Helping Children With Anger Issues
Dealing with anger and aggression in children is one of the main reasons why parents reach out for parenting support.
These parents are exhausted, at their limit and really struggling to know how to help their children and may find that they themselves react to their child’s behaviour with anger which adds more fuel to the fire.
It can cause a lot of stress, anxiety and upset for parents when they are dealing with children who are screaming, yelling and expressing their anger in unfavourable ways.
Parents can feel a lot of guilt and shame when their child expresses their anger especially when out in public. Parents can feel like they are bad parents or that they are failing when this isn’t the case.
Understanding your child's anger
There are many reasons why your child could be angry and the key is to move away from judging your child’s behaviour and instead endeavour to coach them through their feelings.
A good place to start is to reflect upon your own relationship to anger. When you were a child what happened when you were angry? Did your parents hold space for your feelings or did they discipline you? What did you learn about anger from your parents? Did they express anger in a healthy manner or was it out of control and did you feel unsafe?
If for example you stuff down your feelings and don’t often express anger, it can be almost untolerable to experience your child’s anger. Or maybe when your child is expressing their anger you have an internal story that “I would get punished as a child for behaving like this, that behaviour is not acceptable” then you yourself become emotionally flooded and reactive.
Why is my child so angry?
Children can be angry for a multitude of reasons which is no different to ourselves as adults.
- Maybe they don’t feel heard and understood?
- Maybe they feel lonely and sad and it manifests as anger?
- Maybe they haven’t developed the communication skills they need to communicate how they are feeling and instead it comes out as frustration and anger?
- Maybe expressing anger is a way that they know they will get noticed. (A parent often stops whatever they are doing to focus on a child’s bad behaviour)
- Maybe they have modelled angry behaviours from you or others around them
- Maybe they are struggling at school and are getting bullied?
- Or a child could be angry because they are stressed, anxious or fearful of something.
Helping your child with their anger
One of the biggest ways you can help your child with anger is by looking at your own relationship to anger, being aware of what you are modelling to your child and striving to understand your own triggers and how anger shows up for you.
As you explore your own anger and how to self regulate your feelings in a health manner you can offer co-regulation to your child. (It is not possible to help your child with their big feelings if you yourself are struggling with your own.)
When you are in the left side of the brain and are feeling calm and rationale you can reframe your child’s aggressive behaviour and see it as a signal that something is upsetting your child that they are not able to communicate. You can then strive to “hold space for their feelings” by being a calm anchor.
Some ways to hold space for a child’s feelings:
- Being a calm, empathetic presence when your child is emotionally flooded
- Staying in connection with your child. Letting them know you are there for them
- Validate their feelings and let them know they are ok to have these feelings “I can see that you are angry right now, it’s ok to be angry.”
- Look at calm access tools for your child – do they need to take some deep breaths, have a glass of water or some quiet, down regulating time
- Avoid judging the behaviour and instead imagine what life must be like for your child and see things from their perspective.
CLIENT REVIEW: From A Parent Who Got Help With Her Son's Anger.
Do you need 1-1 support to deal with your child's anger?
If you are struggling with your child’s anger, have read all the books and tried various strategies that don’t seem to work then reach out for a 1-1 parent consult call to explore more peaceful, connective ways for managing your child’s behaviour.