Anger is a normal part of development and a signal that a child is feeling hurt, fearful, disappointed, in pain or vulnerable. When children feel these emotions they will revert back to a fight or flight response, becoming anxious and withdrawn or excessively angry. Physical expression of anger is appropriate when there is a physical threat, and this is often aimed at someone more vulnerable such as a little brother, someone who makes them feel scared such as a school bully, someone who points out their vulnerability, such as a teacher and in many cases anger is directed at themselves or at parents, who are less likely reject them in the long term. Very often, children are able to ‘keep it together’ at school but unravel when they get home, with the smallest thing setting their temper off. Very often, anger is masking a child feeling anxious about something – their school performance, social difficulties, family problems etc. Sometimes a child’s anxiety can be objectively small but feel very big and very real to them. While parents are not usually the cause of a child’s inability to control themselves, there are many things that parents can do to help. If we handle our anger appropriately, we encourage children to express their anger constructively.
- Damage to property
- Threatened or actual physical harm to self or others
- Inability to control aggressive outbursts and hitting others (beyond pre-school years).
- Explosive angry outbursts indicating a spill over of anger
- Oppositional behaviour as a general response
- Inability to acknowledge their role in escalating situations and constantly feels picked on by others.
- High levels of conflict with peers or adults.
- Talks about hating particular people or seems consumed with revenge again others.
- Seems constantly frustrated or expresses anger towards themselves.
- Hurts smaller children or animals.
Children who experience difficulty acknowledging their anger or expressing their angry feelings constructively are often afraid of acknowledging the vulnerability or fear underlying those feelings. While many children go through an angry phase at times of change and when they feel vulnerable, in some instances it may be helpful to have support from someone outside of the family. Therapeutic intervention can help your child work through their fears, hurt and vulnerability to help him to manage his emotions more effectively and allow him to experience, process and adapt to a range of feelings.