating.
With her family’s help, Millie learned to manage her emotions and reduce her symptoms of anger. This led to a more positive and peaceful home environment.
Using the Anger Thermometer in Schools
The anger thermometer template isn’t just handy at home, it’s great for schools too.
Teachers can use it one-on-one with children who need a little extra help. It can guide students to spot when their anger is rising and how to cool down.
But it’s not just for one-on-one. The feelings thermometer worksheet is perfect for whole classes too. It’s a fun, engaging way to teach kids about emotions and empathy.
You can even make a game out of it. Teachers can create a whole-class anger thermometer activity using pretend scenarios. Students might rate their ‘anger’ and come up with ways to calm down.
When it comes to individual children who are struggling with angry feelings, it’s most effective when parents and teachers work together. By keeping each other in the loop about what’s working, what’s not, and what sets off the anger, everyone is on the same page.
By using the feelings thermometer printable pdf either with individuals or groups, teachers can really make a difference. It’s such a simple way of helping kids understand and manage their anger better. And that means happier, calmer kids.
Anger & Stress Management
Emotional regulation doesn’t happen overnight.
Children’s brain’s are highly under-developed when compared with adults’ and they will need a lot of help from you (probably much more than you think).
They need you to co-regulate their emotions.
In other words, your child needs you to be calm and containing.
This may involve just sitting with them, hugging them tightly, or empathising with the emotion (e.g. “I know how frustrated you feel”). But co-regulation is going to look different in every parent-child relationship.
The take home message I want to give you in this article is that angry children do not have to turn into angry adults, and the good news is that the anger thermometer is just one of many different ways to teach your child how to manage their angry feelings successfully.
When to Seek Further Help for Your Child’s Anger
It can be so difficult to know where the line is between a series of anger outbursts and a growing anger problem.
You should seek professional help for your child’s anger if any of the following apply:
- You feel that your child’s behavior is out of control and could escalate further. You don’t feel you can help your child contain it successfully at the moment.
- Your child’s aggressive behavior results in others getting hurt or property getting damaged in a regular basis.
- Your child’s life has been significantly impacted by their anger issues. For example, perhaps they have lost friends because they couldn’t stay calm, or behavior problems at school are impacting their learning in the classroom. Maybe you are treading on eggshells at home and family life is far from where you want it to be.
It can be really difficult to know where to turn or how to access help.
The types of help available depend on where you live. I always advise parents to speak to their family doctor about local services.
Your child’s school will also know of local support services and may be able to make a referral for you.
Here are some of the types of people who can help:
- Mental health professionals such as clinical psychologists (like me!). Mental health professionals understand that anger is what shows at the top of the iceberg, but underneath it’s a whole lot more complicated. We try to understand the root causes and triggers. Then we make a plan with you and your child. What skills can we give your child? How can we change your child’s environment to reduce the triggers? How can we “skill up” the adults around your child so they can offer effective support?
- Social workers. Social workers often have a bad reputation. But many social workers – and family workers within social services – are highly trained and just want to help. In my local area of the UK there is an “early help” service. It’s hard to get accepted into, but those families who do find it really helpful. For example, I may make a referral if an angry child is regularly hurting their sibling or parent or destroying property. They are assigned a family worker who visits the home. The family worker offers regular sessions for the parents giving parenting advice. They also meet with the child one-to-one regularly, to help them understand and manage anger.
- Trained mentors. There are some organisations which offer fantastic 1-1 mentoring services. For example, Chance UK in London, where I was once a volunteer mentor. Mentors get to know a child and to understand the reasons for their anger. Then they work with the child regularly (e.g. once a week for a year) on specific targets which will help them to manage their emotions.
If you don’t manage to get the help you need via your doctor or your child’s school, have a look at this Getting Help Guide by Young Minds (for UK parents only).
Anger is a complex and challenging emotion that can be difficult for children to manage and understand.
An anger thermometer is a great way for young people to track and understand their anger levels in real-time or retrospectively.
Even young kids can use a simplified scale successfully with adult support.
By using an anger thermometer, they can identify patterns in their anger and work to find healthy ways to manage it. The anger thermometer printable pdf is a valuable tool in the journey towards better managing and understanding emotions.
Try to use a range of different techniques alongside the anger thermometer scale to increase your child’s insight and awareness.
In particular, if you can incorporate fun activities for emotion regulation into daily life, your child will be progressing in their anger management skills without feeling bad or ashamed about their anger.
Dr Lucy Russell is a UK clinical psychologist who works with children and families. Her work involves both therapeutic support and autism assessments. She is the Clinical Director of Everlief Child Psychology, and also worked in the National Health Service for many years.
In 2019 Lucy launched They Are The Future, a support website for parents of school-aged children. Through TATF Lucy is passionate about giving practical, manageable strategies to parents and children who may otherwise struggle to find the support they need.
Lucy is a mum to two teenage children. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, children, rescue dog and three rescue cats. She enjoys caravanning and outdoor living, singing and musical theatre.
To learn more tips for helping your child manage stress, join my Facebook group, Parent Tips For Positive Child Mental health UK.