Raising a child with anger issues can be challenging at times. There is no warning when anger will escalate or even what will trigger a meltdown. Here’s how you can help your child with anger issues.
It is important to recognize what triggers anger. I found that observing children and taking mental or written notes as to what caused an outburst, can predict who, what and why your child may react angrily to a situation.
Use the 3 W’s: With whom were they angry, with what were they angry or what caused the anger and why were they angry? Through these observations, I found out my child consistently was angry if his expectations were crumbled, when he was denied what he wanted, his opinion or idea wasn’t validated and if he felt something was unfair.
Once you understand the Who, What, Why, then you can determine the situations in which your child’s behavior might escalate.
These insights will help you prevent future meltdowns by identifying scenarios that your child will react to negatively. Then, you have the chance to prevent the meltdown by avoiding the scenario all together, or talking about it and managing you and your child’s expectations.
Try to react in the same way each time your child has an angry outburst. A family therapist recommends that parents “Do not get into a yelling match or challenge your child.” Whenever your child gets angry, stay clam. Believe me I know this can be hard. I know that your first reaction is to yell, try to explain the reasoning or to calm the situation.
“BUT I want to go to the park. Everybody is going to be there. You are the meanest parent there is and I hate you!” Your child continues yelling and now is kicking and screaming and who knows what else.
Don’t allow yourself to enter into the argument. Stay calm and do not react, then your child will most likely begin to calm down as well… it may take a while and a lot of willpower to ignore this, but just remember the old saying, “Don’t add fuel to the fire!”
Once your child is calm, discuss the reasons you do not want them to go to the park and determine together if this is a big deal or a small deal. Try to stay consistent with your child and do not give in and say, “Just go to the park!” If you give in, your child will know if they scream long enough, you will give into the anger and voila…you have lost every future “battle.”
When your child understands that anger outbursts are not going to work, then you are ahead of the game.
When all is calm, discuss how the situation could have been handled differently. Talk together about what can be done the next time this happens? Now, I never said this would be easy, but if you are consistent with not getting into the argument and waiting until your child is calm to discuss the situation, you will see results…eventually.
Set a Clear Understanding
Your child needs to understand the difference between healthy ways to show anger and negative anger outbursts, which may cause hurtful behavior.
Once this is understood, then you can determine consequences for undesirable behaviors. You do NOT want to create consequences for the emotion of anger, but rather the negative behavior that resulted from the outburst.
Again be proactive and remind your child of the consequences of displaying anger in an inappropriate way. For example, Let’s say, in a fit of anger, your child stomps upstairs to the bedroom to take a break. In my opinion this display of emotion is a normal way to self-regulate anger.
However, if your child stomps up the stairs, throws a vase and glass spatters everywhere, then the behavior needs a consequence. The key word is behavior.
If my children were angry and broke something out of anger – and believe this did happen more than once – then they fixed it or used their allowance or birthday money to purchase a new object. When feelings were hurt because they used inappropriate language, then they did something to “fix” the broken feelings and they made an effort to react differently when faced with that same situation in the future. The “punishment fit the crime.”
Also be reminded again that the consequences are for the behavior not the emotion. It is how your child expresses the anger. You do not want your child to think that feeling angry is wrong.
For example if a child curses at you, then give a consequence for the behavior of cursing, not for feeling angry. Remember in life, there are natural consequences for our negative behaviors and it is important for children to learn this at a young age.
Support Healthy Strategies to Manage Anger
Giving your child strategies to deal with anger or positive ways to let anger out is a lifelong skill that will promote getting along with others as well as becoming good citizens. So, here are some ideas that can be used to support your child in letting his/her anger out in a better way:
- Model: Parents should model healthy ways to express anger and demonstrate what they want their children to do –such as taking time out when we (parents) are angry, asking assertively for what we want and by finding an appropriate outlet for physical energy.”
- Exercise: Take a walk, run, shoot baskets, or simply pace back and forth while thinking through the situation. I remember one time my son was so mad with me about a situation that he walked 5 miles to get home and refused to get in the car. I did not get into the argument. I simply drove home and circled a few times to make sure he was okay. These were the days of no cell phones. By the time he got home, he was calmer and we were able to talk about the situation.
- Take 5: Teach your child to count to 5 or 10 before reacting to a situation or simply have them take a break from the situation to regulate feelings.
- Self-Talk or Think Time: Talk to yourself. Is it a big deal or a little deal? Can I talk to my parents about this situation? Am I overreacting to the situation? Is this something I need to feel angry about? (Obviously, this is for an older child, but you can facilitate this for younger children and I have used this with first graders in my classroom).
- Pound a Pillow: Pounding a pillow to get rid of those “yucky” angry feelings can work wonders.
- Assert Yourself: Model how to state your feelings and assert your emotions with words and not actions.
- A Calm-Down Area: Provide a calm down space in your house with various objects; such as clay, blankets, stuffed animals, books and fidget toys where your child can go to calm down. I used this method in my classroom and it worked great when a child needed to deescalate anger.
- Journal: Write or jot down feelings and thoughts about emotions. This can also be used to problem solve and find solutions for what caused the anger and how to react next time.
- Playing an instrument: If your child plays and instrument, allow them to play it vigorously to let out their anger. Whenever my middle daughter felt angry, she would run upstairs to her room, close the door and play her viola aggressively…she actually broke it one time…I guess she played it a little too vigorously…but the natural consequence was she broke it so now she needed to fix it.
I never once said that raising a child with anger issues would be easy, but I do know that if you try these tips in parenting your child with anger issues, your child will have a “toolbox” of strategies to deal with anger and become his or her best self.
About the All-Star Blogger
Kathy is a retired 1st and 2nd grade looping teacher, who taught full time and part time in her hometown of Springfield, PA for 30+ years. She is wife, mom of three grown children and as of today a Mimi of three with one on the way. Kathy volunteers in her daughter’s Kindergarten Special Education classroom weekly. She loves to create educational resources for teachers, mentor new teachers, write, and maintain her blog. When she is not traveling, volunteering or creating, she can be found buying shoes, or eating chocolate… any kind of chocolate.