Both children and adults experience anger as a normal emotion. How we express and handle our anger can make the difference between feeling out of control and being able to live life in peace.
Being a parent to an angry child can feel completely overwhelming. Everything you do seems to fail when anger outbursts suddenly appear out of nowhere. Because they haven't yet mastered effective coping mechanisms for their emotions, angry kids are prone to exploding when they have intense feelings. There may also be another underlying cause for why your child always seems to be angry.
Developing the skill to manage angry children is a process. Here, we have 10 rules that can help guide you when parenting your angry child.
10 Rules When Parenting an Angry Child
Parenting an angry child is not a one-size-fits-all type of thing. There are many ways to go about it. These rules can help find the right approach for you and your child.
1. Do not yell back at or challenge your child
Dealing with anger can be frustrating. You might even be wondering why your child is so angry all the time. Many times, parents may challenge their children and yell back in response to their angry outbursts. But doing so will only make everybody feel more out of control. In a crisis such as a fit of anger, maintaining composure is the best course of action.
2. Teach your child about their feelings when they are calm
Children who can't express their feelings verbally or who don't comprehend them are more prone to act out [*]. A child who can't say, “I'm angry!” may attempt to show their rage by acting out. Another example might be a child who is unable to understand or express their sadness and acts out in an effort to attract their parent’s or guardian’s attention.
Start with teaching simple feeling terms like “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.” You can also label your child’s feelings by saying something like, “It seems you are really mad right now.” This will help your child learn to recognize and name their own emotions. You can then teach your child more complex feeling terms like frustrated, disappointed, worried, and lonely so they may develop a deeper knowledge of their feelings and how to express them.
It also helps to teach your child how anger feels physically so that they can identify it when they start to get mad. You can use a worksheet on the physical signs of anger to guide you.
3. Mind your reactions
It is critical to be careful with your emotional and physical responses. When your child is angry, your heart rate and adrenaline levels will rise as your senses alert you to your child’s agitation. The key is to attempt to maintain your composure despite how challenging it may be.
Keep in mind that you are giving your kids your courage at this time. You're teaching kids how to handle rage by maintaining a calm demeanor and a safe environment. By maintaining your composure, you aren't challenging your kid to engage in a power struggle.
4. Do not give in to tantrums
Tantrums are normal, but they can earn reactions from your friends, family members, or even strangers, who may ask you questions, such as “Why is your child so angry?” No matter what, it is imperative that you do not give in to your child’s tantrums. When children learn that a fit will earn them a reward, they will then continue to use that to get what they want from their parents.
To prevent a meltdown, resist the urge to pacify your child with a reward. Although it can be simpler in the short run to give in, doing so will only make anger and behavioral issues worse. As an alternative, focus on building a relationship with your child to give them more assurance that their needs will be addressed.
5. Create an anger thermometer
Children can use instruments called anger thermometers to spot the warning signals of escalating rage. Using a worksheet, identify where your child is in terms of their anger level. Discuss what happens in your child's body at each temperature reading when they are not feeling irritated or angry. When they are at level 0, your kid may claim to be happy, but when they get to level 5, they may appear extremely angry. Kids may learn to spot anger in action by using the thermometer. They eventually come to understand that taking a break can help them control their anger when it begins to flare up.
6. Help them improve anger management skills
Teaching your child specific anger management skills, such as how to take deep breaths to calm down when upset, is one of the best methods to support a child who is upset. It might also be beneficial to take a brief walk, count to 10, or repeat coping statements for anger.
Teach additional skills as well, such as self-discipline and impulse control. When they're distressed, some kids need quite a bit of coaching to help them practice those abilities. When they learn how to work through anger using the right tools and with your guidance, their outbursts are less likely to occur.
7. Have a “calm down” plan
Children should be taught what to do when they start to feel angry. For instance, they might retire to their room or a designated "calming corner" rather than throwing objects. Encourage them to do something calming like color, read a book, or do other activities until they feel better.
You may even make a kit to help you relax. This may be a favorite coloring book and some crayons, a decent book to read, stickers, a beloved toy, or a helpful worksheet to cope with anger. When they're starting to feel agitated, you can tell them to get their calm-down kit, which encourages them to take charge of their own anger management.
8. Don’t use punishments that are too harsh
Ultimately, using severe punishments is a losing strategy. You may think it is a good idea to teach your child a lesson, only to find that they keep disobeying as you increase the penalty. Your child might be out of control with their anger, and the more you punish them in an attempt to calm them down and stop, the rowdier they get.
Keep in mind that the objective is to teach your child self-control. Effective and well-considered consequences are important, but stacking punitive consequences is not the solution. Be more discerning with the appropriateness of your punishments before implementing them.
9. Take a break
People often claim that they need a break and time to themselves before they can calm down and talk things over. Parents may overlook this fact as they believe they should have control over their children. However, this strategy works wonders. Remember that you cannot rush things and argue with someone who is too upset.
Take a break, then engage in conversation once everyone has calmed down.
10. Follow through with consequences
To teach your child that being aggressive or rude is unacceptable, you must be consistent with applying consequences to their actions. If your child disobeys the rules, be sure to follow through with the repercussions (just remember not to be too harsh, as we’ve mentioned).
Effective disciplinary measures can include time-outs or taking away small privileges. If your child accidentally smashes something out of rage, getting them to help fix it or letting them do chores to earn the money and repair it can teach them a valuable lesson.
The Bottom Line
Kids don't enjoy feeling angry or having angry outbursts, and doing anger management for kids is a tough endeavor. Often, they are reacting to frustration and an inability to manage their own big feelings. Helping your child learn to respond appropriately to anger and other negative emotions will have a positive impact on their life at home and at school. If you're struggling, then seeing a qualified professional will help.
- National Institutes of Health. Poor Early Language Skills May Be Linked to Kids’ Behavior Problems. 18 August 2014.