Why is my child so angry? We provide a loving home – not perfect, but loving. Fun, creativity, God, and discipline are embraced. We believe in boundaries and consequences, but we also believe in grace. Consistency is important. Trust me, we don’t always do things right, but we try really hard to do well by our children. We love them deeply. Why is anger such a strong part of my child’s response when things don’t go the way that is desired? What am I doing wrong?
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I have wrestled with these questions for much of my parenting. It’s been a puzzle that I’ve been eager to solve. I’ve figured out pieces of the puzzle but other pieces are still falling into place as a I work to try and discover the best thing for my child. I have too much love to not seek answers.
I have recently been reading a book with my husband as we attempt to understand. It was a book recommended by our child’s occupational therapist. Sensory processing, we have discovered, is a component of the puzzle. However, we are learning there are other layers as well.
As we have been reading the recommended book, “The Explosive Child,” we are having many major ah-ha moments. I always want to bring you what I’m learning so as to help equip you on your parenting journey. Here’s the tagline to the book, “A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children.” Does this describe your child? Keep reading.
I don’t want to dive too deeply into the book because I really feel like it’s a must-read if you are dealing with larger anger and behavioral issues. However, I do want to share a little of what we are learning.
In this book, we have read that some kids have a harder time with transitions and deviating from routine or expectations. They might seem inflexible and can be impulsive. There are a number other of what the author, Ross Greene, identifies as “lagging skills.” The child can easily become frustrated and express their anger by screaming, biting, hitting, and spitting (just to name a few). These can be very bright kids but have some skills that need developing.
Some may choose to judge at this point and say, “It sounds like the child she just described just needs more consistency and discipline.” Others living through it might be screaming out, “We have tried consistency and consequences, and they are not working! In fact, we are getting the opposite result – more anger and aggressive behavior.” There might be husbands and wives living in the tension – one calling for more grace and one for more discipline.
What if your child doesn’t have the skills needed to handle different challenges in their lives (even if the challenges seem minor to you)? What if you, as a parent, need to come along and guide your child as they learn to problem solve when they hit frustrations that send them into a rage? You may have tried these 10 things to calm their anger, but perhaps there is something more pro-active you can do as a parent, rather than dealing with tension and conflict in the moment.
Does this bring you hope? I really do encourage you to read the book “The Explosive Child” for more answers. That said, I would read it with a critical mind. There are a couple more elements I want to bring into the conversation and response to what I read.
I love his pro-active attempt at problem-solving and finding agreeable solutions to what a child faces. However, I do promote that a child should still experience consequences for their behavior. These consequences can and mostly should be agreed upon or handed out when you are out of the moment, but I believe consequences are a part of life. My husband thinks I may have mis-read that there is removal of consequences, but you’ll have to judge for yourself when you read the book.
Another component not discussed in the book is the spiritual side of the discussion. I want to be able to meet my child where they are at, but I also have to help them identify that sin is sin, even when we have personal struggles. My child has a hard time when things don’t go her way. Guess what – I do too! It’s called selfishness. My child has difficulty accepting correcting. Guess what – I do too! It’s called pride. This child might struggle with it to a deeper level, which may require a shift in parenting, but it doesn’t make an excuse for behavior.
Sin is still sin. Selfishness is still selfishness. Pride is still pride. It’s that tension of living in grace and truth as so beautiful laid out in my favorite parenting podcast: Parenting with Truth and Grace. It’s the beauty of having a relationship with Jesus, a Savior who is full of grace and forgiveness. We do a discredit to our kids when we don’t show what sin is (naming it straight out), explain how we all have sin in our lives (Romans 3:23), notice that Christ died for us WHILE we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), and celebrate that we receive conciliation through faith in Him – not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
So while I highly recommend the book, “The Explosive Child,” I encourage you to explore it in the light of what else you know about parenting. This book has helped me realize that our approach was lacking and not complete. We were trying. However, there’s a more pro-active way to help our child work through the difficulties encountered. It involves breaking some patterns of interactions, but we are super hopeful moving forward in a new-ish direction.