Anger is a normal and useful emotion. It can tell children when things are not fair or right.
But anger can become a problem if a child's angry behaviour becomes out of control or aggressive.
Why is your child so angry?
There are lots of reasons why your child may seem more angry than other children, including:
seeing other family members arguing or being angry with each other
being bullied – the Anti-Bullying Alliance has information on bullying
struggling with schoolwork or exams
feeling very stressed, anxious or fearful about something
coping with hormone changes during puberty
It may not be obvious to you or your child why they're feeling angry. If that's the case, it's important to help them work out what might be causing their anger.
Read our tips on talking to children about feelings.
Tackle anger together
Team up with your child to help them deal with their anger. This way, you let your child know that the anger is the problem, not them.
With younger children, this can be fun and creative. Give anger a name and try drawing it – for example, anger can be a volcano that eventually explodes.
How you respond to anger can influence how your child responds to anger. Making it something you tackle together can help you both.
Help your child spot the signs of anger
Being able to spot the signs of anger early can help your child make more positive decisions about how to handle it.
Talk about what your child feels when they start to get angry. For example, they may notice that:
their heart beats faster
their muscles tense
they clench their teeth
they make a fist
their stomach churns
Anger tips for your child
Work together to try to find out what triggers the anger. Talk about helpful strategies for managing anger.
You could encourage your child to:
count to 10
walk away from the situation
breathe slowly and deeply
clench and unclench their fists to ease tension
talk to a trusted person
go to a private place to calm down
If you see the early signs of anger in your child, say so. This gives them the chance to try their strategies.
Encourage regular active play and exercise
Staying active can be a way to reduce or stop feelings of anger. It can also be a way to improve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression,
For older children or young people, this could be simple activities, such as:
a short walk
jogging or running
Read more about physical activity for children and young people.
Positive feedback is important. Praise your child's efforts and your own efforts, no matter how small.
This will build your child's confidence in their ability to manage their anger. It will also help them feel that you're both learning together.
When to seek help for anger in children
If you're concerned your child's anger is harmful to them or people around them, you could talk to a:
If necessary, a GP may refer your child to a local children and young people's mental health service (CYPMHS) for specialist help.
CYPMHS is used as a term for all services that work with children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional or behavioural wellbeing.
You may also be able to refer your child yourself without seeing a GP.
Read more about accessing mental health services.
Further help and support for anger in children
For more support with anger in children, you could phone the YoungMinds parents' helpline free on 0808 802 5544 (9. 30am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday).
Other sources of help and support include:
YoungMinds: parent's guide to responding to anger
YoungMinds: information for children about dealing with anger
MindEd for families: anger and aggression in children
If you have older children, find out more about talking to teenagers and coping with your teenager.
The Health for Teens website also has more about anger management
Page last reviewed: 11 February 2020 Next review due: 11 February 2023
Anger Management for Kids & How to Deal With Anger
When a child—even a small child—melts down and becomes aggressive, they can pose a serious risk to themselves and others, including parents and siblings.
It’s not uncommon for kids who have trouble handling their emotions to lose control and direct their distress at a caregiver, screaming and cursing, throwing dangerous objects, or hitting and biting. It can be a scary, stressful experience for you and your child, too. Children often feel sorry after they’ve worn themselves out and calmed down.
So what are you to do?
It’s helpful to first understand that behavior is communication. A child who is so overwhelmed that they are lashing out is a distressed child. They don’t have the skill to manage their feelings and express them in a more mature way. They may lack language, or impulse control, or problem-solving abilities.
Sometimes parents see this kind of explosive behavior as manipulative. But kids who lash out are usually unable to handle frustration or anger in a more effective way—say, by talking and figuring out how to achieve what they want.
Nonetheless, how you react when a child lashes out has an effect on whether they will continue to respond to distress in the same way, or learn better ways to handle feelings so they don’t become overwhelming. Some pointers:
Stay calm. Faced with a raging child, it’s easy to feel out of control and find yourself yelling at them. But when you shout, you have less chance of reaching them. Instead, you will only be making them more aggressive and defiant. As hard as it may be, if you can stay calm and in control of your own emotions, you can be a model for your child and teach them to do the same thing.
Don’t give in. Don’t encourage them to continue this behavior by agreeing to what they want in order to make it stop.
Praise appropriate behavior. When they have calmed down, praise them for pulling themselves together. And when they do try to express their feelings verbally, calmly, or try to find a compromise on an area of disagreement, praise them for those efforts.
Help them practice problem-solving skills. When your child is not upset is the time to help them try out communicating their feelings and coming up with solutions to conflicts before they escalate into aggressive outbursts. You can ask them how they feel, and how they think you might solve a problem.
Time outs and reward systems. Time outs for nonviolent misbehavior can work well with children younger than 7 or 8 years old. If a child is too old for time outs, you want to move to a system of positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior—points or tokens toward something they want.
Avoid triggers. Vasco Lopes, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, says most kids who have frequent meltdowns do it at very predictable times, like homework time, bedtime, or when it’s time to stop playing, whether it’s Legos or the Xbox. The trigger is usually being asked to do something they don’t like, or to stop doing something they do like. Time warnings (“we’re going in 10 minutes”), breaking tasks down into one-step directions (“first, put on your shoes”), and preparing your child for situations (“please ask to be excused before you leave Grandma’s table”) can all help avoid meltdowns.
What kind of tantrum is it?
How you respond to a tantrum also depends on its severity. The first rule in handling nonviolent tantrums is to ignore them as often as possible, since even negative attention, like telling the child to stop, can be encouraging.
But when a child is getting physical, ignoring is not recommended since it can result in harm to others as well as your child. In this situation, Dr. Lopes advises putting the child in a safe environment that does not give them access to you or any other potential rewards.
If the child is young (usually 7 or younger), try placing them in a time out chair. If they won’t stay in the chair, take them to a backup area where they can calm down on their own without anyone else in the room. Again, for this approach to work there shouldn’t be any toys or games in the area that might make it rewarding.
Your child should stay in that room for one minute, and must be calm before they are allowed out. Then they should come back to the chair for time out. “What this does is gives your child an immediate and consistent consequence for their aggression and it removes all access to reinforcing things in their environment,” explains Dr. Lopes.
If you have an older child who is being aggressive and you aren’t able to carry them into an isolated area to calm down, Dr. Lopes advises removing yourself from their vicinity. This ensures that they are not getting any attention or reinforcement from you and keeps you safe. In extreme instances, it may be necessary to call 911 to ensure your and your child’s safety.
Help with behavioral techniques
If your child is doing a lot of lashing out—enough that it is frequently frightening you and disrupting your family—it’s important to get some professional help. There are good behavioral therapies that can help you and your child get past the aggression, relieve your stress and improve your relationship. You can learn techniques for managing their behavior more effectively, and they can learn to rein in disruptive behavior and enjoy a much more positive relationship with you.
Parent-child interaction therapy. PCIT has been shown to be very helpful for children between the ages of 2 and 7. The parent and child work together through a set of exercises while a therapist coaches parents through an ear bud. You learn how to pay more attention to your child’s positive behavior, ignore minor misbehaviors, and provide consistent consequences for negative and aggressive behavior, all while remaining calm.
Parent Management Training. PMT teaches similar techniques as PCIT, though the therapist usually works with parents, not the child.
Collaborative and Proactive Solutions. CPS is a program based on the idea that explosive or disruptive behavior is the result of lagging skills rather than, say, an attempt to get attention or test limits. The idea is to teach children the skills they lack to respond to a situation in a more effective way than throwing a tantrum.
Figuring out explosive behavior
Tantrums and meltdowns are especially concerning when they occur more often, more intensely, or past the age in which they’re developmentally expected—those terrible twos up through preschool. As a child gets older, aggression becomes more and more dangerous to you, and the child. And it can become a big problem for them at school and with friends, too.
If your child has a pattern of lashing out it may be because of an underlying problem that needs treatment. Some possible reasons for aggressive behavior include:
ADHD: Kids with ADHD are frustrated easily, especially in certain situations, such as when they’re supposed to do homework or go to bed.
Anxiety: An anxious child may keep their worries secret, then lash out when the demands at school or at home put pressure on them that they can’t handle. Often, a child who “keeps it together” at school loses it with one or both parents.
Undiagnosed learning disability: When your child acts out repeatedly in school or during homework time, it could be because the work is very hard for them.
Sensory processing issues: Some children have trouble processing the information they are taking in through their senses. Things like too much noise, crowds and even “scratchy” clothes can make them anxious, uncomfortable, or overwhelmed. That can lead to actions that leave you mystified, including aggression.
Autism: Children on all points of the spectrum are often prone to major meltdowns when they are frustrated or faced with unexpected change. They also often have sensory issues that make them anxious and agitated.
Given that there are so many possible causes for emotional outbursts and aggression, an accurate diagnosis is key to getting the help you need. You may want to start with your pediatrician. They can rule out medical causes and then refer you to a specialist. A trained, experienced child psychologist or psychiatrist can help determine what, if any, underlying issues are present.
When behavioral plans aren’t enough
Professionals agree, the younger you can treat a child, the better. But what about older children and even younger kids who are so dangerous to themselves and others, behavioral techniques aren’t enough to keep them, and others around them, safe?
Medication. Medication for underlying conditions such as ADHD and anxiety may make your child more reachable and teachable. Kids with extreme behavior problems are often treated with antipsychotic medications like Risperdal or Abilify. But these medications should be partnered with behavioral techniques.
Holds. Parent training may, in fact, include learning how to use safe holds on your child, so that you can keep both them and yourself out of harm’s way.
Residential settings. Children with extreme behaviors may need to spend time in a residential treatment facility, sometimes, but not always, in a hospital setting. There, they receive behavioral and, most likely, pharmaceutical treatment. Therapeutic boarding schools provide consistency and structure round the clock, seven days a week. The goal is for the child to internalize self-control so they can come back home with more appropriate behavior with you and the world at large.
Day treatment. With day treatment, a child with extreme behavioral problems lives at home but attends a school with a strict behavioral plan. Such schools should have trained staff prepared to safely handle crisis situations.
Explosive children need calm, confident parents
It can be challenging work for parents to learn how to handle an aggressive child with behavioral approaches, but for many kids it can make a big difference. Parents who are confident, calm, and consistent can be very successful in helping children develop the skills they need to regulate their own behavior.
This may require more patience and willingness to try different techniques than you might with a typically developing child, but when the result is a better relationship and happier home, it’s well worth the effort.
Video Resources for Kids
Teach your kids mental health skills with video resources from The California Healthy Minds, Thriving Kids Project.
Do not suppress, but control: how to curb parental anger
Anastasia Agarkova Author
Photo by Getty Images
Even the best parents can feel anger towards their child. Hiding and suppressing our emotions, we teach the child the same. Anastasia Agarkova, a psychologist at SOS Children's Villages, explains why this is wrong and shares tips on how to learn to control your anger so as not to harm your child
According to the study of 2019, which was conducted by the National Institute for Child Welfare, about 45% of Russians tend to justify and / or use physical punishment of children, 68% consider it acceptable to use “soft” forms of physical punishment (slap and slap are not considered as "abuse" of the child), about a third oppose the prohibition of physical punishment, 25% of parents resorted to punishment with a belt in their practice.
“But any action always has witnesses — these are things that surround children at home,” says the description of the Talking Objects campaign, which is launched on June 1, International Children's Day, by the SOS Children's Villages charity organization. “We taught objects to speak because children are silent about it,” is the slogan of the campaign. Stories on behalf of objects that have witnessed child abuse are told by Konstantin Khabensky, Nonna Grishaeva, Nikita Kukushkin and others.
The project page contains useful information for parents and expert comments, including on the topic of controlling parental anger. The author of the idea and director: Maxim Kolyshev, the finalist of the "Can Lions" and the creative director of an advertising agency of socially oriented marketing.
The causes of anger in parents are understandable. With the advent of a child, the familiar world of an adult changes, his comfort zone shifts, a new social status and new roles appear: father and mother. Now the whole life of parents is concentrated on the child. And as the children grow older, the tension of adults who live in a monotonous world of the same actions increases.
The generation of anger begins with irritation and dissatisfaction - feelings of lighter and not always noticed emotions in everyday fuss. When a parent is angry with a child, he begins to struggle with guilt. “I’m a bad mother,” “I can’t cope,” “I shouldn’t react like this,” “there’s something wrong with me,” all these thoughts cause even more pain and lead to an increase in emotional load. This is superimposed on the usual fatigue, depression, lack of support and help, there is a risk of going into a state of uncontrollable rage. What to do?
The first step is to separate adequate aggression from displaced aggression. Ask yourself: why did you experience such strong feelings of anger? Are there any other problems that are not directly related to the child's behavior? Perhaps you do not have enough attention or support from your partner - and part of this tension is redirected to the child?
It is important to remember that the child's actions are not intended to piss off the parent. A small person is always frightened and traumatized by the rage on the part of an adult. And he definitely does not count on such a reaction, trying to get your attention.
You need to allow yourself adequate anger and irritation. This is an absolutely normal and natural process for every person. By forbidding ourselves to be angry, we suppress an important part of ourselves and may not notice how the cup of patience overflows and an emotional explosion occurs.
In a moment of anger
A good way to allow yourself to feel angry is to:
Do not hold back the feeling that has arisen and do not hide it from yourself in the first place.
Take a break and cut contact with your child. It is very important to tell him honestly that you need to calm down and get back to normal. This is the act of a truly mature person, responsible for his experiences. In addition, you will set a great example for your child: feelings are different, they arise, and they can be recognized and accepted.
Change your surroundings: take some time to focus on yourself and your bodily sensations. Breathe without holding your breath and put your hand on your stomach to help him relax.
If possible, breathe fresh air or wash your face with cool water. A few squats or jumps will also help you feel in your body again and disperse energy through it.
With strong emotions such as rage, it is natural to want to express them physically. They will help to discharge and throw out aggression by hitting the pillow with fists or sharp actions with paper (for example, tearing a newspaper to shreds).
Those experiences that remain after active exercises can be written on a piece of paper. Formulate their cat: "I'm angry because ...", "I'm angry that ...".
When you feel that you have regained control over yourself, be sure to discuss what happened with your child. Tell him what made you angry or offended, how exactly you got these feelings. And be sure to tell him that you did not want to scare him or hurt him.
“Most of all, I am afraid that children will not forget how to cry with happiness”: Irina Antonova’s rules of life
Art therapy prophylaxis
The art therapy method helps a lot, which will secure the situation. With its help, you can completely immerse yourself in your experiences and thereby prevent future outbursts of anger at the child. Do it while in solitude and tranquility. You will need a sheet of paper (A4 or A5) and jars of gouache in different colors.
Think about your anger, imagine it. What color and shape is it? What comes to your mind when you think about anger? What is she?
Now feel free to dip your fingers in paint and draw your anger. It is very important to draw with your fingers, you can even use your whole palm. This is how the drawing will become a continuation of you, conveying all your emotions as much as possible. When you finish the picture, look at it and try to track the feelings that arose during this acquaintance with your own anger.
Now you can do what you want with your anger (sheet with a picture). Listen to your body and it will tell you the answer. Do whatever you want: tear, trample or drown in water.
Thus, by taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to be angry safely for others, you will feel a pleasant relief, as well as gain experience in living and managing feelings of anger.
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7 tips for parents who can't handle anger
The whims, disobedience, accidental and deliberate misconduct of a child - there are a lot of things that can anger even the most patient parent. There is probably not a single person who has never experienced anger towards his own children. What is this emotion, is it so terrible, how to deal with it? Let's figure it out together with psychologist Svetlana Pyatnitskaya.
Svetlana Pyatnitskaya, preschool teacher, child and perinatal psychologist, author of educational programs for preschool children
Why anger is normal
Some parents are ashamed of being angry with their own children. Instead of dealing with it, they forbid themselves to experience anger and do not give it an outlet. Over time, when irritation accumulates, an explosion can occur.
The first thing to understand is that it is natural for a person to react to what is happening around him by experiencing various emotions. And they are not negative and bad. They either help us to act effectively in each specific situation, or they hinder us.
It is important to learn to recognize different emotions in yourself, including anger, to allow yourself to experience them: this is the only way to manage them. When you understand the true motives of your anger, realize what exactly caused it, it is easier for you to contain it or express it in a way that does not hurt your child. And this awareness will also help you not feel like a bad parent who experiences the “wrong” emotions. This skill is developed gradually, with simple actions.
How to learn to accept anger
Did your child get naughty, naughty, break a vase, or get another F? Remember all the things in his behavior that make you angry, and do this simple exercise. Take a piece of paper, write down and continue these sentences: “It annoys me ...”, “It annoys me that ...”, “I am angry ...”, “It infuriates me ...”, “I feel angry because ...”, “I I hate ... "," I am covered with rage when ... ".
Our brain is designed in such a way that any change in our emotional state causes our body to react. This exercise contributes to the actualization of sensation at the bodily level. And this, in turn, helps to recognize that there are situations in which we experience anger.
Did you have any discomfort while doing the exercise? And where do you "hurt"? Put your palm there and start breathing slowly through your nose, exhale through your mouth. With each new breath, you can feel how the unpleasant sensation in the indicated part of the body grows larger and larger, gradually growing to the size of the whole body: “I feel anger. I allow myself to experience it. I accept anger. I accept it and realize it." Gradually, the discomfort will pass. After all, when you admit to yourself that you have the right to experience anger - and this is normal, then its intensity will decrease.
How to cope with anger and not harm the child
What to do if you are ready to take it out on the baby, regardless of the seriousness of his offense, and even more so if the outburst of emotions has already occurred?
When we are very angry, we cannot think logically, but we are able to act in the heat of the moment. Think about what can stop you in such a situation? A memory of how scary it was when you were scolded as a child? The kind of baby that causes pity? These images will help you cool your ardor and control yourself.
Think of an action that will help switch your attention. Cut off contact with the child. Change the environment: go out into the fresh air or at least onto the balcony. Wash off with cold water. Call a person who won't judge you. Swear several times. Crumple and tear the newspaper into small pieces. Inhale through your nose to a count of seven, exhale through your mouth to a count of eleven. This exercise will help you "reset" the nervous system.
Postpone an important decision
Try not to threaten or label your child. “You will sit at home during the holidays”, “I will take your tablet away from you”, “What a fool you are!” or even "You are a disgrace to the family" - refrain from such words, no matter what your child has done. You can tell him that you decide what to do with him when you come to your senses. So you serve as an example for him: anger can and should be dealt with constructively, and an adult is able not to chop off his shoulder.
Listen to your body
Switch to your bodily sensations by placing your hand on the part of the body where anger is felt most strongly. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Deal with the situation together
When you are sure you have calmed down, talk to your child. Explain to him what exactly made you lose your temper: “You were playing next to the road, I was scared for you”, “You are skipping swimming lessons, I was offended that you were deceiving me”, “You broke this cup, and she broke me was very dear as a memory, I was upset.” Be sure to tell the child that you did not want to scare him, hurt him with your behavior.
Do you notice that you have become touchy, irritable, do not hold back your anger and easily lash out at others, scold your child for the most insignificant trifles? Perhaps you are close to a state of emotional burnout. How to help yourself? First of all, you need to understand what you need to be in shape: enough sleep, light physical activity, the opportunity to retire with a book? If your condition is associated with fatigue, with a lack of time for yourself, try to delegate some of the responsibilities.