Why is your Child Angry and what can you do to Help?
It is increasingly becoming common to hear from parents that their children are being “aggressive”, “destructive” or “rageful”. Parents often report that the more they try to control the child and stop him from getting angry, the angrier the child gets.
Anger in its most primitive form is felt when one feels invaded or abandoned. It is also a reaction to something or someone of value being taken away, feeling misunderstood or wronged, or one’s needs being ignored. This angry response is natural, healthy, and a part of the human survival instinct.
The purpose of this spontaneous anger is to let one know when someone is invading their boundaries in some inappropriate way or ignoring their needs. It helps one to set appropriate limits or to get the environment to respond. As parents it is important for us to understand that anger is a healthy expression.
How parents react to this anger affects the child's decisions about the value and validity of this natural body response. If the response to anger is punishment or telling the child that it is a ‘bad thing’ or being ostracized for being angry, the child may learn to suppress these feelings.
When the child starts shunning this anger, the energy produced by the natural anger can be turned inward, often causing bodily discomfort or even ailments in the long run.
Outwardly, it may be expressed through a host of behaviours ranging from withdrawal to outward aggression.
Creating a space for children that’s conducive for a healthy expression of anger helps them to learn to confront others and protect themselves effectively at the same time, leading to healthier relationships.
Here are a few ways in which a parent could respond to the child’s anger:
Creating a space for anger does not mean that the parent always agrees to the child. When a child disagrees, appropriate parenting responses involve giving reasons for rules, listening, honoring the child's objections, changing rules if appropriate, and staying firm with the limits as set.
Teaching children that the best way to handle injustice is through assertion rather than aggression.
A child could express his/ anger assertively,
for example, saying “I am angry with you because you are ignoring me.”
Parents could also encourage the child to express his/ her needs directly,
for example, “I would like you to pay more attention to me."
Modeling or showing to children through parent's actions that we can deliver our requests or disagreements calmly and respectfully.
Also, children learn cooperation when parents cooperate with them.
Helping the child to identify and be aware of his/her anger.
Dialoguing with the child to identify what he/she is angry about.
Encouraging the child to think through and consider what options are available for solving the problem.
The child can then choose one of the options and implement it.
When the child feels free to express his anger in the here-and-now and is supported through the process, the expressions of anger are healthy and at the appropriate moment, rather than being suppressed and taking other forms like aggression, frustration, rage or withdrawal.
Through this, children learn to be authentic, to get their needs met directly, to stand up for themselves and consequently to protect themselves.