Anger is a normal emotion in both children and adults, but anger issues in children may indicate a bigger underlying problem.
Every child will have the occasional temper tantrum or outburst. Some children may even lash out in frustration. Whilst it can be hard to manage these situations, it is worth remembering that most children are angry because they haven’t developed the necessary language or analysis skills to express what is upsetting them. These skills will develop over time and as a result, tantrums should become less frequent as children get older. However, this may not be the case if we are talking about anger issues in children.
Even though some displays of anger are normal in children, it is worth assessing the frequency and extremity of each angry outburst. Repeated violent outbursts with no obvious trigger may indicate anger issues in children that should be looked into.
Particular attention should be paid to children who are physically aggressive during an angry episode.
There are several warning signs of anger issues in children.
- Having a tantrum
The first being the age in which they are having a tantrum. Most kids are expected to have angry outbursts up until about eight years old. After this, most children have developed other ways of expressing frustration.
- Hurting themselves or others
Secondly, the level of risk is important to consider. If the child is at risk of physically hurting themselves or others around them then there could be some underlying anger issues that need to be resolved.
- Problems at school
Thirdly, if angry outbursts are disrupting a child’s education, then there are issues that need to be resolved. Teachers are often well equipped at spotting anger problems due to the volume of children they manage on a daily basis. If they single out your child’s behaviour as being ‘out of the norm’ then it is worth listening to. This can be difficult advice to receive but is well worth investing in.
The root of anger issues in children
Spotting signs of anger issues in children is one thing, but analysing the root of the problem is another. This process can be time-consuming and sometimes upsetting for parents. But it is worth pursuing the good of the family in the long run. Try not to play the blame game here and accept responsibility if you think you could be contributing to your child’s developing anger issues.
Common causes for anger issues often start at home. The phrase ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ may resonate here. If children are around family members who are displaying lots of anger, they are likely to mimic them. If a child listens to arguments on a daily basis, they may internalise this as a normal means of communicating.
Children will often directly repeat phrases they’ve heard from their parents. Teachers are good at observing this behaviour and should alert parents or guardians if they hear alarming phrases from a child.
Another environment that can foster anger issues is school. If a child is being bullied then they are more likely to develop anger issues. Children often find bullying hard to talk about because they are embarrassed or scared of the consequences. As a result, anger can build up over time.
On the other hand, anger issues may be less to do with external environments and more to do with internal forces. As children grow and develop they experience rushes of new hormones. These chemical changes could have a lot to do with why a child is angry.
The developments happening within their bodies are powerful and can lead to uncontrollable mood swings and angry outbursts.
How to deal with anger issues in children
Whatever the reason behind a child’s potential anger issues, it’s important to be equipped to deal with their behaviour. Letting your child know that you’re on the same team as them is a good start and you may think about employing the below techniques to help:
- Encourage a child to count to ten when they start feeling angry. This will slow down their heart rate and help suppress an outburst.
- Teach your child how to breathe deeply. Like counting, focusing on breathing is a great way to reduce the heart rate and control a potential tantrum.
- Give positive feedback. Praise a child when they control their emotions and don’t react in an angry manner.
More generally, monitor your own behaviour around your children. Remember that they are learning from you every day. If you can’t control your own anger, then you cannot expect your children too. If you find that a child’s anger issues show no signs of reducing over time, consider visiting a professional for help.
There is a percentage of children who suffer from conditions such as ADHD that impact the way they express anger. A medical professional can help diagnose this and provide treatment if necessary.
By Ruth N.