how to deal with a child with anger issues

How to Deal with a Child with Anger Issues: 10 Strategies Parents Can Use

Last Updated on September 2, 2021.

Angry kids are a challenge for many parents. How do you deal with an angry child? How should you respond to your child’s anger? What can do to I fix my child’s anger issues? We’ll discuss 10 strategies that parents can use to tame their children’s anger monster and make life much easier for everyone involved. Find out how to deal with a child with anger issues below.

What are anger issues in children?

It’s perfectly normal for kids (all people really) to feel anger at various times. Feeling angry is not in itself an issue. Anger becomes a problem for kids when it’s frequent or intense and they are unable to control their behavior. Anger issues in children can cause them to be aggressive with others and result in serious harm, both physically or psychologically.

The children’s anger can also lead them to act out aggressively against their parents by being stubborn, yelling at the parent for any insignificant reason, refusing to cooperate, deliberately doing poorly on assignments just because they want attention, or seeking revenge when a punishment is handed down.

If anger is an issue for your child, there’s a chance they are struggling to develop emotional regulation skills. This means that their brain can’t process big emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration in a healthy way.

What causes anger issues in a child?

Anger is an emotion that can be triggered by many causes. How a child interprets the world, what happened to them in their life (positive or negative), and how they were raised all contribute to how anger manifests in a child.

But everyone feels anger, and it’s ok! But anger can become an issue for kids because their brain is still developing and they don’t have the ability to understand their emotions like an adult does.

Managing emotions, especially big emotions like anger, takes practice and patience for kids. As kids gain emotional intelligence, their anger issues should decrease.

What are signs of anger issues in kids?

Are you worried your child has anger issues? Here are some of the signs of anger issues. Does your child frequently exhibit many of these behaviors?

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anger outbursts, tantrums, or meltdowns
  • Lashing out at others for no reason  
  • Getting frustrated easily and often
  • Becoming defensive when asked to do something they don’t want to do that’s age-appropriate.
  • Withholding emotions or not being able to express them
  • Losing control of themselves when feeling angry
  • Not following directions because they’re too busy fighting the adult’s request.
  • Making decisions on their own without considering the consequences.
  • Acting out aggressively against parents by being stubborn, yelling at the parent for any insignificant reason, refusing to cooperate, deliberately doing poorly on assignments just because they want attention.
  • Seeking revenge when a punishment is handed down
  • Getting angry when things don’t go their way.

It’s important to note that not every kid exhibits the same signs of anger management problems. And if your child exhibits one or two of these, it might mean they are still developing those skills.

RELATED: 4 Genius Strategies to Tackle Backtalk

How do I teach my child to control his anger?

Emotional regulation is a skill that takes many years to master. Many adults are still figuring out how to control their emotions. Kids are no different and will need to be taught how to control themselves when angry or upset, and practice those skills over time.

Emotional Regulation in the Brain

Think about the brain as a two-story house.

The first floor is primal. It’s where your emotions live. And it’s where impulsive reactions occur. When you feel boiling rage or uncontrollable sadness, you’re living on this first floor of your brain. It’s also where your fight or flight response happens.

The second floor is where your logic and reason live. This is where you can think through your behaviors and their consequences. It’s where you can actually make decisions about your behavior.

Humans are born with only the first floor of this house. The second floor is built over time. Most people have a fully developed second floor by the time they are 20 years old. That’s right – the part of your brain that makes decisions isn’t complete until your into your third decade of life.

Whenever we have experiences that trigger big emotions, we always start on the first floor of your house. Your emotional intelligence and emotional regulation are like the stairs in your house that allow you to move from the first floor to the second floor.

It takes years to build the stairs in your house, and you cant build stairs while you’re experiencing full-body anger and rage on the first floor of your house.

how to parent a child with anger issues
how to deal with a child with anger issues

A 4-Step Framework

You can systematically build the stairs in your child’s brain. Use this 4-step framework to create a cycle where you are constantly building up emotional intelligence and resilience.

  1. First, you have to talk about and practice emotional regulation when your child is not feeling big emotions. You can do activities like learn songs about calming down, practice relaxing breathing strategies, creating an anger thermometer, and read books about emotional regulation.
  2. Then, create a plan with your little one. The next time big feelings arise, what strategies are you going to try? What do they need you to do to remind them?
  3. When the big feelings rear their heads, calmly help your kid calm themselves. Remember those big feelings are like a tunnel – you have to move through them and come out the other side. Begging your child to stop crying or telling them to not be angry will only delay the journey through the tunnel.
  4. Lastly, once things are calm, reflect on how your child managed their feelings. How did it feel when they put their plan into action? What worked? What didn’t work? How can next time go better?

10 Strategies to Help with An Angry Child

Here are 10 simple strategies you can try to help your child develop emotional intelligence and tame their anger monster.

Name the Feelings

Sometimes just naming your child’s feelings can help. Let them know you’re paying attention and you recognize their feelings. You might say “You are mad! You wanted that red truck, but your sister is playing with it. It makes you made that you have to wait.”

Acknowledge their Wants and Needs

Kids want to feel heard. Your child might let go of their anger if you acknowledge their wants and needs. Let them know you understand why they are angry. You might say, “You want that truck. It’s so hard to wait!”

Focus on Connection

Kids need to feel connected in order for them to calm down. Sometimes all it takes is a hug and an “I love you.” You might say, “You’re so mad! How about we take a break from this anger? Let’s give each other hugs!”

Kids who feel disconnected from their parents are more likely to act out in anger. They will stew in their big emotions and become more frustrated.

Use Visuals

Many kids are kinesthetic learners, meaning they are strong visual learners. You can use visuals to remind kids of their plan for coping with anger. For example, you might draw a picture and then ask them to tell you what it means or color in the steps they need when feeling angry. You could create characters or puppets to help work through feelings. Or you could design an anger thermometer to demonstrate how they are feeling.

Develop a Calm-Down Plan

A simple calm-down plan can make a huge difference. How will your child calm down? What does their plan include? Put it on paper or into pictures if it’s helpful for your child.

Also, it’s helpful to have a list of ideas on how they can stay calm. When they are in a high emotional state, they might not remember all the calm-down options they have.

RELATED: Why toddlers bite and what you should do about it

Create a Calm-Down Corner

Creating a small space where kids can go to cool off can be helpful. Place soothing images, various textured materials, soothing toys and games, stuffed animals, and anything else that might help your child calm down.

Don’t Give In

Whatever your child is angry about, don’t give in. If you let your child have her way, she’s learning that a meltdown is how she can win. Instead, stay calm and be patient. Help her come up with other ways to handle the anger that don’t involve tantrums or meltdowns.

Always Follow Through

If you’ve outlined a consequence or family rule around the issue your child is angry about, you need to follow through. Don’t undermine your own authority or rules just to get out of a meltdown. You’ll only create more problems for yourself later.

Avoid Inappropriate Media 

Watching TV and playing video games are common ways for kids to escape their feelings. It’s worth considering if it relates back to the anger they’re feeling. How do these media choices make them feel?

Demonstrate Anger Management

Kids learn by watching and copying adults. How do you want your child to handle anger? Let them see how it looks, feels, sounds, and smells for a calm approach.

The Bottom Line

Expressing anger can be healthy, but acting out in anger is not. It damages relationships and has many negative consequences. Help your kids develop emotional intelligence and develop a plan for anger management using this 4-step framework and our tips for managing an angry child. Patience and hard work will help you raise a balanced child.

What You Should Do Next…

1. Snag Our Connected Parent Challenge

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2. Join Our Free Online Community

Connect with like-minded moms (and dads!) in our free online community. You’ll find a plethora of resources to help you through your parenting challenges. Plus, you’ll find me there! And I’d love to connect.

3. Take a Free 60-Minute Parenting Webinar

Do you need actionable strategies right now? Register for this free 60-minute webinar titled How to Get Kids to Listen, Without Nagging, Yelling or Losing Control. You’ll walk away with parent-tested tactics to get your kids to listen starting today.

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