Is Your Child’s Anger Normal?
A child psychologist with tips on managing your child’s behavior
Anger is a normal, healthy, human emotion. We need the ability to get angry to protect us and to move us into action. Acting out from anger is a behavior. Behaviors can be judged as good or bad, right or wrong. Anger is neither right nor wrong. It just is.
Aggressive and destructive behaviors stemming from anger can be a problem for any age, but especially for kids who haven’t yet developed the skills to cope with difficult emotions.
When children act out their anger in destructive ways it becomes a problem for those who witness it or are the target of it, whether at home with family, at school with teachers, or on the playground with peers. It can also be dangerous if a child in a rage flees the school campus, darts into the street, or injures someone by hitting or kicking or throwing things. Children can do a lot of damage to property as well like punching or kicking holes in walls or doors.
Kids can be taught to manage their behaviors when they are angry. Learning that it’s alright to get angry is the place to start. This helps the child feel more normal and that there is nothing “wrong” with them. Then learning useful techniques like removing themselves from the situation, deep breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, and visual imagery increases their coping skills. Physical exercise or even sleeping it off are positive ways to deal with anger. Learning to voice their concerns when calm will help them speak up for themselves, let others know how they are feeling, and lead to improving problem solving skills.
The best way to express anger is calmly with words by either telling someone about their anger or writing about it in a journal. Kids who cannot put their feelings into words or are too young to write can draw pictures of their anger or even just scribble on paper colors that represent their anger.
Many parents who bring in children for counseling who struggle when they get angry report that they have the same struggle with anger and often lash out verbally to their children. This sets a bad example. When I teach anger management in counselling, I usually teach it to the caregiver at the same time so they can reinforce it to their children at home and more importantly, learn it for themselves. Kids learn more about dealing with anger by seeing their parents deal with their own anger than by having someone tell them how to do it. If acting out anger is a family pattern then the whole family can work on improvement together. Kids are more eager to implement positive coping skills when they see other family members doing the same.
About the Author
Sam McCage, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, is a licensed psychologist at Cook Children's Medical Center. Our experienced psychologists understand the wide-reaching impact of a behavioral disorder, or emotional problems and we will give your child and family all of the tools you need to manage your unique situation. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our Intake Department at 682-885-3917. Click here to learn more.