Dealing with aggression, anger and non-compliance in children is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent. Trying to calm down a raging child can be alarming, distressing and even downright scary!
However, child anger is one of the most frequently seen presentations by therapists working with children and adolescents in clinical practice.
How Anger Manifests in Children
Commonly reported behaviours in children include:
- Frequent temper tantrums;
- Persistent stubbornness;
- Refusal to follow instructions;
- Unwillingness to compromise or negotiate;
- Persistent testing of limits; and
- Verbal and physical aggression.
While these behaviours can be difficult to manage, it is important to remember that anger is a very normal human emotion.
Unfortunately, we often teach children that being angry is wrong or naughty and punish them for these feelings, when what we actually mean to say is that aggressive acts are not acceptable. Hitting, kicking and punching are never okay, but the underlying feelings of anger are not wrong, any more than feeling happy or sad are wrong.
Rather than blaming children for feeling angry, what is more constructive is to have open discussions with parents and children around anger, and to try to help children learn how to express their anger in more appropriate ways.
Helping your Angry Child
There are a wide variety of treatment approaches which can be used to help your angry child, and different approaches may work better for different families. Some of the most effective methods include:
- Emotion Regulation Techniques – This involves children and parents identifying the situations and triggers that might cause anger, the early warning signs of rage (physical, emotional and cognitive), and the ways in which angry feelings might be reduced.
- Collaborative Problem Solving – This involves the child and the parent working together to constructively solve problems. Children are encouraged by parents to come up with solutions to conflicts – before they build up into aggressive outbursts. This is a great way of teaching negotiation and compromise to children, which are valuable life skills!
- Praise and Reward Systems – noticing positive behaviour (rather than always punishing bad behaviour) can go a long way in helping to improve conduct. No child enjoys being in trouble, and shifting focus can be helpful. Equally, using reward systems, like star charts can be beneficial (and don’t have to be monetary based!)
If anger issues are affecting the relationship between you and your child, please consider making an appointment. Counselling is a great way for you both to explore these difficulties and get back on track.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered psychologist with clinical psychology training, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.