When your child gets angry you, as a parent, can feel overwhelmed and lost about how to best deal with the emotions and behavior. When that anger and frustration become a pattern, it reveals evidence that the child (and parent) need tools to help cope with the impact of the child’s emotions.
Anger is a normal and healthy feeling. We don’t want our children to learn to stuff their anger. However, we need to teach our kids to feel anger and yet respond to it in a way that doesn’t have a negative impact on the lives around them.
Self-control is one of the most important character qualities to teach our children. Here are some great child-friendly lessons about how to teach self-control in your home. When a child learns to have self-control in situations that make them tempted or angry, they are more likely to make positive choices. Kids with self-control are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, engage in sexual temptations outside of marriage and be disciplined toward success in academics. A child who doesn’t learn to get control of their anger may grow into a teenager or adult who is full of hate or could become abusive.
Anger can be caused by external or internal conflict. External factors that might lead to anger include abuse, parents modeling anger, strife within a family or hurtful situations at school. The internal conflict stems from a child’s predisposition toward anger. Simply put, some kids are more wired to respond in anger when life gets hard.
When Your Child Gets Angry
Today I want to address the child who is naturally more prone to anger. Not only that, but I want to talk about all children. You know! The ones who are whining and crying because they don’t get what they want. That can be a form of anger.
Identify the Emotion
It becomes very hard when a child is out of control with anger. My tendency is to get angry myself, especially when the behavior is repeated often. Children do learn by watching you, and if you let your own anger escalate it is hard to be an effective teacher. Try and not discipline in anger. Get control of your emotions (they are very there and very real) before setting in the help them.
I have found that parenting is a mirror into my own deficiencies. God has a lot of work he is still trying to do with me, and my lack of patience is definitely an area for refinement.
Teach Problem Solving
I address teaching problem solving in my post titled, “Why is my Child so Angry.” What I am learning is that a lack of a mature level of problem solving is often present when all children becomes angry easily. This can be a developmental stage, a personal gap in skills because of internal wiring or the fact that a child has never been taught to problem solve well.
However, I do believe developing problem solving skills gets to much more of the root of the internal struggle with anger issues in children within loving homes – even those with severe explosive behavior. I learned a lot about the gap in problem solving skills by reading the book, “The Explosive Child” (affiliate link). If your child has more severe anger issues, I recommend reading that book.
Practically, what does this look like? It will depend on the age and developmental level of your child. Younger kids will need a lot of help and suggestions on how to problem solve.
- Help them give words to the problem. What is the issue you are having?
- Dig more. Ask probing questions, especially with older kids, to get at the real issues. Listen! Listen! Listen!
- Help them reach a solution. What are some ways we can solve this problem? This is a time for them to come up with ideas. Younger kids will need more suggestions from you. As they age, this is a great brainstorming time for them. Do not solve the problem for older kids! You can offer some suggestions to consider, but try and be a guide through the process of them reaching for solutions. This is teaching them to problem solve on their own.
- Reach a viable solution that fits both parties. A solution is only viable if it’s agreed on by you too. If a child is angry because they have to turn off the television, then a viable solution would not be, “I should be able to watch TV whenever I want.” A viable solution might be, “Mom, I felt angry because I had no warning. Maybe if you let me know that I only have five minutes left it would be helpful.”
- Sometimes kids just need to learn to deal. With the above example, sometimes we don’t have time for the process. I am not suggesting some drawn out psychological counseling session every time your child gets upset. Sometimes the kids just need to learn to accept a “no” answer. Look for the patterns that need to be addressed in a more teachable way. Understand that the root of anger is often a gap in problem solving skills. However, teach your child to cope with the “no” when things just don’t go their way. It will happen over and over again until they are old and gray.
Still Stick with Discipline
When my child is angry and feels out of control, I try to not discipline in the moment. With certain kids, they might be in fight or flight mode where blood is flowing away from their brain and logic has left the building. We need them to be under control and thinking clearly for discipline to be effective.
Once you have calmly worked through the above steps, there may need to still be a discipline. I do not discipline for their feelings of anger. I give consequences for the behavior. Make that clear to them. If there was a ridiculous amount of screaming or any physical violence, I provide a consequence. This is one of my favorite consequences right now for slightly older children (kindergarten and up). You also might find my post “Consequences that Make Sense” helpful.
Teach Kids to Say Sorry
It is important to re-enact the gospel as you are going through life with your kids. It’s important to teach them to say sorry and ask for forgiveness. It is important for you to say, “I forgive you,” and move on in a positive way with your child.
When Your Child Gets Angry
If there are environmental factors contributing to their anger, it is essential to try and fix those. However, anger can arise in all children in the most loving home environments. Life circumstances aren’t going to always be ideal for anyone, so we all must learn to cope with our feelings in an effective way, even when things don’t go our way.
If there are bigger issues, I definitely encourage you to seek help. Your family might need professional counseling. You or your spouse might need to head to an anger support group. You might want to look for marriage help from great resources like A Weekend to Remember, ReEngage or other Christian marriage retreats and resources.