Mumspiration previously spoke to parenting expert Janine Terry about why children get angry (4 ways of managing anger in children to keep your sanity intact!) . You can read the full article below.
What are the common reasons for children getting angry?
Anger is a natural emotional response when someone, regardless of their age, feels attacked, deceived, hurt, frustrated or treated unfairly. It’s a defence mechanism that helps us defend ourselves from perceived danger. Anger itself is healthy and helpful because it helps us identify what is causing us distress, and motivates us to address an issue and change it.
Anger becomes a problem when we can’t effectively manage that emotional outburst, and it has the potential to lead us to hurting ourselves and others. Holding in anger is not healthy either, so it needs to be let out in appropriate ways. And after we’ve been angry, we need to learn to deal with it positively or we can be left with feelings of self-loathing and inadequacy.
Even if the cause of our child’s anger doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it’s a big deal in their world, and those big, scary feelings are very real for our child and difficult for them to handle and process alone.
Is anger in children a sign of bad parenting?
Not at all. Learning to manage emotions is a skill, just like learning to walk and talk, and children master these skills at their own pace. All children (and even us adults!) get angry sometimes, and that’s ok. Being unable to handle difficult emotions is not the same as misbehaviour, and in any case I don’t think the success of parenting can be measured solely by a child’s behaviour, as there can be many other factors. A child could be perfectly well-behaved and holding in difficult feelings like anger because they fear what their parents might do if they dare to display their feelings. Those feelings could eat away at the child and do psychological damage, so a better way is to show them ways to get those feelings out safely.
A better measure of our parenting ability is therefore how we respond to our children’s emotions and behaviour. We can teach our children that it is ok to get angry, but that we are there to help them to learn to manage their anger so that they can express it without saying or do things that can cause harm, and then help them to problem solve afterwards.
Can anger be a reflection of what is happening at home?
Children are better able to manage their emotions when their basic human needs are being met, i.e. they are well-rested, well-fed, not stressed, and feeling heard by, accepted by, and connected to, their parents or primary caregiver. So, while a child’s anger doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem at home, there is a lot that we as parents can do at home to make angry outbursts less frequent, such as ensuring that those basic needs are being met. We can also make sure that we have created an environment for our children that makes them feel secure, by having clear, agreed rules, boundaries and routines, and role modelling the behaviours we want to see, so that they know what’s expected of them and what’s going to happen, and therefore are less likely to feel like they are being treated unfairly or having things sprung on them.
What are some tips to help children stay calm when they get angry?
- We can remind ourselves to stay calm and that our child needs our help. If we react to our child’s anger with anger, we are simply adding fuel to the fire, whereas if our physical presence and our words are soothing, loving and accepting, they will not perceive us as the enemy and will therefore regain calm more quickly.
- Don’t try to reason with an angry child; save that until they are calm. Instead, allow the tears to flow and just demonstrate empathy, by simply helping them put their feelings into words and letting them know that their feelings are ok.
- If the anger is accompanied by behaviours that aren’t acceptable, such as hitting out, we can say. “I can see how hurt and angry you are. I won’t let you hit me. I am here to help you to get those angry feelings out safely.”
- Your child may prefer to calm down alone, in which case it’s important that we let them know that we are here for them whenever they are ready, and that we are not sending them away to deal with their difficult feelings by themselves.
- Role model the behaviour we expect from our children. If we shout and say hurtful things when we are angry, we can’t be surprised when our children do the same. Deep breathing and counting to ten are some of the best-known ways to address the physiological symptoms that arise from anger, so we might choose to role model these, or we could teach our children to scrunch up paper, draw an angry picture, jump on a trampoline, do an angry stamping dance, or have a drink of water.
- One idea is to put together a basket or box of items to create a ‘calming down kit’ that your child can go to (with or without you) whenever they need to find a way to calm themselves. Some examples of items to include might be a stress ball, favourite books, paper for tearing or scrunching, a cuddly toy, colouring books, bubbles, or bubble wrap. Its best to talk about these ideas with your child when they are calm rather than wait until the next time they are angry and unable to think rationally.
- Teach your child to replace negative thoughts with positive coping ones, such as “This feeling will pass”, or “I can handle this”.
- Once they are calm, we can talk about the issues that led to the anger with our child, and help them look at things rationally so that they can understand the reasons behind what happened, why they got angry, and what they can do to resolve it.
Janine Terry, AKA ‘The Parent Fairy’ used to shout at, threaten and punish my daughter, having had no idea that there were other ways to parent. She no longer does any of those things, and as well as being a very calm parent, she is also an experienced coach and facilitator. Janine is passionate about sharing her skills, knowledge and expertise with other parents who want to make the same changes that she has made. Janine is based in Orpington and she regularly runs 6-week courses of workshops and provides one-to-one coaching for parents who want to find ways of making parenting easier and calmer, and who want to ensure that their children grow up to be happy, confident and independent. For more information, please visit www.parentfairy.co.uk or email email@example.com