Many parents struggle when kids seem to be angry… and often for no apparent reason. Yet, there usually are reasons. You may not know what those reasons are, but there is almost always a cause.
Parents are often confused and frustrated when they find their children becoming more angry and aggressive. This is particularly problematic when children become destructive, or become violent with their peers or adults.
This is a serious concern, and often efforts at making things better actually make things worse. You will learn why!
The good news is that there is reason to be optimistic, once you have a handle on how to curb this unpleasant behavior (Am I being too gentle here? Probably so. An angry child is often more than just an unpleasant experience!).
There are those in the literature who have asserted that anger is one of the most frequent of human emotions. True. Yet, while this may be the case for many parents and children, it certainly does not need to be.
Anger is clearly a very primal response. Children often display anger at very early ages, usually in response to not getting what they want. Either kids want something that is being denied, or something they want to keep is taken away.
It is important that parents develop an effective model for addressing anger. When anger is indulged, it tends to grow. Let me state that again: When anger is indulged it tends to grow!
The idea is not to make anger “wrong” or “a bad emotion.” The goal is to make sure that children realize that they can have an experience of anger, and yet not engage in pathological or damaging expressions of that anger.
How To Distinguish Healthy From Unhealthy Anger
Clinicians have offered a number of theoretical approaches to this question. It appears that the key issue centers around whether anger ultimately becomes adaptive in some way, or is destructive to the child and those affected by the child.
Thus, as a parent, it is important to notice and attend to how a child is responding with anger.
Adaptive Anger: Do they express the anger, engage in a process to try to resolve their angry feelings, and seek out a solution in order to eliminate the situation that produced the anger? Is the process an adaptive one? Is it moving toward a resolution that allows everyone to move on?
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Unhealthy Anger: Or, on the other hand, do children focus on getting revenge, hurting others with their anger, or try to gain control over others with their anger? Do kids try to manipulate and influence their peers through threats of anger or hostile behavior? Does their anger produce consistently negative consequences for them, such as a loss of friendship, property damage, and concerns from teachers and parents?
Chronic and disturbing anger often results in a child or adolescent who views themselves as victims, even though they are often victimizing others! They continue to focus on the ways in which they have been mistreated, and fail to recognize how their own provocative and hostile posture has brought painful consequences for them.
The bottom line is to notice whether or not the anger is adaptive, or whether it is creating problems. For most parents who seek assistance, it is clear that the child’s anger is producing a consistent series of problems for their kids. The anger continues, and there seems to be no resolution for the child.
Where Does This Lead?
For children who continue to display unhealthy anger, certain experiences begin to unfold for them. They lose friendships. They do not get invited to parties, and often are kicked off of sporting teams. Similar situations evolve in the classroom.
At home, they have trouble with their siblings, they often are engaged in hostile exchanges with their parents. Parents become disheartened, and start to feel badly about their own kids. They feel helpless to make a difference, and struggle with where to turn. Ultimately, as these children move into their adolescent years, they often find peers who share their anger. Often these peers support a view that they have been victimized, and that their anger is justified.
Unfortunately, the attention of the adolescent gets focused on others, and there is little opportunity for this outward focus to bring about a transformation in the anger.
There are other times where the anger leads to withdrawal, and a complete sense that “the world is against me.” These youths can be very difficult to reach, as their anger is often a shield or defense of much greater pain.
So What’s The Good News?
The good news is that parents can make a difference.
And not just a small difference, but a huge difference! There are a number of ways to tackle this problem.
And yet, as you keep reading, remember that this is a difficult challenge. You will not want to take a casual approach to handling an angry child. Consider ordering my program, The Angry Child, which gives you a complete plan for how to handle this at home. This is not a comprehensive parenting program, but it is a step-by-step plan that applies specifically to angry and aggressive kids. You will have a clear sense of what to do next. You get:
A 10-step formula you can put to use today
No complicated theories you have to master
Practical, usable tools
Clear direction of what to do when
A model with a proven track record
An alternative to medication
A way to help your kids and your family
Relief from the anger that may squash your child’s future happiness
Not convinced. Keep reading below, and find out what you can start doing right now! Each of these strategies has a proven track record.
3 Keys To Less Anger In Your Home!
1. Make Certain You Are Not Modeling Unhealthy Anger.
Too often parents offer feeble excuses for their own explosive expressions of anger. They excuse themselves by saying things such as, “I just yell a lot” or “I’ve always been a hothead.” Others offer comments like, “My Dad was a yeller and so am I.”
These are ways in which parents then hold themselves to a low standard for their own behavior. They excuse themselves for their angry outbursts at each other, and at their children.
It doesn’t take much to understand why our kids scream back at us, or engage in aggressive outbursts toward their sibling if we model this in our own behavior as parents. Parental behavior will always play a more important role than parental guidance or those famous “words of wisdom.”
The bottom line is that the buck stops at home. Your behavior speaks more loudly than your words, and we must hold ourselves accountable to a higher standard. We all know the saying “you’ll reap what you sow.” This is true.
So the first place to start is by looking carefully in the mirror. It’s not the only place to look of course, but we must take first things first. Make sure that you do not model maladaptive or unhealthy behavior. If you find that you do so, seek help for this [Parental Calm]. Seek help now, as no parenting strategy or technique will save you from the consequences of modeling anger as a solution to your frustrations. Your children will not escape that message.
Next, you MUST…
2. Learn Effective Anger Management Strategies.
There are parenting strategies that work to reduce children’s anger, and there are strategies that make anger worse.
A number of clinical studies clearly support the conclusion that anger cannot be repeatedly indulged, listened to, sympathized with, or danced around. Anger cannot be “cured” by punching on a bag or pillow (this is indulging the anger).
If the environment (parents, adults, teachers, counselors) continues to indulge anger, the anger will just get worse. Feed the anger monster with attention and energy…and the anger monster grows.
Any consistent, unhealthy expression of anger needs to be dealt with in a more direct, behavioral fashion. This is not theory. This is based upon clear and convincing data.
The bottom line: Mild, but unhealthy expressions of anger, complaints, inappropriate language, negativism, and displays of hostility need to be ignored. You walk away from this negativity, and give it NONE of your energy or attention.
Will your kids like this? NO! But don’t get fooled by this, you must be able to STOP INVESTING YOURSELF IN THE STUFF YOU DON’T WANT.
But I realize, things can get out of control, and even dangerous at times. When behavior becomes dangerous, threatening to others or to property, then immediate intervention is warranted. The details of how and when to intervene, and how to effectively use consequences is where the real magic lies.
You must know how to set and maintain meaningful and effective consequences, and kids will learn from this. I cover this in detail on my program, The Angry Child, which you can order today or download immediately from the website.
Keep in mind: Your words will not teach your child to stay calm. Thus, talking the angry child out of their anger is only a short term solution, as the energy given to the anger only feeds the anger as time goes on. Consequences to the unhealthy and inappropriate expression of anger will be the means by which you teach your child how to control their own anger. This is not the same as punishment. I am not advocating that you think in terms of “Eye for an eye.” It’s about consequences for choices, and using each life choice (by your child) as an opportunity to teach them about the realities of life.
In using this approach, you’re not saying to your child, “Don’t get angry.” Instead, you want your behavior to communicate to your child, “It’s okay to be angry and frustrated. You can even blow off steam if you want to. However, if you start to harm others, or destroy property, there will be a consequence.”
Obviously, there are more details to mastering this set of parenting strategies, but the essentials remain the same. Remember, you may want to buy the program, The Angry Child, if your child is angry or aggressive, and you really want to help now!
Regardless, children need to encounter consistent consequences from their world, and then they can learn how to gauge their responses. Then they also learn that they can handle their emotions. You can set up a home that teaches these lessons.
“Easier said than done!” Yes. I agree.
With the right set of parenting tools, it can be done. And it does work!
3. As Children Get Older And Become Violent, It May Be Necessary To Seek Structured Anger Reduction Programs.
The treatment literature is quite encouraging. It appears that children and adults respond very positively to cognitive and behavioral interventions for anger. This is not the same as play therapy for young children, which does not have the same proven track record.
Unfortunately, finding individuals or agencies that offer anger management programs may be difficult. It does appear that most programs are group-based; however, individual treatment has proven to be equally, if not more effective than group treatment.
Thus, if you are clear that you do not model the inappropriate expressions of anger at home, and you have put into place strong and consistent behavioral responses to anger [The Angry Child], and the anger continues, then an outside treatment program may be necessary. Given the literature, there is reason to be optimistic that this will make a positive difference.
For most parents, such programs may not be necessary. However, if your kids are starting to show signs of anger, you can make a difference by how you handle it.
Unhealthy anger and aggression will steal your child’s happiness, grind you down to the end of your rope, and squash your hopes for your child’s success. So, start NOW if this is a concern.
Learn how you can make a difference.
Make sure your choices aren’t making things worse while you’re working so hard to make things better!
Master the tools that allow your kids to learn healthy responses.
Make certain you know what consequences will work to reduce anger.
Get away from reactive tendencies.
Learn an approach that puts you both on the same page.
Stop using your words to teach, and get tools that teach these critical lessons
Read this article again, and make sure you understand these fundamentals. Then, invest in The Angry Child and learn how to refine your approach. In 3-6 weeks, you will likely see a difference.