The Anger Management Toolbox

Health Mentors are pioneering inventions to have an even greater impact on pupils’ wellbeing and they love to share best practice. In this post Kim Haynes shares the ideas behind her Anger Management Toolbox. 
Evolve Kim HaynesKim  (pictured left) joined Evolve in October 2015 with a BSc in Sports Therapy (Hons) from the University of Worcester. She is a Health Mentor at Summerhill Primary School in Tipton, West Midlands, where she created the Anger Management Toolbox to help pupils manage their own anger issues. Kim showcased this tool at the last Evolve Conference. We catch up with her here to find out more about how it works and further developments.
What do you love most about being a Health Mentor?
No day is the same, but every day I know I am having a positive impact when a child’s face lights up. Even small things like just saying ‘hello’ to a child can make a huge difference, whilst a mentoring session in the classroom or an after-school club can trigger a turning point for a better future.
What was the inspiration behind the development of the Anger Management Toolbox?
There are several children in school who lash out or self-harm when they are angry and we wanted to find techniques we could give them to control their anger. I went on a course to learn about anger management and the idea for the toolbox came from a brief description there.
How did you develop this?
Myself and fellow Health Mentors Oli Zaki and Naomi Lewis researched the idea of creating a kit consisting of anger management activities, with calming strategies to diffuse difficult situations and to give children the tools to deal with emotional upsets and feelings of anger. It was crucial to adapt these specifically for the needs of individual children, get to know the child and let them lead throughout.
How does the toolbox work?
The child chooses items to go in the toolbox and photographs of favourite things to decorate it. This could be physical items like a stressball, fiddle toy or glitter bottle to calm them.
Evolve anger scaleAn Anger Scale (left) is stuck on the inside lid, with five points to help the children understand what happens physically and emotionally when they get angry, and what action they should take. For example, jumping around could indicate feelings of anger and a colouring activity can help.
What does the box contain?
It has physical, relaxation, thinking, social and special interest tools (physical: kicking a ball; relaxation: breathing exercises; social: anger diary; thinking objects such as pictures to change the child’s emotions; special Interest: puzzles or books).
What example can you give us?
Our first child to use the toolbox was a pupil who ran away and hid when he was upset or angry. We set up a safe place for him to take his box instead of running away. A reading corner or quiet area would be suitable. It was so effective that within six months he stopped his flight response. Six children have used their own bespoke toolbox so far.
Any challenges or issues to be aware of?
It is important that the toolbox is not used to reward negative behaviour or as a treat when the child is not really upset. We create the box with the child and they sign a contract. Most pupils don’t misuse it; they are honest and want to control their anger. An alternative strategy, when a child needs to calm down or is disturbing others, is to give them a fiddle toy whilst they are still participating in class.

Any other tips or advice?
The toolbox may not work at first. Keep talking and communicating with the child, so you can adapt the toolbox together and find a way to make it work.
Any news about the Anger Management Toolbox since your presentation at conference in August last year?
I had an inquiry from one Health Mentor after I shared it with staff. I am delighted that teachers are finding it a useful tool and use it if the need arises when we are not around.
That’s great news. Any feedback from teachers you can share?
One of the Summerhill School teachers who uses a toolbox said: “I thought the toolbox was a great idea, as it helped with calming a child I work with in a classroom environment.”
And Oli Zaki, a Health Mentor who helps set up the boxes in school, said: “The toolboxes have helped children take responsibility for their emotions by giving them strategies and the results have been profound.”
How can Health Mentors and teachers develop an Anger Management Toolbox?
I am happy to share my presentation. Please email me at kimberley.haynes@evolvesi.com
You can follow Kim on twitter @kim_evolve16