I often have panic stricken parents asking me “Does my child have anger issues?”
And my answer to this is that –
“Anger is the natural reaction of a person who is not getting what she/he wants. As we parent our children – we need to teach them to respond to situations instead of reacting to them. When we fail to teach a child this the child develops an anger issue.”
Does my child have anger issues?
If you suspect that your child has anger issues answer the following questions about child anger issue symptoms and get an objective picture of your child’s anger issue.
I recommend this test because – very often I find that when I ask parents who have come to me to consult me about an anger issue – they are unable to recall any incidents of anger in the recent past at all. Between both father and mother – they finally manage to discuss and relate one incident of anger that may have happened 6 months ago.
Now – every human being is going to get angry some time or the other. And while we want our children to sweet and polite all the time – we have to remember that they are human too. And we must not label children as “Angry” or suspect “Anger issues” in them if they get angry occasionally.
Child anger issues symptoms
Listed below are the most common symptoms of anger issues in children.
Ask yourself the following questions and give yourself
Anger issues in children test
0 – if your child never does this
1 – If your child does this rarely (once a month)
2 – If your child does this often (once a week)
3 – If your child does this all the time (every day)
- Does your child get into fights with other children and hit them
- Does your child throw or break things when angry
- Is your child difficult to calm down when angry
- Does your child use bad language and shouts when she/he doesn’t get his way
- Is your child a sore loser – does she/he cry after losing at games?
- Does your child refuse to listen to you even when you are saying something routine
- Does your child find reasons to get upset
- Does your child complain about others and blame others for happenings
- Does your child get frustrated easily when he is unable to learn something
- Is your child stubborn and difficult to convince
If you have marked yourself with a majority of 0 or 1 – your child does not have an anger issue
If you have a good number of 2 s – then your child has a normal amount of anger and needs to be taught how to respond to situations instead of reacting to them
If you have a majority of 3 s – you are probably heading towards an anger issue and need to examine your child’s environment and your response to her/his anger before you start guiding your child on how to respond to situations instead of reacting to them.
How to parent a child with anger issues?
Step 1 – Understand why your child gets angry
Anger is part of the “Fight or Flight” mechanism of our body. The fight or flight mechanism ensures that we survive dangerous situations.
When we want something and we don’t get it – it makes us unhappy. We feel like our world is collapsing and our survival is threatened. To save us and keep us alive our body goes into the fight or flight mode.
In the case of children – extreme unhappiness can come from just being told “You can’t go to the park today”.
When you say something like that, your child feels powerless and becomes very sad.
The sadness frightens your child.
Flight is not an option. Your child cannot run away because she/he knows that she/he needs the parents.
And so your child gets angry.
The other option would probably be for your child to start crying – but most children have too much pride to cry.
Step 2 – Be patient
Anger issues are more common in younger children because they have still not learned how to communicate properly.
They may not know the right words to express themselves. They may not have the physical ability and strength to do what they want to do. And they get frightened more easily because they know that they are dependent on their parents and other adults for their survival.
They get angry because they are scared and then they get scared of their own anger because they are certain that their angry outburst will make their parents angry. And that is something they are terrified of – because all they actually want is to keep their parents happy.
Step 3 – Establish firm boundaries and communicate
Our children think we know everything and always do everything right. They rely on us to keep them safe.
When we change our minds and our rules frequently – it confuses them and frightens them. They feel unsafe. And when they are afraid – instead of crying – they express themselves in anger.
It is important to establish firm boundaries and rules. It is also important for us to communicate these rules to our children frequently and with explanations about why these rules exist.
It is important to allow children to question the rules and argue against them.
If we have made the rules for real reasons and not just because we are the powerful ones in the equation – we should be able to explain why the rules exist to our children.
Expecting blind obedience is wrong and also dangerous.
Enforcing rules by sheer force – without giving an acceptable explanation will definitely lead to rebellion and further anger issues.
Tips to deal with a child with anger issues
Don’t get angry
This is the most important tip to deal with an angry child and also possibly the most difficult to employ.
When you see your child angry you feel threatened and that makes you angry.
Your anger is because of your fear of what people will say about you and how will now be called a bad parent. Your anger is also because of your fear that what people are thinking may be true and that you may actually be a bad parent.
Don’t make this about yourself.
Focus on your child. Understand that there is something that is making her/him unhappy and afraid. Figure out what that is and offer your calming presence to soothe her/his anger.
In other words – approach this in two steps. Step 1 – Listen to what your child is saying. Step 2 – Hold out your arms and grab your child in a loving hug
Also read How To Discipline A One Year Old Child
Set a good example
Of course you will get angry sometimes. But examine your anger very carefully if you have a child who gets angry often.
Your child is learning by watching you. She/he is observing what you do when you get angry and doing the same.
So ask yourself these questions – “Am I getting angry all the time?” Am I shouting and screaming and hitting when I am angry?” “Do I always have to shout and scream to get my way?”
If you find that the answers to these questions are “Yes”, then you have discovered why your child behaves the way she/he does when angry.
Find a way to change things around you so that you are not angry all the time. Find a way to get heard by the people around you without shouting and screaming. Manage your own anger without shouting and you will find that your child has learned how to manage her/his anger without shouting too
Tackle the cause of anger
Whenever a child is angry – there is always a good reason for it. The reason is unhappiness or fear.
Until you remove the cause of the unhappiness or the fear – whatever you tell your child – you just cannot calm your child down and wipe out her/his anger.
In other words – you cannot tell a child how to manage anger and expect the anger to disappear if the cause of the anger persists.
Don’t go by the obvious cause of the anger. Look for the not so obvious cause of anger and solve that.
What this means is – that if your child gets angry for no reason at all – then you need to work hard and find out the real reason.
There will definitely be a hidden cause for the anger. Of course you may not be able to figure it out yourself. Do not hesitate to reach out for expert help. I can tell you te stories of innumerable children where the cause of anger has been very different from what it seemed to be. And how they became calm sweet tempered children as soon as they were relieved of their fear or worry.
Protect – don’t punish
Children get angry when they are unhappy and afraid. At this time they need us to hold them close. They need to feel intensely connected to us.
When we punish them we are doing the exact opposite of what they need.
Even if the punishment is not physical – even if the punishment is not verbal – even if it consists of you not talking to your child. It is terrible for your child because it consists of putting distance between you and your child.
In fact – not talking to your child – leaving your child isolated and disconnected – withdrawing love from your child – is even worse than hitting your child.
Never punish a child for getting angry. Listen to your child and understand the cause of the anger. And then try to remove the cause of the anger or explain to your child what to do in a particular situation instead of getting angry and hitting and shouting.
If your child is angry – do NOT give her him a “time out”
Understand that your child is afraid and unhappy. Because she/he does not want to lose face by bursting into tears – she/he is exploding into anger instead.
How can it help to isolate a child and leave her/him in a corner? Does it make sense to leave a child who is afraid all alone?
When your child is angry – stay there – listen – respond with soothing words and a big hug.
Remember – when we are angry – all we want is for someone to listen to us. That is usually enough to calm us down.
Also remember that children get angry when they feel that they have to cope with everything alone. If you have a child who gets angry – don’t wait for your child to get angry before you listen to your child. Listen all the time – pay attention to everything your child says or expresses in any way. That will give you a clue as to when your child may be moving in the direction of anger and you can start talking your child ut of the anger before she/he gets angry.
Give your child power
We feel sad and afraid when we are helpless and powerless. And when we can’t cry – we start shouting with anger.
Children are powerless. They are dependent on us for almost everything. They cannot do anything on their own. And they have to always do what we want them to do or risk making us very angry.
This can be very frustrating and can make anyone angry.
Give your child some power. Let her/him make some decisions.
Don’t constantly make your child obey all your commands and wishes. Don’t get angry and upset every time your child does not do exactly as you say.
Don’t make your love conditional to complete obedience.
And don’t threaten and bribe. That makes your child feel powerless too.
Ask your child for hr/his opinion whenever possible. That will make her/him feel powerful and ensure that she/he doesn’t get angry very often
Don’t let getting angry be the only way your child has of getting an upper hand at home.
Talk about emotions and how they feel
Pent up emotions make us feel like crying. And when our pride does not allow us to cry – we start shouting in anger.
Allow your child to express and experience her/his emotions. Let your child cry when her/his toy breaks, she/he fights with a friend, when she/he is afraid or she/he does not win in a game.
Never say things like “boys don’t cry.” Or “this is not something to be afraid of”
Once she/he has expressed her/himself the feeling of vulnerability begins to fade away.
Anger is no longer required to push those feelings down and there is no need to be angry anymore.
Give your child a safe non-judgemental space to express her/himself – and she/he will not go around exploding with anger at the slightest provocation.
Teach communication skills and problem solving
Children most often get angry because they are not getting what they want. Their frustration is what eventually leads them to explode with anger.
It is important for us to teach children how to communicate their needs to those around them.
Teach your child the right words and the right way to ask for what she/he needs.
In most cases children do not have the vocabulary to ask for what they need. It is important to teach children the right words and to right tone in which to say the words.
Teach your child to say “I am hungry” “I want to play with that toy” “I want to join that group of kids in their game”
If you don’t teach your child these expressions – she/he will be compelled to howl with hunger, grab the toy and push the children she/he wants to play with.
Never call your child “Bad boy” or “Bad girl”
Children build an image of themselves in their minds – based on what they hear us say about them and to them.
If you call your child a “bad boy” or a “bad girl” when she/he gets angry and behaves badly. She/he may begin to believe that she/he is BAD.
A child who thinks she/he is bad cannot be expected to behave well.
Understand the cause of your child’s anger and bad behaviour. And help her/him find ways to eliminate the cause of the anger and strategies to avoid getting angry and behave better. Never label your child with good or bad labels.
Also read Bad boy? Bad girl? Are you sure?
Ensure enough sleep and nutritious food
No one can behave well when they are hungry and sleep deprived. And this is even truer for children.
If you want to ensure good behavior and fewer bouts of anger, make sure that your child has slept enough and has access to healthy meals free of refined flour and sugar at the right times.
Also read How To Plan A Balanced Diet For Your Child :10 Tips
Anger cannot be stubbed out forcefully. If you want to deal anger issues in children – you need to get down to their level and understand them. Employ patience and empathy. And never hesitate to reach out for expert help. The earlier you reach out for help the easier it will be for the expert to help you
Further reading 10 tips to help your child with anger