7 Key Ways to Reduce Child Anger

When our children are toddlers, we expect the potential to lash out with anger when they get frustrated or overstimulated. A large part of the toddler meltdown can generally be attributed to them feeling frustrated and simply not having the communication skills needed to get what they need.

However, for older children, there is often the expectation that the anger and emotional outbursts should subside as their communication skills develop. It can often be quite surprising to see an older child or a teenager unleashing anger directed at you, siblings, or peers at school.

If you’re unsure about what you should do, the good news is that you’re not alone. Parents can often find themselves overwhelmed when facing negative attitudes and behaviors in their children.

7 Ways to Reduce Child Anger

Instead of punishing them with harsh consequences, there are some alternative approaches you can consider.

1. Acknowledge possible underlying issues

When a child displays emotional outbursts, it is typically a symptom of some distress. The first step should be to understand what is triggering this behavior.

There are several potential underlying causes to be aware of:

  • Anxiety. Children who are reacting with what looks like defiance and anger can quite often have severe anxiety.
  • ADHD. Those who have hyperactivity and impulsivity as part of their ADHD may struggle to control their emotions and behavior. They can find it difficult to comply with the instructions they are given at school or home. This can be expressed as defiance and anger.
  • Trauma. Children don’t have the right emotional skills needed to work through trauma. This can result in fear-based responses that look very much like anger, violence, and defiance.
  • Sensory processing concerns. A child who struggles with being oversensitive to certain simulations they are exposed to, including too much noise or too much light in a room, can react with overwhelmed anger.
  • Learning disorders. Quite often, learning disorders aren’t diagnosed until children express irritability and frustration at school or home when doing homework.

Children on the autism spectrum may also react with emotional outbursts if they struggle to understand their environment or are overwhelmed. The spectrum is very wide, which means that it can often prove difficult to recognize that a child is on the spectrum and not simply display defiance and anger.

Finding the right solution for your child can depend on several factors unique to the child and your situation.

2. Understanding the anger triggers

The first step for any emotionally charged situation is to understand what is triggering the outbursts. Many children, regardless of their age, tend to have angry outbursts at predictable times. You may start to see a pattern forming when it comes time to do homework or get to bed at a reasonable time. Children often get triggered when they are told to do something they don’t want to do or when they are told to stop doing something they are interested in.

Some examples could be the following:

  • Tidy up your bedroom.
  • Do your homework.
  • Stop playing games and focus on homework.
  • Stop playing outside and return to class.

Preparing children for situations to change or for tasks that require them to shift their focus can help. Here are some example phrases to use to help them prepare for a transition of tasks:

  • We are going to stop playing in ten minutes.
  • Put your shoes on so we can leave for school.
  • Do your homework for thirty minutes, and we can take a break.

Sometimes all it takes is finding the best way to communicate with a frustrated child or feeling overwhelmed.

3. Establish rules for expressing anger

There are often unofficial rules in families about what types of behavior are acceptable and what is not when expressing anger. In some households, raised voices and slammed doors might be better tolerated in other families. Don’t allow room for confusion within your own family. Create rules that establish your expectations when it comes to expressing anger.

The rules should be centered around respectful behavior:

  • Don’t hit or hurt other people.
  • Don’t damage or destroy belongings or property.
  • Don’t throw things.
  • Don’t call people hurtful names.

Adapt the rules as needed to meet the needs of your family. Make it clear that respect is always expected.

4. Model appropriate behavior

As a part of establishing household rules, be sure that you are modeling the same behaviors you expect from your children. If you don’t want them to yell or scream, you should also be mindful of your tone.

This can, of course, be quite a challenge when you’re faced with an angry and defiant child who is perhaps lashing out physically. In these situations, it can often be better to remove the child from the situation by placing them in their bedroom. A bit of space and time apart can help to cool things down.

We must shield children from most adult problems, but it is healthy to show them just how you work through and handle your anger. Point out when you feel frustration and anger, so they can understand that we all get angry sometimes. This can be as simple as not losing your cool when a driver cuts you off on the road. Instead of swearing loudly or yelling, point out to your child how it made you feel. Verbalizing these frustrations and anger can help teach children that it’s okay to talk about the emotions they are experiencing.

Be sure also to be accountable for your behavior if you do lose your temper. Apologize to them for not modeling the right behavior and discuss what you could have done instead of getting angry.

5. Don’t focus on the negative behaviors

We all tend to focus on what shouldn’t have happened rather than focusing on the preferred course of action. Constantly focusing on the angry or defiant behavior rather than the preferred and expected behavior is not the right approach for all children.

Instead, offer a focus on the positive choices that you would prefer your angry child make. Be sure that you are also not giving in to tantrums and anger when your child is acting out because he didn’t get his way. Don’t agree with what he is demanding just so that you can make the anger stop. This reinforces to him that negative behaviors are what he needs to focus on to get what he wants.

6. Consequences are important

Negative consequences can be hard to enforce and enforce in a way that balances out wanting to reduce anger. Things like time-outs, losing privileges, or extra chores can be good consequences for children of all ages.

It is important to keep in mind that positive reinforcement can also be just as effective when your child follows the household rules. A reward system that will encourage and motivate your child to better manage his anger can be helpful.

7. Differentiate their behaviors and how they feel

Quite often, angry and defiant behavior is rooted in a series of uncomfortable feelings. This could include sadness, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, or confusion. Helping children learn to recognize what they feel can help them explore why they act out with anger or even physical violence.

Perhaps your child is sad because a friend can’t come over to play, or maybe because plans changed, and you can no longer go to the park. They may respond with an angry outburst because it’s easier than recognizing that they are sad.

Talk to your children about feelings, what they look like, and that it’s okay not to feel happy all the time.

Children must learn appropriate and healthy ways to work through what they are feeling. Don’t simply tell them not to scream or hit. Tell them what behaviors they could have shown instead. Remind them that verbalizing how they feel is a better approach versus lashing out in anger.

It can be hard to cope as a parent when you’re faced with the stresses of an angry and defiant child. This can be particularly true if you are navigating troubles at school, physical display of anger, and your mental wellness.

Getting help for every member of the family can be crucial. Therapy for the individual and the family as a whole can prove beneficial. A therapeutic boarding school with licensed psychiatrists, therapists, and nurses can offer solutions for both the child and the parents.

Call Liahona Treatment Center to learn what the next step may look like for your child.

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