Anger is a natural human emotion, and experiencing it from time to time is a common part of life. However, when anger becomes uncontrollable, frequent, and disrupts daily functioning, it may indicate an anger issue that needs attention. Children and teenagers, in particular, can struggle with managing their anger due to the challenges of emotional regulation and development. In this article, we will explore the causes, signs and strategies for addressing anger issues in children and teens.
Causes of Anger Issues:
There are many reasons why a child could appear to be more angry than other kids. One of them is prolonged treatment of a parent’s controlling behavior. This can cause conflicts with authority figures leading to stress and anger. Teenagers want self-reliance and independence. Children’s emotions may become stronger and more intense during puberty since the hormones testosterone and estrogen released at this time cause a variety of difficult to control emotions. A youngster that is worried my also appear irate, domineering, or reactive. In fact, they can experience more frequent, erratic mood swings. Stress, on the other hand, comes through social situations, school pressures and after school activities and often overwhelm teenagers, creating anger. Teenagers have to face multiple stressors at family, school and environmental stressors leading to crisis situations. They still remain dependent on adults for survival. Anger can also be caused by traumatic life events like divorce cases, loss of a loved one, brutal accidents and even breakups leading to a sense of numbness or fear. This can develop trust issues and they are unable to look at the positive side of the situation. In addition, depression is common among adolescents, if there is no outlet for anger, these emotions are turned inwards leading to guilt and self-blame, loss of self-esteem and confidence, self-harm or punishment in different ways. Suppressed emotions can lead to anxiety, panic attack, depression and suicidal tendencies may occur. Lastly, children learn behaviors from their surroundings. If they observe unhealthy ways of expressing anger in their families or communities, they may replicate those behaviors.
Signs of Anger Issues:
Anger symptoms in a child may include; appetite changes, change in how emotions are expressed, clenching of the teeth and being easily angered or frustrated, headaches and stomach aches, tense muscles and heavy breathing.
Signs of anger issues in a child can differ based on age, developmental level, and mental health diagnoses. However, behavioral and relational signs may be the first clue that your child is dealing with concerns that require professional treatment. If you find yourself frequently asking “Why is my child so angry and negative all the time?”, there is likely cause for concern.
- Disruption in family life and dynamics– Some signs of anger issues include appeasing your child to avoid escalating behaviors, canceling plans due to your child’s outbursts, or prioritizing an angry child’s demands to keep the peace.
- Aggression towards others– Children with anger issues may lash out at others unprovoked verbally or physically. Anger outbursts in children that include aggressive behaviors can be alarming and need to be addressed. Anger issues may be indicated if a child is consistently picking fights or hitting other family members, using anger as a means of manipulating others to get their way, and ignoring safety rules.
- Immature behaviors– Immature anger displays include temper tantrums, throwing things, holding their breath to try to pass out, or hurting themselves or others.
- Difficulties in relationships– Anger problems can negatively impact relationships in children from an early age. When young children engage in aggressive behaviors, other children will avoid interaction with them which can limit the child’s ability to learn or practice acceptable social interaction. If a child is having problems building friendships or is unable to get along with their peers due to anger, this may lead to further social exclusion which can negatively affect the child’s overall development.
- Frequent bouts of frustrations– Persistent bouts of frustration with others or oneself can generate inappropriately frequent anger outbursts.
Strategies for addressing anger issues:
- Accept your child’s anger– When your child has an angry outburst, acknowledge it. Next, accept their anger. Tell your child, “It’s OK to be angry.” You want your child to feel that both they and their emotions are okay. You don’t want them to think that they have to hide their feelings.
- Encourage them to use words– Children do not naturally know what words to use. So, it is important to teach them this social skill. For example, you can tell your child: “When you feel angry, you need to use words.
- Find positive solutions– children need help moving out of their anger, and guiding them through it is better than letting them sink into it. Finding a solution helps motivate a child towards something that excites them.
- Slow down– Slowing down and discussing the issue lets your child understand the reason for a refusal and accept it more agreeably. You want to give your child the feeling that you hear them, care about their desires, and let them know they can trust you to help them through life’s disappointments.
- Set a firm limit– While you want to convey that it is okay if your child feels angry, you need to make clear that the aggressive behavior is not. For example, if your child hits their sibling, you can say, “It’s OK to be angry. Your anger is OK. But you cannot hit.” Then add, “We don’t hit or kick anyone. “Next, direct them toward a positive way to react to the situation. Explain your limit: “Hitting hurts. We don’t hurt anyone.” Children are more likely to cooperate if the reason is plausible.
Anger issues in children and teenagers are uncommon, and addressing them early on can lead to healthier emotional development and improved relationships. By understanding the causes, recognizing the signs, and employing effective strategies, parents, caregivers and educators can support young individuals in managing their anger in a constructive and positive way. Remember that seeking professional help when needed is a crucial step in ensuring the well-being of children and teens struggling with anger issues.
Author: Dimpho Molise
Dr Paula Goel, published: 16 SEP 2022, 09:21 AM IST
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