Anger In Our Children
Anger is a complex yet natural human emotion. For children especially, anger can be hard to understand and even more difficult to manage. It is up to parents and caregivers to teach children how to handle this strong feeling.
Although it doesn’t appear positive on the surface, anger does have its benefits. It clearly tells us that we are unhappy and gives us the opportunity to correct issues that we have control of and to work through those that we do not. This is the good news! Emotions truly are the gateway to understanding ourselves.
Numerous life events could occur that may cause our children to become upset and angry. These occurrences such as when they do not get their way, or when peer conflict happens; are some examples of common reasons for anger to occur. On a more grand scale, there are several theories that exist to explain why a child may be more prone to anger. All are feasible options.
Families who are troubled by great stress that transfers to the children can cause them to be quicker to anger than others
Some families overindulge their child, and this creates a child who always wants (and demands) more. When these children don’t get their way, anger and tantrums are used in an effort to change their caregiver’s mind. Unfortunately, these parents typically give in. This only teaches children that using anger is a viable way of getting what they want in this world.
Some families use hitting and yelling. This teaches children that they can get what they want by using aggression.
Some children are violent because they don’t see any other way to handle their feelings and are unable to look ahead to see the consequences of their actions. More and more young people today are dealing with adult problems.Their minds and bodies are not ready to process these stresses and the choices that go along with these situations.
Sadly, some families treat children in an abusive or neglectful way. This results in children having unmet developmental needs. They may also have difficulty with showing empathy, making wise decisions, using appropriate social skills, and controlling their impulses.
Whatever the theory or reason, I challenge you to look beyond a child’s anger to find the primary cause of this emotion. For example: Is your child angry because he feels neglected? The feeling of neglected is what we call the primary cause for their anger. The anger itself is considered to be a secondary emotion.
Another example could include a child becoming angry at a peer when that peer spent time with a preferred friend. We know that anger is the secondary emotion. Possible primary emotions in this scenario include jealousy, feeling excluded, or even disappointment. Take a moment to look beyond a child’s initial reaction to anger. When you do, you are much more likely to help that child manage their primary and secondary feelings.
The effects of Anger on Our Children
Research has shown that males and females act differently when they are angry. Males typically display anger by acting out, while females tend to internalize anger by becoming anxious, depressed, and withdrawn. Both boys and girls who struggle with anger are likely to have low self-esteem, poor impulse control, and difficulty in judging the intent of others. They also tend to blame others for conflicts with their peers, lack problem-solving skills, and have a hard time accepting responsibility for their actions. Despite these common effects of anger, there is hope. Parents can begin supporting their child as soon as today in managing their strong feelings of anger.
Children undoubtedly need help to learn how to express anger in acceptable ways. When they get angry, they are likely to display inappropriate behavior until taught alternate strategies. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Communicate your child’s needs and anger concerns to their doctor. Allowing your doctor to have this information can be a great help to overall health and wellness treatment. Ensure the presence of consistent and positive role models in your child’s life. Choose people who are tied to your family and who have a desire to be part of your child’s life. Bringing in a new adult friend is too risky as their tie to the family is not necessarily a lasting one. Give nonverbal recognition to your child when you observe positive behavior. This can include a sticker, a smile face on a piece of paper, written words of encouragement, a hug, a thumbs-up, or whatever else you can think of. When your child asks why, you can tell them the specific reason, just smile at them, or say it is because you love them. Any of these three responses will have a positive impact on your child. Reinforce that anger is a natural emotion. However, you must focus directly on the inappropriate behaviors by telling your child that it is not okay to hurt himself, others, or things. Practice the positive coping skills. If your child is unwilling to engage in this conversation and practice with you, find a mental health therapist or community support system that they can participate in. Fostering this learning must be done now. Learning new ways of coping becomes harder as your child gets older. Provide small boxes labeled with feelings such as mad, happy, sad, worried, frustrated, and scared. Your child can put an agreed upon item (such as a small stuffed animal or a toy) in the box that corresponds with their feelings at the moment. This will allow you to know how your child is feeling without asking. You can also use this system to recognize your child’s feelings to show that you are paying attention and want to help. Sometimes, just recognizing your child’s feelings is enough to get your child talking. For young children, create an anger hat together. This can be made out of paper, fabric, or whatever other material you can be creative with! When your child places it on their head, everyone needs to leave them alone. This means no one should look, go near, talk to, or bother your child until the hat is put away.
Regularly catch your child using positive behavior and tell them what specifically makes you proud. Encourage your child to participate in daily physical activity. This helps them to work through strong emotions, and it may be responsible for helping the brain improve its processing and problem-solving abilities. Always show interest in your child’s school and social activities. This shows your child that you care and are willing to take the time to be part of their life. Regularly encourage your child to focus their energy on taking control of their choices, even when they are angry. Empowering children to make choices to achieve what they want in life is extremely valuable. With this skill, they can move beyond just focusing on their emotions and can consider the outcomes that they are choosing based on their decisions. Once an episode of anger has subsided and your child is calm, give encouragement to state their feelings, accept their feelings, and discover the primary feeling or cause. Ask them what they can do if it happens again. Also, ask what can be done now about the situation.