66

Dealing With Anger and Children

Why do Children get angry?

Many things can make children angry, just as they do with adults, but parents often find dealing with angry children to be the most difficult part the parenting job. They feel everything from exhaustion to nerve wracking aggravation. Often parents and children get locked into a contest of wills, and the parent wins with a “Because I Said So” argument. Afterward, they doubt themselves as parents and feel guilty, ashamed, and inept. Many of us were taught as children that we were not “allowed” to be angry, and that anger with parents or caretakers showed great disrespect and selfishness. These kinds of childhod beliefs make it more difficult for us to handle anger in children. Add to this that each generation of children in America seems to grow more open with expression of emotions, even ones labeled as “selfish” emotions, and more open about expressing them in more places (e.g., support groups, friends, social networking sites…). Thus, parents may find their children and teens are more open with the very emotions the parent is least comfortable talking about.

The first step toward better management of children’s anger is to set aside what we were taught, and instead teach something new. Teach children that anger is normal, that it is acceptable and normal to get angry. The task then becomes how to manage anger and channel it toward productive or at least acceptable outlets, and not how to deny or repress it. Setbacks and obstacles can make us stronger if they challenge us to grow.

Parents and teachers must remember that just as there are many things in our adult lives that make us angry (i.e., being cut off in traffic, losing something important, or being frustrated by our computers). Becoming angry at these types of events is normal. Likewise, there are many things in children’s lives that make them angry, and their reactions are normal. Adults must allow children to feel all of their feelings, and model acceptable ways to manage, label, and communicate them. There are differences between being annoyed, mad, angry, outrage… and while these differences make little sense to children, as we grow older we can distinguish between these different emotions. We sometimes mislabel them, of course, and assume annoyance is really outrage, but it is not.

Children respond with anger because they feel helpless. To understand why one child becomes more angry than other children takes some time and effort. What triggered the outburst? The thing to realize is that our anger is generally a reaction to frustration. In children, however, anger appears to be a more generic emotion. It can be triggered by embarrassment, loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and hurt. Children often respond with anger to these types of situations because they feel helpless to understand the situation fully, and helpless to change it. In a way, their anger is a response to frustration as well.

A child who is especially defiant may be behaving this way to counteract dependency and fears of loss. A child who feels hurt by a loss may become angry as a way to avoid feeling sad and powerless. While anger is not the best emotion to feel in all cases, it might be easier to feel than some of these other, more painful emotions.

Sometimes a child’s anger prompts an adult to set rules more clearly, explain matters more thoroughly, or make changes in the child’s environment. In other words, a child may have learned that anger is an all-purpose red flag to let others know that something is very wrong. In these cases, it’s not that the child really feels anger (or feels only anger), but rather that they know anger will provoke a change in the environment that may be a change for the better.

It is important to remember that anger is not the same thing as aggression. Anger is a feeling, while aggression is a behavior. Anger is a temporary emotional state caused by frustration; aggression is often an attempt to hurt a person or to destroy property. Explain that anger is OK, aggression is not. Teach other ways to vent frustration without acting in hurtful or damaging ways.

Dealing with a child’s anger requires first finding out what they feel. Ask them what’s happened, what went wrong, or why they are feeling what they feel. They may be able to tell you very clearly. On the other hand, they may need your help to label their feelings. A parent might respond to a child who hits his brother by asking why he hit him. Go beyond the “he did this first” argument and ask where they learned to hit to tell other people to stop doing something. Maybe other kids at school hit, and the child is learning to do the same. Maybe they learn it from you if you spank or punish in anger. Explain that anger is OK (i.e., “I know how you feel; it makes me mad when other people borrow my things and don’t ask too”). However, explain that aggression (hitting your brother) is not ok. Offer other ways to express anger. A parent might say something like, “Here’s what I do when I get mad.”

Don’t just tell your child what not to do; tell them what they should do too. “Don’t hit your brother when you’re mad. Tell me about what happened, or tell him to give your toys back, or warn him you’ll tell me.” Some parents want to punish anger because they don’t like aggression. Contrary to some popular opinions, punishment is not the most effective way to communicate to children what we expect of them. Explaining, modeling, and setting rules is far more effective. Expect that your child will break a rule three or four times. This is how they learn which rules are serious ones, which ones you will enforce, and which ones can be broken under certain circumstances. Breaking rules often isn’t done in anger, but is a way of learning for children, of testing out the world around them.

Eight Tips for Angry Children

Some of the following suggestions for dealing with the angry child were taken from The Aggressive Child by Fritz Redl and David Wineman. They should be considered helpful ideas and not be seen as a “bag of tricks.”

  • Comment on your child’s behavior when it is good.
    • Something like, “I like the way you handled your brother when he took your stuff.” An observant and involved parent can find dozens of things they like about their child’s behavior…”I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded”; “I appreciate your hanging up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play”; “You were really patient while I was on the phone”; “I’m glad you shared your snack with your sister”; “I like the way you’re able to think of others”; and “Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened.”
    • Teachers can do the same, offering, “I know it was difficult for you to wait your turn, and I’m pleased that you could do it”; “Thanks for sitting in your seat quietly”; “You were thoughtful in offering to help Johnny with his spelling”; “You worked hard on that project, and I admire your effort.”
  • Ignore inappropriate behavior that you can tolerate.
    • Nagging you while you’re on the phone can be dealt with by praising what you liked (“Thank you for waiting while I was talking on the phone. I’m off the phone now, so what’s up?”) and ignoring what you don’t like (ignoring a child’s requests while you are on the phone).
    • You may be thinking, “You don’t know what they do then. Then they yell louder and you have to answer them just to have some quiet.” When you respond this way, you reinforce them for yelling. Yelling gets your attention, so next time they will yell louder to make sure you respond. They aren’t trying to annoy you, only using what they have found to be an effective way to get attention.
  • Say “NO” clearly and firmly as needed. Limits should be explained clearly and enforced consistently. Of course, you won’t say “no” all the time; when you decide to bend the rules and say yes, explain why that moment is appropriate. Knowing when it is acceptable to break the rules is just as important an knowing when it is not.
  • Provide physical outlets and exercise, both at home and at school.
    • We may kick a trash can, cut wood, clean, play a sport, work out at the gym… or do something that lets use force and spend our energy. Kids need physical activity to let off steam too. Keep in mind that you can allow this without risking your safety or the child’s. Let them stomp and kick a trash can in their room, but not in the living room.
    • Also keep in mind that hugs can often make strong emotions less difficult for a child. You don’t hug to make the anger go away though; hug to let the child know you understand their anger and that you take it seriously.
  • Take an interest in your child’s activities.
    • Attention and pride can often make negative emotions easier to deal with. Failures and frustrations often mean less when a child knows their parent loves them and is proud of them for others things they do and know. Encourage children to see their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Help them to see that they can reach their goals.
    • Recognize failures and setbacks part and parcel of life. Sometimes children do aggressive or destructive things when frustrated by difficult tasks, like studying. Parents can move in, acknowledge the difficulty of the task and the feelings of frustration or failure it causes, and offer help. It may make the task easier, or it may make the emotions easier to tolerate. Praise the child for their efforts even when it is dificult.
  • Use humor. Teasing or kidding can often defuse an angry situation and allow a child to “save face.” Don’t use humor to ridicule your child; use it to make fun of the situation. Something like, “I know you are mad at that little girl for calling you names. Especially such stupid names (giggle). She must not be very smart if the meanest thing she knows how to say is “dumb butt.”
  • When situations change, tell the child directly. “I know that noise you’re making doesn’t usually bother me, but today is different because I’ve got a headache, so could you find something else you’d enjoy doing that’s a little quieter?” When your headache is gone, let them know they can go back to what they were doing before.
  • Use several parenting methods
    • While spanking likely won’t help, other physical interventions might. Sometimes a child can’t stop once a tantrum has begun, and physically removing the child from the scene or intervening isn’t a type of punishment. It’s a way to help your child stop their behavior long enough to gain some control over it.
    • Use bargaining as needed. We often control our own behavior by doing this. “After a day like this, I deserve a really good meal” may help us curb our own temper when needed. This is not the same as bribery or blackmail. Know what your child likes and what is important enough to your child to serve as a good motivator to manage their anger.
    • Use modeling. Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence of their actions on a child’s or group’s behavior. If you curse when angry, don’t be surprised when a child does. If you count to ten when angry, don’t be surprised if your child follows this good example too.

Learning to manage anger is a skill for the future.

The Role of Discipline

Good discipline includes setting limits, but being flexible when needed. It means explaining the rules and sticking to them in a neutral way. Handling angry children means understanding why they are angry and responding appropriately, setting your own anger aside as much as possible. Bad discipline involves punishment which is unduly harsh and unpredictably meted out. Sarcasm and ridicule also go along with bad discipline.

One of the most important things you do as a parent, teacher, or other adult in a child’s life is help them respect themselves and others so they can be happy in the world. While it takes years of practice, it is a vital process that pays off. Teaching your young child to manage anger and talk about feelings can prevent many angry outbursts in teenage years ahead, in their adult relationships, and in their own relationships with their children.

  1. [...] R. (2010). Dealing with anger and children. Psych Page. Retrieved from http://www.psychpage.com/family/angry.html. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Uncategorized. [...]

  2. [...] May Research News For Children’s Emotional HealthMt. Pleasant Seeks Special Education Bill VetoA Great Online Resource for Kids with Special NeedsEmotional Coping Strategies-Getting Over Being Let Down By OthersWade’s weekly Twitter log for 2012-07-15Dealing With Anger and Children  [...]

  3. [...] when possible and avoiding being negative. We’e already doing most of the things one finds on typical parenting checklists (except, of course, when we forget ourselves – we get tired too). I can’t help feeling [...]

  4. Jones says:

    I enjoyed your article. My son is 3 and gets so angry and frustrated he hits and yells. The strange thing is that he will say “i’m dead” or “i’m dying!” He does not watch horror movies but his every day cartoons and Super Hero movies have death. Is this normal? I’m guessing it’s the meanest thing he thinks of to say. He also will scratch wherever he has been touched. If I reach over to kiss him, touch his arm or on occassion swat his behind he will pull down his underware to “scratch” my touch away. Is this normal? He gets angry about 2 times a week and other than that very good, loving, helpful etc. It’s our only child so maybe i’m just overly concerned.

  5. Monica says:

    Hi,

    My son is four and a half old, and he get angry extremely easily.

    He is listening to me on any other occassion. We perfected time outs to the point that when he does something wrong, he goes to time out himself (therefore the amount of time outs decreased dramatically, to maybe one per few days now).

    He is one of those boys who can focus for the longest time reading or making puzzle (extremely bright, diagnosed with 140 IQ) , but then walks around the house pretending to fight. He is very mature when I talk to him about his behavior (which I do after he is completely calm after an anger attack), and comprehends very well what happened. He understands NO.
    Those outbreaks happen, however, very often these days.
    He throws things (which he never does unless he is completely enraged), attempts to hurt anyone around (which he also never does unless in one of those rages), and screams often using bad words (like shit or crap). After his anger’s out, he is suddenly a different boy, He apologizes, hugs us and continues as if nothing happens. Meanwhile…we are still shaking.
    It’s a hard situation because we are both firm parents who set boundaries which are very clear and respected by our son but completely forgotten when he is so angry. It is like he is becoming red with anger, and he is unstoppable.
    We are usually trying to come him down by changing the room (helps sometimes), or by attempting to ask him what made him so angry, and all of that works half of the time.
    I worry about the other half. Since we are not punishing him for throwing and it all, do we encourage those rages??? Or perhaps, are we teaching him coping mechanisms (talk it out, tell us how you feel) that will eventually work?
    Is Time Out ever suitable when a child gets so angry that he throws things, hits everyone, and/or screams inappropriate comments??
    Please advise, Doctor.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I found this article very helpful. I searched for “anger in children” because my four year old daughter is often angry. I don’t like it because she screams at the top of her lungs and this can sometimes go on for several minutes. But, she does not hit or kick or destroy things. She only yells and screams. I make her sit in her room to have these tantrums. Is this a healthy way for her to to handle anger? Should I allow this? When she finishes tantruming, I talk with her about what made her angry and cuddle her. She is usually fine after that.
    I feel bad for our neighbors. It is the kind of screaming that really grates you. I have a hard time listening to it. It gets to me and really wears me down. I have found that *I* get angry just listening to her and I have to clam down again before I can talk to her!

    • Denise says:

      Jennifer – I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. When I read your comment, it is like I wrote it. My daughter is also four and screams at the top of her lungs when she does not get her way. She has a difficult time coming out of the anger spell and I’m not sure what to do. I will be trying some of the methods from this article and hopefully it will help.

  7. Melissa says:

    My daughter is 7 years old and one of the youngest in her class. She’s very intelligent, however I was told by her kinder teacher that she may not have been ready for school socially & emotionally, although the school disagreed and told me that she was more than ready so I sent her to school. She is in grade 2 now and sometimes she gets so angry and I don’t really know what to do about it anymore. Most of the time she is a placid, caring, happy little girl but when she gets angry she gets right up in that persons face and just yells at them. She tries to calm herself down by reading or writing her feelings down, but I have no idea where these outburst come from and it’s alienating her friends … I don’t want her to have no friends!!! She also yells at her younger brother too, every now and then. I’ve told her that anger is a normal reaction but we have to think of a better way to deal with her anger. Her home life is normal & happy and if her dad and I ever argue it’s never in front of the kids. I’ve been thinking of yoga to help her deal with her emotions and calm herself down if she feels like she’s going to have an outburst. I worry that she doesn’t know how to express anger and that perhaps the kinder teachers were right, she is almost a year younger than alot of her friends!! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Tonya says:

      I have a daughter same age and same symptoms (if you can call it that). she was one of the younger ones in kinder also. yells/screams at her younger brother and also at school friends when things don’t go her way. otherwise, she’s very intelligent and social…..i have no idea how to help her deal with her anger issues.

  8. Lana says:

    I have a 11 year old son who gets very angry. Anytime you tell him NO he has so much anger. He starts screaming and yelling, calling me bad names, telling God he hates him, threating to kill his self or to kill us by stabbing us. We adopted him and he has a lot of issues. I think there should be free training for the parents so we will know how to handle situations like this. I have him in Canceling but I feel I need more help with him. Is there anywhere online that we can get this training? We love him very much but need some help before it is to late. Hope someone can help us.

    • Mandy says:

      I have an 11yr old & 2yr old. My oldest son gets so angry over everything & smoetimes I worry he may hurt his brother with his tempertantrums. He has been seeing his counseler for about 5 or 6 yrs. but untill now nothing has worked not even meds. He has been dagnosed bi_polar ADHD & a few other things. But I feel like things just get worse the more I try. I cant afford THE TOTAL TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM. So what other options are avaliable to us? I can read site’s like this but if he wont put the efft into it then what Io wont help. The only thing he ems to respond to is when I say I will play YuGiOh with him but thenhe will try to push me to play all day even when Iam cooking cleaning or careing for the baby who has been sick. If I am unable to play he tells me things like you dont love me or goes & trashe’s our room. I am exhausted from the tantrums of both the treeiable 2’s & the angry tween’s. What can I do?

    • Calypsoul says:

      Dear Lana
      . I understand you so well because I had the same situetion with my step douther. It ‘s feels to me that he has a psyceatric problems and probably he needs some medicin to help him with all the rage that he feels inside. If he speekes about killing himself or you take it very very sereusly.
      I feel that he has a lot of genetic and emotional staf that afect him so badly and on top the psyceatric problems , it can be too much to bare and probably he is sufering so much , as much that you do too because you love him .
      I hope I was helpful to you.
      have a good day
      and God bless you
      (My English is not so good , but I wanted to give you same help )

  9. Krisi says:

    I also have an aggressive 7 year old. Unlike many of the other parents, I know what has caused it. He had a skull fracture (when he was 3 years old) that caused seizures for a short period of time. He took meds while he was in the hospital but came home on just short-term pain meds. I took him back 2 weeks later for a follow up appointment with his neurologist. I complained that he was very, very hyper and blunt when talking to people. These were new things and the neurologist just dismissed it with a “he’s just nervous to be here”. It took many months for him to get his equilibrium back completely. He still to this day gets tired before other kids his age, has frequent headaches, has problems controlling himself and learning deficits in certain areas. We have been to our general practitioner for yearly physicals and I’ve mentioned the last two years that he is having behavior problems at home & at school and he just dismisses it as “it’s just his age, he’ll outgrow it”. I couldn’t believe the doctor said that, especially since my son didn’t want to stay in the exam room after he was done. He ran out and I had to pull him back in and the doctor just made a closing comment and left me there with a boy who was getting physical with me. The look that he had told me what he was thinking: what the heck is that mother doing to make her child act that way?! I did not receive any referrals after his head injury and was not warned about the possible long-term effects. I have only found out about the long-term effects in the last year by researching it myself and they fit my son perfectly. I would be curious to know how many of the kids in these posts have had a head injury? It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a bad enough injury to send them to the hospital, just bad enough to cause an injury to the brain. My journey isn’t any easier and doctors don’t listen to me any better, but it does give you the knowledge that there was a possible cause…it didn’t just happen out of the blue or because of something you did or didn’t do.

    • cyndy says:

      I so understand. I have a 13 year old who was so similiar. He began having seizures at 10, complex partial ones; after a serious fall at 7. Which the doctor told me for 2 years were just “night terrors” It wasn’t until he was 11 that we found they were seizures. He has been very angry through the years. Head injuries are very hard on a person. my son changed considerably after his injury. However, he is on his seizure meds now and no more seizures but it has taken us years of anguish to realise the effects of trauma on him. Follow your instincts and do not let anyone tell you different. I feel I’ve saved my son’s life during our journey a number of times by following what I knew was right. Peace to you and health for all.

    • Jeanna says:

      I sympathize with Krisi’s story. And I believe it. I have worked with/been around children for years. Kids have been drawn to me since I was a teenager and I had many, many babysitting/nanny jobs growing up. I have been a pre-k teacher for nearly 19 years and have helped teach Sunday School for even longer. My husband and I have 3 children and have helped raise two of his siblings. This does not make me an expert nor, by far, perfect. Yet, our youngest son (age 7) has not “grown out of” his anger issues. I have always worked with him. Even as an infant, I saw that there was something more in his anger than in other babies. I have used humor, distraction, role playing, puppets, incentive and loss of privledge systems; I have pleaded, disciplined, ignored, and read many books about feelings to him. I have read countless parenting books as a parent and have had a lot of training as a teacher (which I apply to him). He knows he can pray for God’s help. Though, my kids have more than they need, they are by far, not spoiled. He has chores around the house and is taught responsibility. I have taught him about forgiveness and “cooling down” techniques. I believe children need a balance of discipline and love. Yet, 7 years later, his anger is still out of control! How can I be such a well-respected teacher, who has helped so many children, but have a son that has caused countless tears, anger, embarassment, guilt, and worry?!? I am beginning to wonder about my role as a mother, which greatly saddens me. I live for my kids and my whole life has revolved around teaching and guiding other children.
      Then something hit me this evening after, yet another outburst. Before he was born, the ultrasound showed that he had a cyst on his brain. The cyst, they said, went away about a month later….but could that have made an impact, somehow, on his personality? I know it sounds absurd, but I have to explore this. He has a wonderful, loving personality and is very smart and talented, but it often gets overshadowed with his angry outbursts. I want to be able to enjoy my son. I want him to be successful in life. I used to think a child’s behavior was a reflection of how they were raised, and I do believe that still (Trust me, I have seen SO MUCH as a preschool teacher). However, I now know that sometimes it is something more. I feel no one understands. I feel that strangers think I am a bad mom and that is why he acts so. I guess I can’t blame them-I was the same way. God has humbled me through my son.
      Good luck, Krisi and good luck to any other parent out there whose child is experiencing REAL anger issues.

  10. Tina says:

    I have a hard time understand why my 9 year old son expresses anger the way he does. He is a baseball wiz but when he plays and strikes out, he hangs his head and mopes off the field and frequently crys when this happens. I feel embarassed and get mad because I feel he is acting like a baby. How can I help teach him to work out problems better?

    • Cindy says:

      I have the exact same problem!!! My son is fantastic at baseball, but yes, not get a homerun or heaven forbid get out, he mopes, and cries, and makes it very uncomfortable for not just me, but the whole team. I want him to learn to play on a team, especially baseball, but it is no fun for all the other players (or me) when he acts this way. He also (seems) to get hurt often. Have you ever thought that you may have to take him off the team, that maybe he is not ready for it? I have, but I then worry that there are benefits to being on a team for him too. I have no suggestions, just wanted to say I know how you feel, and let me know if you find something that works…

    • K says:

      It sounds like your son is experiencing a great deal of shame and disapointment when he does not succeed in baseball. He needs a lot me reinforcement of his worth and value. At the moment when he fails he is worried that you won’t love him. He links his entire self worth to his success. All children need to know we love and care for them. NOT that we love and care for them when….

  11. Nina Riley says:

    Once my four year old son held on to a tree and started screaming, as he did not want take the route we were taking home. He wanted the route that went past the toy shop! I just stood there waiting for him to calm down and stated over and over we were not going that way. I think most young children get angry; it’s a part of growing up. I have, as you have stated, ignored inappropriate behaviour. I think children will test to see how far they can go. Once you have set your ground rules and stick to them. They soon realise that being angry is not helping. My son, for example, no longer holds on to trees – not worth his while as he knows I will not give in. Very good article, learned some new techniques. Thanks.

    • Aussie Kate says:

      I have a spirited, outgoing 6 year old girl whose school teacher says is a delight to have in the classroom.
      But it has been a very different story at home over the last two months. Almost daily she has been throwing tantrums which turn into fits of rage.
      It can be over something like not wanting to wear a piece of clothing (I can’t be flexible because she is required to wear a school uniform) to simply being told she is not allowed to do something.
      When she is angry she says hurtful things to my husband and I and becomes physically abusive towards her siblings.
      She is child number 2 of 4, and the others are beginning to copy this unacceptable behaviour.
      I have tried everything: locking her in her room, confiscating her favourite toys, making her miss out on treats and special outings, giving lots of choices so she has the impression she is in charge, trying to diffuse situations before things escalate, taking her out for girls-only days, talking calmly with her about what is going on.
      Our entire family is in turmoil because of what is happening and we are in desperate need of advice for her and us. Anyone???

  12. Nina says:

    I remember a time when my four year old son held on to a tree and started screaming, as he did not want take the route we were taking home. He wanted the route that went past the toy shop! I just stood there waiting for him to calm down and stated over and over we were not going that way and why. I think most young children get angry; it’s a part of growing up. I have, as you have stated, ignored inappropriate behaviour. I think children will test to see how far they can go. Once you have set your ground rules and stick to them, they soon realise that being angry is not helping. My son, for example, no longer holds on to trees – not worth his while as he knows I will not give in. Very good article, learned some new techniques. Thanks.

  13. klo says:

    Hi,
    I have found this article very useful as it really helped me to understand and put in place strategies to cope with anger in children. I have a friend who has a son aged seven with behavioral issues, shows aggressive behavior in school when he does not like something he runs away from classroom and has everyone running after him, will throw things like pens, pencils, rubbers, sharper etc at support assistant, lift tables and refuses to work when asked by teacher, even when he knows he is in trouble for not listening he will argue back with staff, is fidgety and is very intelligent he is a whole year ahead then his classmates!
    She has been reading up on the Autism spectrum disorder but the school do not agree. Could it be something else………..but what? Also how can his aggressive behavior be dealt with right away so that he does not end up hurting himself.
    Thanks

    • Gram says:

      The child sounds like the classic symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome which is the only genetic link to Autism. Fragile X children can have mild to sever symptoms.
      Milder… he would have a great memory & learn very quickly. They can suffer from anxiety which would cause the out bursts or meltdowns.
      A simple blood test is all it takes to rule out FXS. The sooner he gets a diagnosis the soon he could have an IEP in place at school to get the therapies he needs.
      Aspergers (Autism) was thought to be the cause when we first had my Grandson tested.
      It turned out to be FXS. that was 4 yrs ago & now he is in Kindergarten & doing great.

    • Pam says:

      Klo, there are some similarities that you mention that describe my 7 yo son. He doesn’t really throw things but he does try to “get away” when upset & he has been known to break pencils, tear paper, etc. when upset. Something for your friend to consider for her son is we had an evaluation done by neuropscyhologist to rule in or out various things. This evaluation would’ve determined if he were on the autism spectrum, ADD, ADHD etc. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn much from the evaluation other than he is very mildly ADHD but no additional therapy (meds) were recommended. We basically got told to keep doing what we’ve been doing.

      More to Dr. Nolan. My son goes to almost weekly counseling sessions but unfortunately, I’m not seeing the progress I’d hope. Both the school & I have tried to use reward programs. They are consistent; I’m not. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. My son’s teacher is concerned that she’s seeing some tendency toward aggression & is worried something more is going to happen.

      My poor son has a lot going on in his little life. His dad & I separated at the end of October. He was exposed to a lot of arguing in our home. Then b/c of some behavior issues & an incident that happened outside of school property, his school (private/parochial) didn’t seem to want to work with him (they wanted me to enroll him in full day therapy that his counselor nor the neuropsychologist supported) so we switched schools at the beginning of March. This was extremely hard on him. Lots of changes in a short period of time. His behavior issues did not start when we separated. They actually seemed to change more last spring but I think that’s when things were “escalating” at home.

      I have a very sad, angry little boy & I’m trying to figure out how to help him better control his anger. I’m trying to decide if I should see a different counselor or possibly take him to some other type of professional – psychologist, psychiatrist. It’s very frustrating but also very heart breaking.

    • Helen says:

      My son has the same behavior issues and was diagnosed with ADHD. Since he has been on medication he symptoms have improved so much. He sits still, he does not run out of the classroom, he still argues but will listen to your response and react appropriately. I would have your friend take him to a child psychiatrist or a neurologist. Simple testing and observation will help them determine if there is more than just a behavior problem involved. My son still has anger issues but nothing like before. I think most of the anger stemmed from frustrations with himself and not having the control to stop himself until we were able to get him on the right medications.

      Good luck to your friend!

  14. Deb G. says:

    My son is turning 14 in two weeks. He has fought with his sister, whom is four years younger, forever. He has hit her, pushed her and ridiculed her. The hitting and pushing receded as he got older, however the ridiculing has not. Lately he has regressed into pulling/pushing her. He has always had a hard time fitting in with kids his age and just recently found a group he likes. Last week at school he pushed a kid in his class and when the kid fell he landed on his wrist. It broke. When we found out about this incident we grounded him for two weeks, and had a very long discussion about the results of his actions and I explained how he needs to recognize the onset of his anger so he can better deal with it. The next day at school he was told by the resource officer that battery charges were being pressed against him. He was devastated and showed great remorse. However now a few days have passed and he is back to pulling his sister around. I am looking into counseling but I don’t know what to look for. I don’t know what to do. Is it probable that he can be “fixed”? I know where this behavior leads. I talk openly and truthfully with him all the time. I guess what I am mostly asking is how to go about choosing a counselor from the thousands in the phonebook. Thank you for any help! Your advice seems knowledgable.

  15. Hello All
    I’m a bit surprised that this page has been getting so much traffic, but then think I should have expected that. While I can not offer professional advice for any of the situations here, I can offer a few thoughts in response to the general issues …

    Anger is an emotion we all have, and for good reason. It is what helps us defend ourselves and loved ones, and arguably is what allows us to band together for a cause that advances the good of us all (think about citizens overthrowing a harmful government). So anger isn’t the problem. Parents become distressed when their children become angry and they don’t know what to do about it.

    • Sometimes parents want to soothe and protect the child, and so they try to placate the child and prevent any stressor that would make the child angry.
    • Sometimes parents fear the anger, and so they try to stop, dismiss, or ignore it.
    • Sometimes parents fear the expression of anger will become out of control, and so they try to punish the child for expressing it at all.


    Sometimes the anger is not the problem, and it is fine to let your child express it. There have to be some limits in place, of course, and so your child may be allowed to kick a stuffed animal but not a sibling, for example. If they abide by these limits, then let the child be angry. In some ways this is like working out at the gym. The more a person lifts weights, runs, or exercises, the more weight they can lift, the farther they can run, and the longer they can exercise. Letting your child “work out” their anger is in a very real way letting them learn to be angry, and tolerate it. This is why you teach them healthy things to do to deal with their anger.

    In one sense, your job as a parent is to do exactly this. You teach your children to understand and manage their emotions and internal world. This allows them to interact with the rest of the world, but invariably brings more opportunities for happiness as well as hurt. You teach and then let them practice understanding, accepting, and managing the emotions, thoughts, and beliefs they have afterward. This allows them to go back and interact with the rest of the world, which invariably…

    Just realize you will not be able to stop all expression of anger… and arguably should not even if you could. Interestingly, there was a study where they asked people after a minor injury to rate the level of their pain. Participants who simply cursed after being hurt reported less pain than those who did not. Sometimes expressing anger really does make us feel better. If you came from a family where anger always led to hurt, you may not want your children to express anger because it scares you. Trying to prevent them from expressing anger is teaching them that anger is frightening and a bad thing… which may be the exact opposite of what you hoped they would learn about themselves and family.

    Sometimes the anger is not the problem, although the behavioral expression of anger is unacceptable. Kicking a sibling or parent, grabbing a knife, or running away from the parent in a crowded public place or near a busy street are not acceptable. In these cases, setting firm limits is the key. When we say this, we mean reminding the child of the rules and consequences, and enforcing them. Thus, saying “I told you the rule – no more kicking people – and that if you did it again you would be sent to your room. You kicked your sister, so off to your room, NOW!” If the child refuses, then you take them to their room.

    If they leave, you take them back. If they leave you take them back and close the door to their room. If they run out, you take them back, close the door to their room, and hold the door closed if needed. If they break something, you enter the room, remove the breakable things, go get the child, take them back to their room, close the door, and hold it closed if needed.

    Some readers might be saying “Oh my god – that’s child abuse!” No it is not. Locking a child in a closet could be abuse (a small closed space where a child could suffocate), and locking a child in a room and leaving could be abuse (a locked door could prevent the child from escaping if there were a fire), but locking a child in a room big enough for a bed while you hold the door closed and stand outside it is not dangerous or abusive. If they want to mess up their bed, play with toys, read, or stomp around and scream… let them. This is learning to “work out” their anger.

    If this seems still completely unnecessary, consider what happens when your child, as an adult, punches others, threatens them with a knife, or makes suicidal gestures. In the first case, police will take them to jail for progressively longer periods of time. In the second case they are likely to seriously hurt others, and be seriously hurt themselves. In the third case, they may make a “mistake” in their planning, and though they intended someone would notice and intervene after their suicidal gesture, they end up “succeeding” and actually die. Teaching them at a younger age to manage their emotions would have been a much, much better response.

    In a few specific responses…

    To Gabrielle – BRILLIANT! I have seen this kind of response called Grandma’s Rule – “When you are finished being in the corner/throwing a tantrum/fighting with your sibling, we can do something more fun.” You taught your son that there are parts of school that are no fun, but putting up with them means he gets to do the more fun stuff. You can’t have one without the other. Very Zen in its own way…

    To Mary Ellen and Diana
    There’s a lot going on here. Perhaps your boyfriend is trying to move into a parent role that he hasn’t earned, or perhaps your son thinks the boyfriend is doing this. Either way, the conflict is likely to continue into your son’s teen years. See the articles here on Step-families for some ideas. Perhaps your boyfriend should give all parenting-like complaints to you, and let you be the parent while he is the guest in the home? That sounds a bit like a Ms. Manner’s suggestion, but it makes sense.

    I’ve also recommended “inoculation therapy” for some couples. Before they marry, or before someone else moves in the home, they go for therapy that is short-term and focused on parenting. What if the child does this – how will you handle it? What if the other parent-figure does this – how will you handle it? You can’t cover every situation, of course, and the point is not to come up with some kind of scenario book for every kind of problem. Rather, you want to develop some kind of common view between the two of you about how you will handle these kinds of things, so that you “are on the same page.”

    For Diana, this may focus more specifically on parenting for this child. Some of this is practical to be sure you have clear and consistent rules, but some of it is philosophical to be sure you are counter-acting the toxic parts of her current home in ways that are most important to you. Again, you want to develop some kind of common view between the two of you.

    To Michelle and Nisha
    Both of these situations sound like they have escalated to the point you will need to see a professional who can learn the details of your case, what you’ve tried, and what has or hasn’t worked. They can offer a plan of action from there…

    • Holly says:

      NOT GOOD Dr Niolon! If the child is ADHD, your suggestion to send him to his room is exactly what NOT to do and will exacerbate the problem. (Parents, do think of Attention Deficit as the child feeling like they have a deficit of the sort of attention the need to be healthy; not that they cannot pay attention….) You do not “teach a child to manage their emotions” by closing them off in a room. How is that teaching them to manage their anger? How does that give them strategies for the next time they are angry? That just increases their isolation and frustration. It might be a short term solution, but not at all good for your child.

      Try reading Gabor Mate’s book Scattered Minds. Half of the behaviors of the children I’m reading about here are children that are extremely stressed because of the stressful atmosphere of their homes.

    • Good points about adapting your response for ADHD children (who were not the subject of this post, but are the subject of other posts here at PsychPage). I think you misunderstood though. “You do not “teach a child to manage their emotions” by closing them off in a room” No, you don’t. However, we all need a place where we can withdraw and reflect when we need to, and physically express our emotions freely and safely when we need to. Teaching your child where they can do that and when it might help is part of teaching them to deal with strong feelings… as are helping them label their feelings, telling them what they should do about them, providing a range of physical outlets, using humor…

  16. Isabelle says:

    A child’s biggest influence are the parents/family. The children learn behaviors from their families. The families should also model positive behaviors.

    • Jojo says:

      I am not certain that this is the complete picture. Many children learn things from their environment, television and other sources. Once children are school-aged, parental influence is but one factor. Many parents with children expressing difficult behavior get demonized and they are doing the best that they can and model positive behaviors. Some even have successfully raised older and younger siblings. Some have sought social services or the services of behavioral specialists, all for naught. I think we should all be careful that we do not label parents and families in the midst of challenges trying to figure out the right thing to do.

    • Good points – and key ones to Harris discusses in her book The Nurture Assumption. I review this book (see The Nurture Assumption but that page isn’t transferred into the new blog structure of the site yet.

  17. Becky says:

    I found the article to be full of good advice for my younger child. However, for my oldest child I am at a complete loss. She is ADHD, on medication, and is having a very difficult time dealing with her father and I’s recent divorce. She becomes very angry at the slightest things that do not go her way, often threatning to hit her younger sister. She takes a lot of her anger out towards me, I have tried time outs, calmly talking to her, taking away toys, listening to why she is angry. I am at wits end. Any advice??

    • Lorie says:

      Hi Becky,
      I have a six year old child has ADHD. I used to try time outs with my son without any success. I learned about a very effective method of discipline for my son called “123 magic” which is available both in book and video format. This method of discipline has helped me stay more calm and feel more in control and actually works most of the time…. exceptions are when he’s very hungry or very tired.

  18. susan says:

    There is a girl in my daughter’s class who my daughter is friends with one minute and absolutely, horrifically enraged by the next minute. The depth of her anger surprises me. The little girl came over today and they had a really good playdate until the end when they had a race to see who could get out of their dressup clothes fastest and the other little girl said she won and my daughter said she won, and they ended up yelling at each other and my daughter insists she hates her and she never wants to go play at her house and she wants to “poke her eye out” Why so much rage for such a little thing? My daughter has never gotten in any kind of physical fight with anyone but she talks like she would like to….do you have any insight about this?

  19. Nisha says:

    This is a very very good article.I have a 6.5yr old boy who just flares up at home towards me,his dad and little brother.He is a very gentle and friendly person at school,does well in studies too.It brekas our heart to see him behave so arrogantly and rudely with us,his family.We took him for counselling sessions which include art tehrapy,sandpaly and art therapy.After 8 sessions he was transformed into thsi wonderful little child.But when we went for vacation to my native things turned rotten again.Things did not always go as he expected.He still gets aggressive.Throws things,spits,even takes a knife and says I just want to kill you.The funny thing is he is very clingy,wants me to cuddle him while sleeping…I am so confused.The little one is now seeing al this aggression and starts crying .I am worried so much I dont know what to do.He has started counselling sessions again but I feel so anxious…how long can i take him for these sessions?He does not respect his parents as he does his teachers.We have rules and stick by the rules at home but he doesnt care.He wants things done his way.My father is another person that he throws no tantrums with other than teh teacher.He says the kid has to be put in a boarding school and not loved and cuddled like this.He blames our parenting for the child’s behaviour.
    When he is angry nothing can calm him down.Today I tried hugging him asking to relax but he kept pushing me off and said go away.He kept hitting and pitting me.
    Kindly share your views Sir.I would be so much obliged.Thankyou and God bless.

    • Karthik L R says:

      Hi Nisha,

      This situation seems to be same, which had occured in my life.
      I would suggest you to send him to Meditation/ Yoga, where he would try to make himself calm and get new ideas.
      One more important thing, please don’t allow him to watch any horror or action movies. Get him more comic books and allow him to watch cartoons, where he could fell better and ming refreshed.

      And boarding school would cause more problem to child in future, so please dont have an idea of boarding school.

      And he would be fine and improvement will be seen, if he does yoga/meditation twice a day.

      If you need any tips on Yoga, please send a mail to kartz.lr@gmail.com.

  20. Michelle says:

    Hi. I have found that alot of the information you have listed here and the comments have been helpful. My problem is with my 14yr old son. It’s alot harder to control his outbursts. He’s not just angry, but he’s also aggressive. He has an absent father and I am on disability so my limitations are more than what they used to be. I will say that he does get alot of the new electronic products that are out there. He’s got an older brother and a much younger sister. I’ve tried everything that I can think of to control his outbursts, but haven’t been successful. I’ve punished him from friends, tv, xbox, ps3, Ipad, and his cell. There isn’t much left to go to. He ran away tonight and the area of town we live in isn’t the best. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to him. Please Help!!

  21. Nancy R. says:

    Thank you for this article. My son recently turned 6 and for the past year has had angry outbursts which seem to be happening more often. ie. my husband or I say no to a small request and he reacts by demanding it, then can quickly escalate into kicking/throwing toys, insults etc. We stay calm but these episodes can still last up to 30 min. I am starting to be able to tell by his demeanor/mood when these outbursts are more likely to happen and when saying no will not be a problem. I’m trying to understand where this is coming from and why he only displays these angry outbursts at home. He is very intelligent, gets along great with peers and other adults, behaves well in school and in the care of others. For background, he was born extremely premature and suffered a gr 3 bleed on his brain. I don’t know if that has anything to do with this but may be worth mentioning. Also any advice on how to find the roots of anger would be appreciated. Thanks for your help.

  22. mumof3 says:

    Thankyou for the insight into this as i feel like i’m at my wits end with my 10 yr old daughter, eldest of 3, shes always been quite chilled but the last 6 months have found me sitting on the edge of my seat most nights and weekend waiting for her to explode, which she does frequently. It can be because i ask her to do something.. i,e turn the telly down, log off laptop, tidy room, anything at all. Tonights was because i went into her room to clear the rubbish away despite the fact that she said she’d done it. So i asked her to come off the laptop and come upstairs, she yelled why, i said as im trying to clear some of this mess up and need your help, and she went ballistic, and went into my younger childrens rooms as she knew i wouldnt shout and yell in there as they asleep, but sadly i did shout and yell and she ran up stairs to her room and wrote in ink on the banisters at the top which she has never done anything like this before. She says everything is ok at school and she doesnt know why she blows up the way she does. Was also wondering if you know of any medication she can have as i’m half convinced it could be hormonal, maybe theres something herbal available. Anyway will try and put some of the techniques u mentioned into practice as i cant go on the way it is now. Phew feel better just for writing it all down , thanks

  23. Diana Kellogg says:

    About 2 years ago, I started dating a guy that one of my cousins used to date. She actually set us up. It’s been wonderful. But, there’s a complex scenario, because my guy has practically raised my cousin’s daughter. So, I have become almost like a step mother to my 2nd cousin. She’s 13, bigger than me, and is angry at the world. She has become aggressive with her mother & others. Her mother is on drugs, her father moved away & had another child, and her grandmother just died. She is supposed to come live with my guy & me this fall, but we’re thinking we need to do it sooner, because her homelife is toxic, unpredictable, and unmanageable. I’m afraid she is going to move in with us and turn our lives upside down if we do not become more educated on how to help her. So, I’m trying to research ways to help her. I know one thing. My guy and I have to be a team, on the same page, and stick to our guns with her. She can’t get in between us…or we won’t be able to help her. I’m scared to death, but some of this stuff seems like its worth trying. My problem is that I feel like we need to do more than TRY, so I’m also seeking counseling for my guy & me…so we can be more educated and prepared…

  24. Tanya says:

    Hello,

    I just read this article mostly out of necessity. My son just turned 3 and I have a new baby on the way in a month or so. His behaviour is getting out of control and his attitude seems unmanageable. He does anger easily and gets frustrated. We try to difuse the situation by talking to him softly and explaining why what he’s doing isn’t working. This sometimes works. Other times after asking him once not to do what he’s doing and counting to 3, we give him time outs. I’m not sure they are working because he just gets more angry in the time out and sometimes spits and hits. Then after he comes out, he continues this behaviour at least once soon after. Do you have any other suggestions to help us control him? We try to be consistant with dicipline, give him plenty of attention and keep him engaged and challenged as he is very intelligent and bores easily. Not sure what else to try and I worry because I know the situation will not likely get easier once the new baby arrives.

    Desperate for suggestions,
    Tanya

  25. ubaid khan says:

    Dear Richard Niolon ,

    I am from pakistan but residing in Ireland for 8 years. I visit my family every year.My son whose name is Umair is 10 years old.he is very good in school is but 2years ago when i visited him he was quite changed boy,my wife says he was frightened during sleep(nightmare) and cried when wake up.

    since then he is misbehaving, beating brother and two sisters,calling me, mom and granny with bad names and does not like the guest at all.spitting ,tearing clothes, .throwing stone at people when i take him outside when get angry.when asked to go for outing I take him for outing.

    he talks like mature child .he says to my other children dont spend much of dad money . he is very caring for me. Sometime i have slap him and beat as well which i dont like.
    he whistle after teacher as well and she beat him

    he was fighting with his class mate so i took him out of school. because oneday he broke nose of class mate.

    We have mixture of opnion from people. I have taken hm to child specialist, his ctscan are clear but they have prescribed for him anti convulsive medicine.

    some peole said that he is under the influence of ghoast , and for that i have taken him to many ghoast specialist , but were in vain and only grabing the money. one guy took from me nearly pk rs 10000 equi usd 120. .

    I dont know being highly educated , Master in science ,how i fell into those nasty hand but its my child love blinded me to go for anything which can cure him.

    I am going to pakistan in next week..

    I am hoping you can guide me on the right direction and any reccomendation you would suggest to me so that i can hepl my child back on the track as he is very inttellegent and clever.

    I will be waiting for your reply

    Yours truly,

    Ubaid

  26. Tamsin says:

    Great article? I have been searching for advice to help us with our 8 yr old son who is extremely angry at the moment. He flies off the handle at the smallest thing but especially when we try to get him to do something he doesn’t want to do such as turn off the TV when it’s time to go to bed. We have just had our third child so I know he is reacting to the presence of the baby but don’t know how to respond to his behaviour not much is working. We have tried talking to him about it and he knows himself that he is not his managing his behavior at the moment but doesnt know how to stop it. When he is angry he is agressive, disobedient and disrespectful (swears at us). Any advice gratefully received!

  27. Lisa says:

    Hello,
    I have a 9 year old son, who has demonstrated angry behavior, actually, since a small child. In second grade he became very angry and acted out. We really punished him for it. As a third grader he does not really act out but his teacher is expressing concern that he is an angry and aggressive child and it is simmering just waiting to erupt. He is becoming more defiant at home and there is more and more arguing. I am so glad I came across this article. Until now we have met his anger with our own anger and it has gotten crazy.
    To my son it seems that he is just being who he is at school, but perhaps since it is peppered with anger he is not well liked and not liked at all by the educators at his school. He often blames the teachers for being mean to him or that they all hate him. He says they are treating him unfairly and does not understand why they hate him.
    He has become obsessed with a single child to the exclusion of even talking to the teacher or other children. When this child does not play with him he gets really angry and just sits by himself and stews.
    I feel worried that they are going to call and say he has done something really bad. I feel it simmering too.
    Thank you for you article. I am going to try all of the tips and we are seeking a counselor for further help.

  28. Linda says:

    My son is 7 years old, and has the best behaviour at school. But sometimes at home and while with cousins, he gets agressive when things don’t go his way. Recently we went for a picnic and he hit a girl cousin with his legs while he was seated in a car just because I told him that we were not going to go up the mountain. He does not realise who is in front of him and just hits or throws whatever is in his hands at them. His anger was towards me, but since i was far from him, he hit the girl who was sitting closest to him. But he also accepts and realises his mistake. He is a good student and also intelligent. He is also kind and soft hearted at many instances. But i am worried he is causing physical harm to others this way. Please suggest some ways to handle him before he causes physical harm.

  29. Jane says:

    This article is amazing. I’m having extreme difficulties with my daugther after a split 5 years ago with her father. I go to work crying every day after another argument over something so trivial but it ruins mine and my daughter’s day. This happens at least ten, 15 times a day at weekends.

    I’ve read book, seen counsellors, internet sites, etc, but nothing has spelt it out like this article. I’m looking forward to now putting this into practice and can’t way to see if there are any results

  30. Mary Ellen Lazzara says:

    My child is 13yrs of age, and is angry at my boyfriend because he yelled at him. He did aoplogize and has been good to him for 2 years other than one incident, I dont know how to go about this. What should I do. I love my boyfriend and want him to come over and visist but I promised my son after that incident that he would not come over here again. Please Ineed help on advice.

  31. Aliessa says:

    Thank you for your article. My beautiful 8 year old daughter is highly anxious and seems to use anger as her outlet. I have been struggling (for too long) to figure it out, but your article has helped me see it. I’ve taken notes and hopefully can impliment them and help her. Thank you – you’re an answer to my prayers.

  32. Kelley Jump says:

    I have an 8 yr. old daughter who is extremely angry. I have her in counseling which does not seem to be helping. She has been approx. 12 times now. She gets mad about something and just goes straight “off the deap end”. She yells at me. She calls me names, hits me, throws things at me, damages my home and car. She is very angry and aggresive and we can’t figure out why. She says she doesn’t even know why. She refused to put shoes on this morning because she said she didn’t own a pair that she could move her toes apart in. All of her shoes fit and they’ve all been fine until this morning. It seems as though if there isn’t something going on that she can genually be upset about, she creates something to get mad about and just goes crazy. It is all directed toward me and not my husband. When she gets mad she does sometimes lash out at her 3 yr. old brother by yelling at him for no reason. My husband & I have been married for 9 years and have always been together. We’ve lived in the same house all of her life. We have a good marriage. Of course, we aren’t perfect, but for the most part we are a steady, normal family. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I can’t find a reason for this anger that had gotten progressivly worse in the past 6-8 months.

  33. Kirstin says:

    My son is 7, and takes medicine for ADHD. He is having a rough time at school, and I am confused because I have no problems with him at home. He does get angry some times, but I help him diffuse this, and then we move on. I feel like his teacher is not facillitating the best environment, and perhaps using “old school” logic with and “angry” child. It is difficult for me because she only calls on his “really, really bad days”, and by then it’s too late for any intervention. I am at a loss. ???

    • Hi
      Well, I could suggest two things:
      1) Have a candid talk with your child’s teacher about the behavior issues. What can you both do, using regular check-ins (not just when there is a problem) to make things better? Your child may be fine at home… but why? Is there a “trick” you’ve found to managing his behavior that might help the teacher? Or does the teacher just not have much experience with ADHD kids, and so a little advice and friendly acknowledgment that managing them can be hard might go a long way…. Could daily check-ins and reports from the teacher, paired with some reward at home for good behavior that day at school, help in the classroom?

      In fairness, she may be trying to manage a class all day that’s too large, or may be working with your son when he’s a little wound up (like right after recess or lunch – it depends on what and when she is teaching the class – and so may not be getting a well-rounded picture of him), or may have several children in the class who need additional attention… and may just be overwhelmed. Think of this as an informal parent teacher conference, and see what support you can offer her.

      2) If this fails, talk to a local ADHD or education specialist. You know he has the disorder, so you are not looking for basic information on it. Rather, you need to know more about your rights as a parent to assure your son is getting the best education the school is able to offer him. Is there an individualized education plan in place for him? If so, how closely is it followed, or reviewed for needed updates? If not, then how can you get one put in place? Does having an ADHD child in the classroom entitle the teacher to some additional classroom aide help? A local expert would know your state’s laws and your school district’s policies best.

      Sorry for taking so long to respond – I thought I had wordpress set to notify me when there are comments but I apparently didn’t set it correctly…
      RN

  34. Ginger says:

    So ridiculing your own child is out, but mocking another child is ok? Refering to another child as stupid for using words like dumb butt hardly seems like good modeling. Fail.

    • I’m curious how you would say that a child shouldn’t be calling peers names, without saying something bad about the child? The point was to dismiss the child’s hurtful behavior by using the same logic as the child, and giggle while doing it.

    • Debbie says:

      I too had to read that sentence twice but on the second reading realized that the author did not call the child stupid – he called that names stupid and stated that the child must not be that smart if the only term she could come up with was dumb butt.

  35. Tracy says:

    This article was extremely helpful. I have a five year old that is angers quickly and becomes aggressive quite often. His tantrums usually include kicking and hitting and many times throwing things. He is mostly violent with his little brother that is four. I am currently having a great deal of trouble getting him to go to school. I have wrestled him on the bus and today had to take him to school and wrestle him in the classroom. His teacher is older and I do not want her to have to wrestle with him. I am not sure what to do with this situation. He gets good grades and rarely gets into trouble at school. He says that he just doesn’t want to go. He has a difficult time falling asleep at night and I am sure not getting enough sleep. Any suggestions would be really helpful.

    • Gabrielle says:

      Tracy,

      My son sounds just the same as yours! I have found this article so useful, but one of the tactics I use with my son is to sympathise with him and call his bluff. He is also 5 and didn’t want to go to school, and it was becoming a battle every morning. So I decided that one day off school wouldn’t hurt him and said fine, stay home. But I then made no effort to make the time fun for him (getting on with the cleaning etc, and of course, no screens were allowed on), and kept talking about his friends at school. He decided within an hour that he wanted to go to school, so I took him and we have not had this particular problem again.

      I sometimes find that I am a bit of a disciplinarian who would love to have an obedient child who just did what I said “because I say so” – my child sees this as a red rag to a bull! And we just end up at loggerheads – it’s not pretty. So by relaxing sometimes, and allowing him to see that what he wants isn’t really as much fun as he thinks, can be a better way to go.

      I’d be interested to know what Richard Niolon thinks of this? Hope it helps :)

  36. sarwat says:

    This article is so well written… hitting the nail of anger management in children right on the head. Thank you for spelling out that ridicule and sarcasm count in bad discipline strategies. Even the best of parents forget the most basic things when their own child is faced with difficulties and resorts to anger.

    Simultaneously, I wish there was a way to enforce teachers to be more positive. Children are with them majority of their active day and if they are lacking and hence negatively influencing the child… there is very little any parent can do. It seems downhill all the way then….

    • Isabelle says:

      I wish that parents could also be more responsible and supportive. Teachers have classrooms filled with over 30 students-all types of backgrounds and behaviors- with no help. Parents get burned out with one or two children, teachers have 30 in a classroom!

  37. Ged B. Reamico says:

    I have a 5 year old son and he is very aggressive and easily get angry. I tried all the parenting techniques but my son never change. Now I feel frustrated and really upset. Thanks for this good and enlightening article. I hope I could put it into practice.

  38. Thanks Catherine and Christie :)

    For Lussiez – there’s a lot going on in just that short post. Adoption, two years of time in an adoptive home, and physically aggressive expressions of anger. The adoption may come after early experiences of neglect or trauma, and in some ways the stability of a new home life can seem to make problems worse because it creates a safe place for the child to explore and process that past trauma. There could also be things going on for the child – academic problems or bullying at school for example – that have little to do with the adoption but would be hard for any child. There could also be family problems at home that are not obvious to you, such as marital conflict the child observes, if you are not in the home. There could also be medical issues; sometimes ADHD children are not diagnosed until their behavior becomes too much for caretakers, and sometimes medications (such as those for asthma) can cause ADHD-like behaviors that would stop if the medication was reduced in dose or changed.

    I would suggest seeing a child psychologist who can assess for academic problems, and either conduct more detailed testing to diagnose this or refer out to another expert for it. He or she could also assess for stressors, emotional trauma, and/or family problems, and advise the parents (and perhaps the teacher) on how to handle them.

  39. Christie says:

    Wow. This has been such a great help to me. I am not yet a mother, but knowing what to do when I become a mother diminishes the fear factor. You really know what you are talking about here, and I really wish the rest of the world would read this, and follow it. The world would be a different place. Thank you so much!

  40. lussiez magali says:

    I would like to know how to help an adopted child (7 years old) living with his parents for over two years …how to express healthily his anger;He is actually using extremly physical agressivity towards them when a clear No may be said at home.
    Any similar experiences ?

  41. Catherine Wells says:

    Thank-you for this wonderful, insightful, compassionate, clear, realistic and helpful article. I am a grandmother of two, a mother of three, and my 2 1/2 year old grandson is acting up as a result, mostly, of a new baby in house. I actually have experience with young children other than my own – as an art therapist – but I have never read anything so succinct and clear as this article, which can be handed to any caring parent. I will print it and give it to my daughter who has been asking me for advice.

    • NINA says:

      My daughter is 8 yr old. She remains very angry. Gets mad at her brother.
      Occasionally hits him.’ I hate you ‘is the word she uses most of the time,
      Also ‘I am dumb’. She feels I don’t love her. I am full time working mom, very busy.