Anger, like every other emotion, is a valid and normal one. Everybody feels angry at some point or the other. However, when behaviour or actions fuelled by anger cannot be controlled or are hurting someone, that is when it becomes a problem.

Your child may also feel angry at times. To an extent, it is natural and healthy. It is a sign that they are having their own preferences, likes and dislikes. But, if their actions when they are angry are problematic, or if they cannot control their temper, or if they are throwing tantrums inappropriate for their age, then you would have to step in. 

Generally, children get angry when they do not get the things that they want. However, sometimes, the underlying cause of your child’s anger are more serious, like ADHD, anxiety, autism, puberty, bullying, learning disorders, peer pressure, abuse, threats, lack of sleep, social media lows, addictions, including pornography and gadget addiction, etc. Before you can help them with their anger issues, you must first identify the reason behind it.

Once you have identified the source or the cause of your child’s anger, you can proceed to help them. Here are some things you can try:

  • Validate their feelings – Anger is not abnormal. Do not force them to suppress their anger. It is not healthy to do so. Instead of jumping to point a finger, try to be in their shoes and think like they do.
  • Assess the way you handle your emotions – Children tend to mirror what they see. Assess how you manage your anger. Are you someone who takes it out on others when you are angry? Do you bang things around the house in frustration? Do you raise your voice? Unless you correct your behaviour, you cannot expect your child to listen to you.
  • Help them to identify their emotions – One of the more effective ways to control anger is to be in touch with your emotions. Help your children to identify how they feel to different circumstances. Taking anger for example, there are different degrees of anger – annoyed, upset, fuming, etc. Reactions to these would be of different degrees as well. However, in none of these cases would physical or verbal abuse or destroying things be okay.
  • Tell them how you are feeling – Give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they do not realise how much you are hurt by their expressions of anger. Try to speak things from your perspective and try not to assume how they are feeling. Knowing how their actions affect you can help them to stabilise.
  • Calmly explain to them the consequences and do not give in – When angry, children might be thinking only of the short-term benefits. If you give in to their demands when they ask angrily or impolitely but do not give in if they ask nicely, then you are teaching them that anger will get them what they want. Instead, tell them that you won’t give in to their demands and give them a reason.
  • Teach them anger management tips – Here are anger management tips that can be tried:
    • Counting – The most well-known of the anger management tips would be to count to 10 or backwards. This helps to delay the reaction and to clear the cloud on judgment.
    • Take a break – Ask them to take a break when the conversation is steering towards anger or unpleasantness. You can resume it once everybody has calmed down.
    • Clench on a ball – Try to channel the anger and frustration into a squishy ball. The physical exertion and the change of focus will help them to calm down a little.
    • Talk about it – Let them talk to a trusted person who will listen without judgment. Talking will bring in more clarity about the “why” and help them to think about the “how” – how to handle such feelings. 
    • Focus on breathing – When feeling angry, it is good to focus on something external to those feelings. Focusing and concentrating on breathing slowly can be helpful in calming down.
    • Have a calming word – Ask them to repeatedly say to themselves a calming word/phrase like “relax” or “it’s okay”. This will distract and dissipate any feelings of anger to some extent.
    • Have creative outlets – Try to give them creative outlets for their anger. Painting, writing, dancing, singing, etc. can help to a great extent. You can also help them to engage in calming activities like yoga, meditation, gardening, etc.
    • Physical exertions – Encourage them to engage in physical activities, playing a sport, running, boxing, etc. These can be great outlets for releasing anger and tensions. 
  • Do not give them the silent treatment – Silent treatments and time outs might work in the short-term but you need to think how they feel when they are punished this way. Take a step back and do not fight back. You, as a parent, need to be the calm one here.
  • Help them resolve their problems – Sometimes, the reason for their anger is due to frustration at not being able to solve the problems that they are going through. Try to have an honest and open relationship with your children so that they feel comfortable coming to you if they face any problems. 
  • Be kind – Always be kind and loving to your child. This does not mean that you let them get away with anything or never say “no” to them. They are still learning about how the world works. The way you react to them when they have done something wrong, whether intentionally or not, really matters. Be firm but not harsh.
  • Take professional help – If nothing seems to work, it is always best to go to a professional, who can identify the root cause and the best course of action.

Remember that suppressing anger is not good. It has its own set of health risks. At the same time, unchecked anger is also not good. Teach yourself and your children to balance emotions and to be empathetic towards others. 

Article by Salma Jennath