Have a child/teen with anger issues? Part I of a two part series on parenting advice to help kids find healthy ways to control intense feelings in a stressed-out world. Hint: Tips work for adults, too!
Clenched teeth. Rapid breathing. Red face.
Teaching kids a new way to cope with their intense feelings is not easy—especially if they have only practiced aggressive ways of dealing with their frustrations. The good news is that although aggression is learned, so too is calmness. Learning any new habit takes time especially expressing anger more constructively, so don’t give up! If you’re consistent you’ll be able to help your kid learn a healthier way to handle his anger. You may also be able to help him discover the source of his anger.
Anger Danger Quiz: Might your child have anger issues?
Every child is going to have a tough day and have an outburst. Anger (like those tantrums) are normal in preschoolers. You should be concerned if your child’s anger is not age appropriate, is too intense, is spilling over into other areas (for instance to that playdate or in school), are uncontrollable and not healthy. Watch if the anger also escalates and becomes more frequent. You are really looking for a reoccurring pattern. How many of these behaviors routinely describe your child? You might mark with a highlighter pen the items that are occur most frequently. Check those which typically describe your child’s behavior. Keep in mind that some of these are not warnings but information to help you know what you can or should do with your child. If you are unsure of any behavior, check with another caring adult who knows your child well (the daycare provider, a relative, your parenting partner, his coach, her teacher) to get a fresh perspective.
___ My child is unable to manage impulses and urges without adult help.
___ My child has frequent anger outbursts, even over minor issues.
___ My child has trouble calming down when he is frstrated or angry.
___ My child turns her anger into a tantrum (i.e. shouting, kicking, swearing, spitting) and knows healthier alternatives.
___ My child is frequently disciplined for anger issues or physical aggression.
___ My child has difficulty bouncing back from a frustrating situation.
___ My child frequently fights or hits others.
___ My child is frequently in trouble at school or other social settings or is losing friends for anger issues.
___ My child is describes by adults as having anger issues.
___ My child behaves recklessly. His or her anger is becoming a safety issue.
___ My child is often sullen, silent, and holds her feelings in.
___ My child verbalizes, writes about or draws pictures of violent or aggressive acts.
___ My child (list your concern)
There is no magic number of items on this quiz that confirm “all is well” or that “there is an anger problem.” It’s more important to use the items to help you tune into how your child typically handles frustrations on a day to day basis. Checking just one of these items may be a warning signs that your child needs help dealing with anger.
If you are unsure of how frequently the anger issues occur, consider tracking the incidents on a chart, a calendar, or in a journal. You may discover that your child is having a moral difficult time coping at a particular time (such as right before going to bed or when you drop him off at preschool) or with a particular incident (the anger increases whenever he has a timed math test in school or when he’s hungry or doesn’t get a good night sleep or when you and your spouse squabble). A key is to try and discover what may be triggering your child’s inappropriate anger. That is always the first step to turning things around. For the next few days track your child’s anger issues (without him recognizing that is what you’re doing). Note the time of the flare up. What happened right before – or planned immediately after? Is there a pattern? Also note how long the inappropriate anger lasts. You will want to create a plan to help your child deal with the anger more appropriately. Collecting that “baseline data” now helps you determine if your anger management plan is working for your child. You should see a gradual diminishment of the inappropriate anger.
Tomorrow I’ll share Six Steps to Help Squelch Inappropriate Anger. Meanwhile, keep searching for those behavior patterns. You’ll need those before you can apply the anger management techniques.
If anger persists, becomes more intense, is a safety issues or is impacting your relationship with your child, seek the help of a mental health professional. Something else could be causing this problem. For more specific solutions, anger signs to watch for in your child, the stages and ages of anger development in child, latest research on anger, please refer to The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.