Anger is a normal and healthy emotion, and we all feel it at times. However, for children, it can become a more complex problem if it feels unmanageable, affects their relationships, or is expressed in an unhealthy way. As a parent, dealing with a child’s angry feelings or aggressive behavior can be very challenging, and it can have a huge impact on family life. Fortunately, there are strategies you can try to help make the situation better.
Understanding Anger in Children
There are a variety of factors that can cause us to feel angry, such as when things don’t go to plan, when we’re tired and more sensitive, or if other people hurt our feelings. Anger is a normal and healthy reaction. It is an effective way of letting others know that something is wrong. Many children find it difficult to manage their emotions, particularly anger. This is because the part of the brain that helps us learn to manage feelings appropriately doesn’t fully develop until early adulthood.
Some children struggle to put their feelings into words and will instead use their behavior to let you know how they’re feeling. Often, when children exhibit angry behavior, they are feeling other emotions underneath, such as fear, stress, hurt, sadness, or worry. Anger may also be used when a child is struggling to cope with something, such as a problem at school. Children may exhibit anger in a number of different ways, including:
- Being outwardly aggressive or acting aggressively towards others, such as shouting, hitting, or breaking things
- Being inwardly aggressive, such as hurting themselves physically (self-harming) or emotionally (being overly self-critical)
- Being passively aggressive (withdrawing, being rude or sarcastic, ignoring people, sulking)
- Physically feeling things, such as a racing heart, quicker breathing, feeling hot, tensing muscles, or clenching fists
- Being easily irritated, seeming tense, or unable to relax
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
Responding To An Angry Child
Dealing with an angry child appropriately can be challenging, but it is important to try and respond to their behavior in the right way to help them learn to manage their feelings better. Here are some tips to follow:
- Remain calm. Losing your temper will often only escalate the situation.
- Separate your child’s feelings from their behavior. It is normal to experience different feelings, including anger, but certain behavior is not acceptable, such as hitting.
- Avoid asking your child a lot of questions when they feel angry or upset. Acknowledge they are upset, and let them know that you are here to listen when they’re ready.
- Let them have space and time to calm down, if appropriate and safe to do so.
- Keep consistent boundaries and consequences, so they understand that aggressive behavior is not acceptable.
Helping Your Child Manage Their Anger
It can take time and patience to help your child express their feelings in a constructive way. There are strategies you can use to help them:
- Choose an appropriate time to talk to your child about how they are feeling (not when they are angry). Try to explore the root cause of the anger and help them put their feelings into words. This can help them gain a better understanding of their feelings and to feel less overwhelmed by them, resulting in less destructive behavior.
- If your child does not want to talk, try to find different ways to help them feel more comfortable communicating. This could involve writing a letter, texting, or talking whilst doing an activity together that they enjoy, such as baking cupcakes or going for a walk.
- Although your child may seem angry, underneath, they may feel scared or upset. Try to offer support and find solutions to the source of the problem.
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Reinforce that you care and understand how they feel, and try to help them learn ways to express themselves in other, more positive ways.
- Help your child to recognize triggers, such as raised heart rate or sweaty palms, so they can learn to diffuse their anger before it escalates.
- Help your child find more constructive ways to channel their anger, such as playing sport, exercising, or throwing and catching a ball. Relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, drawing and coloring, and listening to music, can also help children unwind and relax.
- Lead by example and try to model expected behavior. Children learn through those around them, and if they see you getting angry regularly, your child will think this is normal and acceptable behavior. If you do lose your temper, ensure you respond appropriately by apologizing and explaining why you were upset.
Seek Professional Support
Don’t struggle alone. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior or their mood, there is support available to help. Your pediatrician can provide a wealth of knowledge around different issues that affect children. They can advise you on what type of support is best to help your child and family. Developmental pediatricians have the experience and skill to provide the medical and psychological support children and their families need to help them deal with problems such as anger management.
Sometimes, prolonged episodes of anger, irritability, or sadness may be a sign of a more serious condition such as depression or anxiety, which may require specialist medical care.
Pediatric Anger Management in Palm Harbor, Trinity, Westchase and Lutz, Florida
If your child has anger management issues, visit Children’s Medical Center for caring and compassionate support. Our experienced developmental pediatricians provide medical and psychological care that families need to tackle behavioral problems.
At the Children’s Medical Center, we provide comprehensive pediatric healthcare for patients aged newborn to 18 years and are dedicated to providing the highest quality care. To learn more about our behavioral and development services, contact us at a location near you in Palm Harbor, Trinity, Westchase, and Lutz. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our developmental pediatricians using our secure online appointment request form.