Growing up is harder than it looks. Children face many challenges, everything from bullies to broken homes that can cause anger issues to build and manifest in a variety of ways from name calling to throwing a book at a sibling. There are multiple triggers that could cause anger to erupt in children and the root of that anger isn’t always to identify.
Emotions are real but not always reliable
It’s important to mention that being frustrated or angry is a natural emotional response. If a child gets angry it’s not always something to be afraid of nor should a parent avoid discussing it either.
The results of that anger are what needs to be addressed carefully to successfully find a healthy way to express angry emotions. Unhealthy anger in a child could be expressed by violating someone through a form of physical aggression, verbal outbursts, seeking revenge or other negative, disruptive behaviors.
Address, but don’t suppress anger issues
Suppressing anger isn’t the solution. Children should have the freedom to express anger, happiness, sadness and the range of other emotions on the spectrum. They shouldn’t be restricted to only experiencing and displaying a certain set of emotions.
Controlling the emotions a child is allowed to feel can force those emotions to grow inward leading to depression or a host of other hidden hurts. Telling a child not to be angry is invalidating their feelings and telling them that anger emotion doesn’t exist. Acknowledging and addressing anger issues is the answer.
Properly addressing anger largely falls on the parents involved in a child’s life. Parents of children struggling to manage angry outbursts, find it helpful to reflect on their own personal parenting methods.
Use of inconsistent disciplinary actions or methods leave the child with unstable boundaries and the inability to figure things out. As a result, the child is constantly frustrated due to the lack of consistency in their environment and they don’t learn the proper coping skills necessary to handle real-life situations.
A parent that remains calm during an anger outburst can easily detach from emotions and defuse the situation. Parents who model a healthy way to channel anger will be better equipped to facilitate the development of those same healthy ways in their children.
Ephesians 6:4 reads, “Father, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” In other words, Paul is admonishing fathers not to provoke their children to anger by providing them with a training process that builds their character through exposure to biblical principles that are good for them.
Freedom of choice
Life moves at the speed of our choices. Some choices move us forward while others take us back. When children learn that their choices are bringing them unfavorable results—limited screen time, timeouts, loss of privileges—they become more open to learning healthy ways to express emotions. Children have individual identities and need the opportunity to explore choices on their own.
It is helpful for parents to set clear expectations and consequences when in control of their emotions, refraining from impulse consequences that end up confusing their children.
An example would be to tell your child every night they need to wash the dishes after dinner. Failure to wash the dishes will result in no screen time that night. It’s better for a child to learn lessons from their bad choices and discover how to make responsible choices that are beneficial to their lives.
It’s a fine line between tender and tough. Letting a child know in the midst of a failure that they are still loved as they receive the consequence for failing to meet the expectation is how balance is struck between soft and stern.
For example, the child who did not wash the dishes before turning on the TV may be told, “What a bummer that you are going to miss out on tonight’s episode of your favorite show. I know next time you will remember to wash the dishes first.”
In this example, the parent’s anger isn’t evident and the consequences are upheld using a loving approach. This technique calmly explains the consequences of the child’s personal decision to disobey but focuses on the opportunity to try again tomorrow.
A child that is just yelled at only learns how much they dislike being yelled at or learns to use that in the future as their way to solve problems. Reacting to misbehavior during a crisis is never a wise option. Spanking or yelling when angry will only perpetuate that same behavior in your children.
Hebrews 12:11 (NLT) reads, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening–it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
Children and adults don’t naturally gravitate toward a disciplined life. It’s not easy to embrace. Implementing expectations, giving the freedom to choose and clearly discussing consequences with your children are a few steps to take to navigate anger outbursts and prepare them for the real world.
If your child is showing signs of uncontrollable rage or hostility, it may be helpful sit down with a licensed therapist to talk through what could be causing the problem. Learning how to train your child without exasperating them can often yield great results for a child with an explosive temper.
“Let go,” courtesy of Josh Willink, pexels.com, CC0 License; “Snatching berries,” courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kitchen drawer,” courtesy of Jaroslaw Ceborski, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Red head,” courtesy of Matheus Bertelli, pixels.com, CC0 License