Dealing with your child’s anger can be challenging. Managing their emotional meltdown without adding to the tense environment by becoming frustrated and angry yourself is key to deescalating the situation.
As a parent, you can’t stop your children from being angry, after all it is a normal and natural emotion that everyone experiences.
Anger is only a problem if your child’s angry behaviour becomes out of control, aggressive or destructive.
However, understanding anger, recognising signs of tension, deescalating and helping your child learn how to better manage their anger can have long term benefits for both their and your emotional wellbeing.
What is Anger?
Anger is an emotional response that occurs when a person feels frustrated, threatened, or their desires are not met. Anger is not a negative emotion, rather it is how it is expressed that matters.
Some children, particularly those who have anxiety, or who may have a developmental disability such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder, can experience more frequent and severe outbursts of anger.
Anger can be shown as a calculated response to unfair circumstances or as a sudden, impulsive reaction driven by the need for self-preservation or control.
Anger can also be internalised, with rumination or worrying, as well as physical signs such as tension, heat, racing heart and hyperventilation.
Helping children recognise and express their anger in healthy ways is essential for their emotional development.
What Is De-Escalation?
De-escalation entails addressing your child’s outburst or tantrum to regain control, diffuse tension, and restore a sense of calm.
It involves examining the events leading up to where things spiralled out of control and focusing on addressing the underlying cause of the tantrum, rather than attempting to silence your child.
It is an effective approach to managing anger because it prioritises the well-being of your child and aims to create a safe and supportive environment.
- Can help parents and caregivers identify triggers for anger, helping to prevent future angry outbursts.
- Can help build open and respectful communication – by actively listening and validating your child’s feelings you can foster a stronger connection and build trust, leading to more effective problem-solving.
- Can help teach coping mechanisms to manage emotions and navigate challenging situations. This empowers your child to develop self-regulation skills and problem-solving abilities over time.
- Used consistently, can help with long term anger management, reducing the frequency and intensity of tantrums and other angry outbursts.
De-escalation techniques help focus on understanding, empathy, and effective communication to address the root causes of anger to promote a calmer and more positive outcome for both parents and children.
Why Does Your Child Get Angry?
There are a lot of reasons your child may get angry. Sometimes, it may seem that they tend to be angrier than other children and frequently act out.
Your child’s anger may be from factors such as:
- Frustration: An inability to accomplish a task or meet their own expectations.
- Overstimulation: Feeling overwhelmed by external stimuli, such as noise or a chaotic environment.
- Powerlessness: Being unable to control a situation or feeling unheard.
- Emotional triggers: Stress, anxiety, or other emotions that can escalate into anger.
Your child may express their anger through tantrums, screaming, hitting or kicking, name calling, silent treatment or uncooperative behaviour and general defiance.
You may be able to predict when you child is likely to get angry. For example, many children struggle with managing their frustration when faced with tasks like completing homework or being asked to stop playing their favourite game.
Sitting with your child (when they’re not angry) and discussing a situation in which they predictably become angry or frustrated can help you understand their perspective and better support and guide them through challenging moments.
Psychological Aspects of Anger in Children
Understanding the psychological aspects of anger in children can provide valuable insights into their emotional well-being.
One key aspect is emotional regulation. Children may encounter difficulties in effectively managing and controlling their emotions, which can result in frequent outbursts of anger. It is important to recognise that children are still developing their emotional skills and may need guidance and support in learning how to regulate their feelings.
Communication difficulties also play a role in children’s expression of anger. When children lack the verbal skills to communicate their needs, they may resort to anger as a means of expressing frustration or dissatisfaction. In this case, parents should pay attention to alternative forms of communication such as body language, gestures, or creative outlets to help children express their emotions in healthier ways.
Another contributing factor to a child’s anger can be learned behaviour. Children often observe and mimic the anger management styles displayed by their parents or caregivers. If they witness aggressive or uncontrolled anger in their environment, they may adopt similar patterns of behaviour. Creating a nurturing and positive atmosphere that models healthy anger management strategies can help children develop healthier coping mechanisms.
Anger can also serve as a defence mechanism for children. It may be used as a means of protecting themselves from underlying feelings of vulnerability or fear. By recognising the underlying emotions that fuel their anger, parents can support children in developing better coping mechanisms and addressing the root causes of their anger.
5 Strategies to Help Your Child Cope with Anger
When your child becomes angry, there are several strategies you can use to help them deescalate:
- Stay Calm: Model calm behaviour to show your child that anger can be managed without losing control. If your child is not doing anything dangerous or harmful, ignore their meltdown, and restate your request calmly and without strong emotion.
- Validate Their Feelings: Acknowledge and validate your child’s emotions, letting them know it’s okay to feel angry. Be patient and listen – not to reply but to understand how they feel. Let them know you understand how they feel, but that their actions were not acceptable and provide an alternative way of managing their emotions. For example – ‘I understand you are angry that she took your toy without asking, but it is never okay to hit people. Next time, take some deep breaths, get some help from a trusted person to solve the problem or find a different toy to play with’.
- Teach Deep Breathing: Encourage your child to take slow, deep breaths to help them relax and regain control.
- Use Distraction Techniques: Engage your child in a different activity or redirect their attention to something positive.
- Teach Problem-Solving Skills: Help your child identify the cause of their anger and explore alternative solutions.
When to Seek Professional Help in Dealing with Your Child’s Anger
In some cases, your child’s anger may be persistent, intense or accompanied by other behavioural or emotional issues. If you observe any of the following, it may be time to seek professional help:
- Frequent and severe aggressive behaviour
- Difficulty functioning at school or in social situations
- Persistent mood swings or irritability
- Signs of depression or anxiety
- Self-harming behaviours or threats
If you would like to know more about anger management techniques for children, building parenting skills or want assistance to support your child’s emotional well-being, we can help. Contact us today to find out how we can help.