Anger is an emotion that is commonly felt by all people. It is a healthy and normal feeling to have in response to many situations. However, when anger becomes excessive or is the most frequent emotion that an individual feels, it can have a very destructive impact on the person’s relationships, their ability to function successfully at school or work, and their self-esteem. Excessive anger in children can lead to difficulties in relationships with family and with peers as well as with school performance. In children, anger is often a reaction to frustration. Some internal feelings that can cause frustration and trigger anger may include perceived inability to compete successfully with peers in sports or academics, embarrassment, loneliness, social isolation, or anxiety. Situations that can also trigger anger are physical or emotional bullying, excessive criticism from adults or being excluded from peer groups and activities. Children often respond with anger because they are not fully able to understand situations or to know how to change them. Understanding why a child is experiencing problems with anger generally takes time and effort.
Anger looks different at various ages. It takes time to master the ability to use words rather than physical aggression to express anger. Pushing, throwing things, hitting, pinching, biting, and yelling when angry are not uncommon in preschool-aged children. In early elementary school, children develop more sophisticated language skills. They develop empathy and are better able to understand the effect their actions and words have on others. By the later elementary grades, most children are able to express angry feelings verbally rather than physically. However, children with language difficulties or impulsivity issues may continue to express angry feelings through physical acting out, yelling, or refusing to obey school or household rules.
Teenagers experience new stressors and concerns that can trigger anger and frustration, including an increased need for independence and privacy, and increased academic, social and work demands. Some teens express frustration and anger by refusing to talk about issues while others act out physically by throwing objects or slamming doors. A few teens may actually go to the extreme of acting out their anger through physical aggression towards people. The peer group with which a teen identifies can also play a significant role in the acceptance of verbal or physical aggression as a way to express anger.
Dealing with angry children is one of the most difficult parts of a parent’s job that often includes a wide range of emotions. How parents deal with their own emotions has a significant effect on how their children will learn to cope with emotions. Children need guidance in learning how to express emotions appropriately. Learning acceptable ways to express anger and other strong emotions can help a child deal with stressful and difficult situations in a successful and positive manner. This ability can help to develop good self control, self confidence, positive peer relationships, good physical health and success in school and work. When children continue to struggle with anger management it is wise to seek professional help.
The staff at Silber Psychological Services provides a variety of services to help your child or teen with this often difficult problem. Treatment can involve individual therapy, family therapy, social skills groups, parent consultation or compliance training and is tailored to each individual’s needs. We can evaluate underlying causes and teach specialized anger management skills to both the child and the parents. Consultation with school personnel is also a part of treatment when needed. At Silber Psychological Services our goal is to help individuals gain control of their strong negative feelings and teach them how to express them openly, directly and appropriately, while also helping parents and teachers learn ways to support and encourage these changes.