Strategies for Parenting Your Angry Kid

As parents, it is important that your child learn self-control and how to properly vent his anger. Anger is a natural response when things don't go the way your child wishes them to. When channeled appropriately, anger can help your child problem solve and move on. Unhealthy anger will generally keep your child stuck as the focus of his anger is generally gaining control, manipulation, seeking revenge or hurting others. Chronic anger often leads to the child blaming others and viewing himself as a victim. According to Dawn Huebner, Ph.D., children can learn skills to control their anger. Once good self-control is established, Huebner states that these children tend to do better in school, have positive peer interaction and are generally happier.

Model Appropriate Responses

Take a look at your behavior when you get angry. If you find that you are a parent who constantly yells or engages in screaming matches when your temper flares, your kids will mimic this. Despite what you tell them, they will follow your behavior. Hold yourself accountable for your emotional expressions. If you yourself yell and scream, start by telling your child that you know that what you are doing is inappropriate and that you are going to stop. Then, make sure that you do stop, otherwise your child will never believe you. It may take time to change your behavior, but the first step is to recognize it and to take steps to change it. Seek professional assistance, if needed. In their book, "What Angry Kids Need," by social workers Jennifer Anne Brown and Pam Provonsha Hopkins, state, " When you model a healthy verbalization of anger for your children and consistently set and follow through with clear boundaries, children learn to expect both empathy and limits." 2

Avoid Challenging Your Child

When your child is angry and out of control, treat his anger like a crisis situation and remain calm. Take note of your physical reactions, such as an increased heart rate or sweaty forehead. Take a deep breath and step back. It may take time but your child may remember how you behaved in the face of his anger once he has calmed down. Power struggles will escalate the tension and increase your child's anger. Remaining calm helps your child calm down faster, as he doesn't have to worry about your emotions and the focus is on his problem. Wait until your son calms down before attempting to reason with him. You can talk about the issue at hand at a later time. Brown and Hopkins recommend that you recognize how you respond to your child when she is responding in an angry or aggressive manner, and to change your response to one which states that you understand her feelings and are there to talk to, if needed. An example of this is when you say, "You must have had a rough day. I'm here if you need me."

Time Out

A time out is for parents, too. To avoid engaging in a power struggle with your child, you may have to walk away. Tell your child how you are feeling. Say something along the lines of, "I am feeling angry and frustrated right now. I need to take a break. I will let you know when I am ready to speak to you." Don't wait for a response -- just walk away. This will give both you and your daughter the necessary space to calm down and think of ways to solve the problem.

Consequences and Strategies

While punishing anger is never the answer, giving consequences for destructive behavior during an anger outburst is. Children need to be able to let off steam so complaining or venting can be allowed while kicking, hitting, swearing and throwing things is not. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teaching your child a feelings vocabulary to express his anger. The AAP states, "Helping children understand their feelings and how to translate those feelings into appropriate actions is an important part of clinician involvement in violence prevention." Deep breathing is a necessity. First, teach your son or daughter to recognize signs that he is angry, then to catch it before it grows into something so big and out of control. Lastly, set a rule in your home that problems are solved when everyone is calm. If you walk away from angry outbursts, your child will eventually learn that she will not get her way when she behaves that way.