Everybody is born with emotions, and anger is one of the most basic of these. We only learn how to control them as we grow older. Some children are just more negative than others.
Understanding why a child gets angry can help you teach them how to control their emotions better. We all have causes every day to get angry, but we have learned how to manage or moderate this through experience.
Before we can equip your child with the tools they need, it is vital to understand why your child experiences anger. It is also important if they are unreasonably angry or whether it is linked to your own anxieties.
Top Reasons Why Children Get Angry
There are several reasons why your children can get angry.
- They’re physically uncomfortable – especially true for preschool children.
- They feel powerless – for any age but for different reasons. Maybe they are nervous about seeing someone at school. Perhaps they are not allowed to stay out as late as they want.
- They are hurt – not only physically but maybe emotionally.
- They feel that their boundaries have been invaded – this would mostly be shown by older children trying to develop their independence and can’t express this yet.
Detecting the Source of Anger
Remember, anger is an entirely normal and healthy emotion. It is just that it should be expressed in a socially acceptable way. As adults, we get angry for the same reasons as above. We have learned how to handle that anger due to our experiences in life.
While staying calm and composed, you need to figure out why your child is getting angry. That is the only way you can think of the best response for each situation. Remember that every case is a learning opportunity, and you should not take your child’s response as a personal attack or that you are a failure. There might be an excellent reason why they are angry, so you need to show them empathy and model how to manage that anger. It may be that they are selfish, and you need to show them that, in this case, anger is being confused for another emotion such as guilt or selfishness.
Look for Triggers
Start to notice when your child gets angry and discern what triggers the angry outbursts. Is it a specific time of day or before an event, such as going to school or a relative’s house? If there seems to be a pattern, take some notes about what happened right before your child exhibited an outburst. Write down what you did in reaction to your child’s outburst and then what it was that eventually helped your child calm down. Maybe this could reveal underlying problems that they feel they can not talk to you about directly, so they mask their fear by being angry. In this article, we give guidance on how to have conversations with your child. It may be that they need to speak to you about something but don’t know how to go about it. Even if just done mentally after the event, this reflection will help you see beyond the incident and think about a cause.
Sometimes the Solution is Simple
Some friends of mine saw that their child was always angry in the morning. They found that if they took him a banana in bed and ate it before getting up, he was fine. His anger was due to hunger. As he gets older, he will learn how to manage this for himself. Now he knows to get out of bed and have a bowl of cereal. Telling him he was wrong to be angry would not help anyone, but finding the cause and solving it has been beneficial. Beyond this, he has become more self-aware. What could have been just put down to, he wakes up angry as he is an angry person, has been avoided.
Deeper Look Into the Causes of Anger
1. They are Uncomfortable
- Primary School Children: If they are sleepy and tired, it is just a matter of suggesting a bit of quiet rest time. Tucking in early or having a quick nap can work wonders for your child. This is where routines can be beneficial.
- They can also get pretty angry when they are hungry. If they have had their lunch, but they are still hungry, offer them a quick snack. Offering them snacks will provide a longer and slower release of energy instead of uncontrollable energy all the time, which can get hard to handle.
- Preteens: It might get a little more difficult trying to convince them to take a nap, but that is what they need. Try to help them understand that it is not good for their health when they are always tired. I can see my 9-year-old upset, but even if I send him to bed, I can not convince him to nap – instead, he fights it. So instead for me, I turn his light off earlier that night. As always, modeling good behavior is useful. If I am tired, I will often tell my children and say that I will go to bed at the same time as then.
- Teenagers: Your teenagers might be staying up late or get overworked with homework and other stresses. They are more complicated at this age, and their reasons for being tired are a lot different. Talk to them about why they are tired and help them understand that getting a proper amount of rest will do them wonders. Controlling social media in the bedroom is essential here, and we have a whole section here on social media.
2. They Feel Powerless
A child may feel frustrated when they are not getting their way. When they start to feel powerless, the frustration can result in random outbursts of anger and aggressive behavior. Let’s face it, nobody likes to be controlled, and that applies to children as well. Teenagers exhibit the most anger due to feelings of powerlessness. In particular, if they feel that an injustice has been done.
Much like how a toddler can have a temper tantrum, a teenager will discharge their anger by discharging it on others and themselves.
Solutions that can be tried if this is the case.
- Primary School Children: Give them something they feel they can control and then talk about how it is not possible to control everything. Give them examples from your own life to help them understand.
- The same concept applies to preteens. Along with all of the above, you should teach them additional skills that they can learn and give them some real responsibilities to deal with. Try to explain your expectations of them.
- Teenagers: With teenagers, things can become a lot more complicated. They are almost young adults living their own complicated lives. It is important to have an open line of communication with them. Make it a point to follow the above and at the same time, refuse to engage in any power struggles with your teenager. Sometimes, their feelings of powerlessness might be stemming from sources outside the home. It could be school, their significant other or they might not be able to deal with puberty well. It is important to talk to them and offer your sincere advice. Encourage them to be more open about their feelings.
It would seem that giving children choice to avoid them getting angry is contrary to discipline. However, remember discipline means teaching, and a study from the University College of London found that people who thought of their parents as less controlling and more caring are more likely to become happier adults. They have learned to manage choices and are aware of the consequences of these choices. It also means that your‘ red lines’ will be more respected because you don’t control everything that they do they know there is a reason when you say no. There is more about this here.
At all times however you are the parent. It is your house and it is your duty to help your child grow. If you say no it should mean no.
3. They Feel Hurt
The most common reason for anybody to get angry is that they are hurt. Sometimes, instead of letting you know they are hurt, they lash out. This is why making sure you have open lines of communication are important. This is something you see in adults as well as children of all ages. When you are teaching your children how to control their emotions, you need to prepare yourself for some hurtful comments by them. Don’t let your own anger get the best of you.
- Primary School Children: Remember that whatever might make them feel hurt can be a minor thing from an adult’s point of view but look at the situation from their perspective. Instead of being dismissive, try to talk to them and understand their underlying source of anger. Ask them why they are upset, if you did something to cause them to feel that way or if you did or said something that hurt their feelings. It will help them calm down and once they do calm down, let them know that it is okay to feel angry because they are hurt but they should express it in a healthier way. Let them know it’s not okay to call people names or become aggressive.
- Preteens: The same concept applies to preteens. The reasons why they are hurt might become more sophisticated but the core essence of teaching your children how to control their emotions remains the same.
- Teenagers: It is important to let your teenage child know that you are there for them when they are hurt. Talk to them about why they feel this way and help them see that you have been in their shoes. If they are not too eager to talk about why they feel hurt because it is embarrassing, you can try and encourage them by telling them something embarrassing from your own experiences at their age.
A study by the University of Colorado at Denver goes into detail about how to help young children control anger and handle disappointment. It talks about how you can teach your children to control their emotions better by handling tough situations in a more meaningful manner.
4. Their Personal Boundaries Have Been Invaded
One of the biggest sources of anger for anybody is when personal boundaries are invaded. It can happen when they have been controlled emotionally or physically through forceful manipulation. As before it is important to realize that it is how it feels to the person rather than the intention. Even when children are hugged or kissed when they did not want to be, it can trigger an angry response. You might feel that they are being over-sensitive and you might be right – however, this won’t ease their feeling of discomfort.
With teenagers, it is more about their emotional boundaries being crossed as well as their physical boundaries. The matter of personal boundaries is an especially important one that parents have to deal with at all ages.
They express their anger and they are right to do so but there are things both of you have to do in order to teach your children how to control their emotions in such cases.
Anger Management Tips
- Primary School Children: It is important at this stage to be very kind and gentle towards your children yourself. You need to communicate with your children about how certain things make them feel that their personal boundaries have been invaded. You should also teach them how to clearly tell other people that it is important for them to define their personal boundaries to others. If someone has invaded their personal boundaries unknowingly, you should teach them to handle it in a calmer manner and let the other person know that they are upset and why they are upset.
- Preteens: Setting personal boundaries is an important part of teaching your children how to control their emotions as well as personal space. Let them decide what they are and not comfortable with and help them define these boundaries. As preteens, your child will have more awareness and understanding of how boundaries work. Teach them how to set their own boundaries as well as respect the boundaries of others. This can help them avoid situations where their personal boundaries are invaded. They should also start to become aware of what signals someone else’s discomfort.
- Teenagers: The biggest source of trouble in your home will be when your teenagers feel their personal boundaries are invaded. They are adolescents who are on their way to adulthood and they will naturally want more privacy as they grow older.
Setting boundaries and helping your teenager set their own boundaries is critical for their mental health. It helps them establish positive relationships.
Heather Senior Monroe from the Newport Academy delves deeper into the matter of why boundaries matter. This is a useful resource that will help you better understand the importance of boundaries and how they affect your children.
Final Thoughts on Why Your Child Might be Angry
Teaching your children how to control their emotions through anger management is no easy task. You need to use all the help you can get in order to help them out. Just remember a few key points and use this guide to help you out:
- Respect your children’s personal boundaries and teach them the importance of them from a very young age.
- Encourage your children to voice their feelings of disappointment and anger in clear and vocal terms.
- Remember that anger is an important and healthy emotion.
- Lead by example and control your own anger in front of them.