Anger is a normal emotion that every happy healthy adult and child has to deal with from time to time. When does expressing anger become a problem? Children go through different stages with their age that affect the way they deal with anger. Anger is usually not a root emotion, but a term that may cover feelings ranging from embarrassment, frustration, loneliness to guilt. A newborn baby expresses their “anger” or frustration over being hungry, tired or uncomfortable by screaming and crying. A two-year-old may throw tantrums that include rolling around on the floor or trying to hit the parent, sibling or even their pet. As a child gets older, hopefully proper responses to anger have been modelled for them and they can learn to express their anger more appropriately.
Anger becomes a problem when it causes negative, aggressive behaviour, gets out of control and when the root cause of the problem isn’t being dealt with.
For instance, often children with undiagnosed learning disabilities will have frequent angry outbursts. They may be feeling frustrated because they are struggling to learn and it may feel like the world is closing in on them when parents or teachers suggest that they aren’t trying hard enough or doing their best. Because the child isn’t able to deal with the real issue, they become angry over small incidents that would normally be insignificant. This helps them to avoid feeling “stupid” or incapable. Once the problem is discovered and the child gets the help, support and proper discipline that is needed, the angry outbursts become less frequent or disappear altogether.
It is important that children learn how to express their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner. A child should never be told that their feelings are wrong, though they may need reminding if their behaviour is wrong. For instance you might say, “Johnny, I understand that you are angry about your brother breaking your toy, that wasn’t fair, but it is not okay to hit when you are angry.” The child needs to know that his feelings are validated and should also be given some ideas about how to handle the situation better the next time they are in a similar position.
Anger is a normal emotion for people of all ages, including children.
Good communication and modelling good behaviour are two of the best ways to help children learn to deal with anger. Taking the time to praise your child whenever he or she does anything that is positive can also help them understand what it expected and feel good about doing what is right. Take the time to check yourself to see if you spend too much time being negative or angry and find ways to be more positive. If the parents in the home aren’t dealing with anger appropriately, they can’t expect the child to. Be willing to admit when you are wrong and apologise to your child, teaching them to do the same. If you suspect that your child has a serious anger problem, it may be time to get some additional help and guidance.
Written by: Ray Subs
Ray Subs is a public relations consultant working to promote the Help Your Child with Anger Blog.