I Think My Child Has Anger Issues
More often than not, anger outbursts in children happen because they don’t know how to deal with their frustration or manage other uncomfortable feelings. As a child, they haven’t acquired the emotional problem-solving ability to prevent them from getting upset.
Anger may be a symptom of broader developmental issues, but in any case, learning the right parenting techniques can be immensely helpful for calming your child down. In fact, equipping your child with the right ways to deal with intense emotions should be the first thing you try before jumping to conclusions about anger issues.
- What is Anger?
- Signs that your Child has Anger Issues
- What Causes Anger Issues in Children?
- How to Deal with Anger Issues
- Where to Get Help
- How a Psychologist Can Help
- Ways to treat child anger issues
What is Anger?
Anger is an intense and sometimes overpowering emotion that is familiar to all of us.
Knowing how to manage anger and express anger in the right ways can help you channel that emotion into productive outlets. Still, most kids lack the emotional maturity to deal with these difficult emotions and their lack of control can often lead to temper tantrums or aggressive outbursts.
However, most children exhibit these behaviours because they may not feel safe expressing how they are feeling. Perhaps they haven’t developed the self-control to deal with difficult emotions at their age.
It is important that parents provide their children with a safe environment to speak up about their emotions. With younger kids in particular, parents should look to support them with strategies that can help them stay calm whilst expressing their anger.
Normal and Healthy Anger in Children
Many young children and sometimes even older children do not understand that anger and other strong feelings are normal. This can be the case for most parents as well.
Often, small children struggle to contain their big feelings and this can lead to their emotions coming to a boiling point. Feeling angry is a perfectly normal emotion and pretending that anger doesn’t exist may encourage your child to suppress or ignore difficult emotions. Rather, this may negatively affect your child’s ability to express how they’re feeling leading to slower emotional development or problems with anger management later in life.
Find the Triggers
In younger children, the first step to helping them manage and express angry feelings is by understanding the common trigger that sets off your child’s outbursts. For example, if completing homework is a consistent issue for your child, some solutions may include talking them through what they find difficult or frustrating and helping them to break down the homework into digestible steps. If problems persist beyond expressing their anger, identifying the triggers can help you to prepare other techniques before the aggressive behaviour kicks in.
Signs That Your Child Has Anger Issues
Most children can be impatient or throw the odd tantrum when things don’t go their way. Again, there are things you can actively do to reduce the frequency and intensity of tantrums in young kids. When their misbehaviour becomes erratic and causes stress for other family members, or misbehaviour persists past their toddler/pre-school years, it may be a sign of an underlying anger issue.
Before you start panicking and googling different behavioural disorders, it’s vital to understand that each child’s personality and environment are different. For example, an older child exhibiting aggressive behaviour may not be down to anger problems, but could be due to a variety of factors such as not enough sleep, anxiety or academic stress.
With that in mind, if your child is displaying a few or all of these signs, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. Remember, seeking professional help isn’t a reflection of your parenting skills, nor should it be an embarrassing experience for your child.
Your child’s anger tantrums and outbursts are occurring past the age at which they’re developmentally expected to stop (around 7 or 8 years old). Older kids may still struggle to understand their own anger but letting their emotions consistently get the better of them could be a sign of deeper issues.
- Their behaviour is dangerous to themselves and/or others around them.
- Their behaviour is causing difficulties in their relationships with others at school. If teachers are constantly struggling to control your child or they are displaying antagonistic behaviour towards other kids, it could be a sign of oppositional defiant disorder.
- Their tantrums and defiance are causing family conflict and negatively impacting the family dynamic or home environment.
- They’re upset or frustrated at themselves because they feel like they can’t control their anger. If your child is having difficulty with self-esteem due to their inability to control their anger despite making an effort, it may be indicative of other mental health conditions.
What Causes Anger Issues in Children?
Causes for kids’ anger can be broadly characterised into 2 different categories: biological and environmental. The latter is easier to control through patient parenting and fostering a positive environment. The former can also be controlled through parenting techniques, but may require the help of a mental health professional to diagnose and assist with.
Biological factors that arouse anger in children can include:
- Temperament – Some kids are born with a more difficult temperament. This may include being more prone to anger, frustration, or both.
- Heredity – Studies have indicated that if parents have higher levels of aggression or anger, their children reflect the same attitudes when they’re exposed to difficult situations
- Neurodevelopmental disorders – Excessive anger in kids may be a surface-level symptom of other mental health conditions such as ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism or Tourette’s syndrome.
Environmental factors that arouse anger in kids include but are not limited to:
- Parenting styles and reactions – If parents react to aggressive behaviour in the wrong ways, it may reinforce negative behaviour and may present difficulties when correcting behaviour.
- Social life – If your child’s life at school is being affected by bullying or they have trouble making friends, this may result in your child being moodier or being frustrated by other aspects of life.
- Child abuse – Children who are mistreated during their developmental years are more likely to develop anger management issues later down the track. If they are constantly abused, berated, harshly criticised or face rejection at home, it can have a severe impact on their self-confidence and self-identity.
- Marital hostility – Parents serve as examples for their kids in many ways and if a child is witnessing constant angry exchanges between their parents, this may influence their ability to regulate their own emotions and ultimately, how they interact with others.
Academic performance – Many children struggle with the weight of academic expectations. These expectations may not necessarily be imposed on them by their parents but they can still induce strong feelings of anxiety or fear when they are at school. At home, these emotions may be reflected through anger, as they are struggling to deal with the overwhelming feeling of stress.
How to Deal With Anger Issues
Some simple but effective techniques to keep in mind include:
Resist and Don’t Give in
Resist the urge to end your child’s angry outbursts by giving them what they want when they blow up. By giving them what they want, you are positively enforcing that tantrums work.
Ignore (Minor) Bad Behaviour and Praise Good Behaviour
Ignore minor misbehaviour, since giving any form of attention to bad behaviour can often encourage kids to continue. Instead, be hearty and genuine in your praise of behaviours you want to encourage. For instance, “I’m proud of you for remaining calm even though you were frustrated” helps your child feel validated and sets a precedent for further attention.
Remain Calm and Consistent
As an adult, you have the capacity for emotion regulation. By remaining calm and in control of your own emotions you are setting an example for better ways of expressing anger. Harsh or angry responses tend to escalate a child’s aggression and can have a bad effect on their emotional health. Consistent consequences for specific actions such as no screen time after a tantrum will ensure that your child knows what to expect if they let their anger get the better of them.
Wait Until the Outburst is Over
Communicating with an angry child in the middle of a breakdown means it’ll be much more difficult to reason with them. A small child may also feel threatened if they are confronted during an outburst. It’s best to step back and wait until your child has some time to take a few deep breaths before applying consequences or reprimanding them.
Where to Get Help
There are plenty of places to start when seeking out help for you and your child. If you have tried to understand where their behaviour is coming from and tried to remedy them at home, finding specific help can be a good place to start.
For instance, if your child is feeling irritable due to stress from school or friendships, parents should consult teachers or school councillors to outline the cause of their child’s anger. They may also be able to provide alternatives to help your child manage their emotions more effectively.
If you don’t know where to begin entirely, a child psychologist can be a good place to identify what stimuli are leading to bad behaviour and outline the next steps necessary to help your child. If you want to know how behavioural therapy can benefit you and your child, then take a look at some of the considerations and recommendations provided by our experts at New Vision Psychology.
How a Psychologist Can Help
Anger can be a product of many different situations and circumstances. You can do the best to pinpoint what may be causing aggressive behaviour in your child and provide them with the necessary support. If you feel like you need the extra support or you feel like it’s putting a strain on your relationship with your child, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a mental health professional for advice.
How is Aggressive Behaviour in Children Diagnosed?
A psychologist can provide preliminary diagnosis on whether your child’s behaviour is stemming from anger issues, or if the anger issues are a smaller part of a larger issue such as OCD, ADHD, etc.
Professional input can help clarify sources of anger so that you and your child can feel more assured on the next steps that need to be taken. New Vision Psychology is home to psychologists who have extensive experience with counselling for children, teens and adolescents. Our psychologists draw their experience from a variety of different backgrounds, so you can feel confident that your family is in the right hands.
Ways to Treat Child Anger Issues
Research within the adolescent psychiatry sector indicates that the most successful management techniques for child anger include Parent Management Training (PMT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These methods look to integrate the entire family and help children develop social problem solving skills to prevent them from resorting to anger.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT focuses on teaching children to regulate their emotions and improve their social problem-solving at times when they are prone to aggression or frustration.
By providing children with alternative ways to keep their emotions in check, CBT allows them to develop a greater understanding of their own emotions and the steps the child can take to prevent their emotions from becoming too overwhelming.
Parental Management Training (PMT)
Although your child’s struggles may be brought about via deeper underlying issues, it can be more effective to introduce anger management strategies that allow parents and children to work together to find alternatives to defiant or aggressive behaviour.
PMT aims to improve family interactions that may be encouraging disruptive behaviour in children. It looks at how parents react and respond to undesirable behaviour and seeks to provide methods that may prove more useful in preventing that behaviour in the future.
Angry kids are still kids. They can’t be expected to change their behaviour on their own when they haven’t got the right emotional tools. That’s why it’s important for parents to be involved in the process by familiarising themselves with better ways to respond to their child’s misbehaviour.