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About Anger, aggression and forms of violence

When it comes to anger it’s important to remind children and young people that it isn’t a dreadful thing to become angry – it’s totally normal. Rather than trying to get them to repress their anger or destroy it, help them to channel it ln a productive and constructive way.

Showing healthy ways of expressing anger can prove extremely beneficial in the long run, not only will it help educate children about anger, but it will also help them to handle their anger on their own.

Anger and aggression, however, are both different. Anger refers to a temporary emotion, whereas aggression is formed due to an attempt to hurt a person or destroy anything that belongs to them.

Therefore, aggression can be detrimental to one’s physical and mental health.

Aggression can often arise ln young people and children due to bad relationships they’ve had growing up, this could be with their parents, friends, or other family members. It can also result after a traumatic event, either if they’ve been abused, or they’ve lost someone close to them due to a tragic accident which they blame someone else for.

It’s important to help children get away from any form of abusive and negative relationships that they may have. For young people, they may try and cope with these feelings of anger and aggression by drinking or taking drugs. It can also result in eating disorders, depression and even self-harm.

Always ensure that they know that what happened to them is not their fault, and that they deserve to be happy just like anybody else. Punishing children and young people for their anger is not effective, yes there needs to be discipline to an extent, however their anger is a form of expression resulting from other emotions about an event. That's why, as previously mentioned, helping them learn to cope with their anger in a healthy way will prove beneficial.

Forms of violence can be presented in both physical and verbal ways.

- This can be with abusive language, threats and of course physical violence.

- Abuse can also be in the form of emotional abuse, which is often hard to identify, and can also contribute to feelings of anger and aggression.

Abusive relationships can be experienced by children and young people and is often caused by someone that they know fairly well. An example of an emotionally abusive relationship could be experienced by a child and their mum, dad or guardian. They may use language to get the child to question whether they’re in the wrong - even if it has entirely nothing to do with them.

Everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to remember that. However, a child who has emotionally abusive parents may make a simple mistake such as spilling a drink but will be bombarded with insults and aggressive language. It’s vital to remember that not all forms of violence are physical, and emotional abuse can have a devastating effect on a child/young person’s mental health.

Tips for dealing with child anger

Children’s emotions are still developing; however, they are very expressive with any form of emotion that they may show. This does make it easier to sense the emotion that they’re feeling; however, their emotions are often expressed a lot more erratically than that of older children/young people.

It’s important to remember that every child is different, and some may show anger and aggression very openly, whereas others may try and bottle up their anger for fear of being shouted at if they express it. Make sure that children never bottle up their anger, or any emotion for that matter.

Yes, an angry child can be difficult and very stressful, however if they’re told to just repress their emotions from an early age, they may start to subconsciously do this with every emotion, leading them to find it difficult to express the way they feel as they grow older- thus they may also start to appear distant and find difficulty in socialising adequately.

The following are tips to help deal with child anger and help manage it as healthy and efficiently as possible.

Explore/look at the causes: no one knows a child better than their own parents, and you may also start to find patterns in their behaviour. A certain situation, or person, may bring out feelings of anger and aggression within them. Exploring the reasons for their anger will help you to manage it better, leading to both a happier child and happy parents.

A simple example being that a child dislikes when a certain TV programme is on, this could be due to a character scaring them, or that they don't like the noise. Screaming, crying and stomping may be exhibited in very young children/toddlers who are angry and upset. In young children aged 4-10 this behaviour may be accompanied by shouting and, in some cases, even expletives being used. Finding the cause of your child’s emotions will help you to avoid these episodes occurring.

Don’t judge them: it’s important not to judge the child, no matter what the reason for their anger is.

For very young children, a broken toy or being given food that they dislike could result in anger and aggression. Although you naturally may want to laugh at this, it's important to try not to. Although it is entirely trivial to you, to the child it is a big Issue.

The broken toy may be their favourite toy, having played with it every day and resulting in many good memories being formed – the loss of that toy is likely to cause grief for them. It's best to comfort the child as much as possible, either by hugging them, talking soothingly to tell or trying to put it in perspective.

You may also want to replace the broken toy with a new one that is identical. This is a good idea if the toy broke due to a factory fault, however if the child broke this out of poor handling it’s best to avoid repurchasing. Although it seems like a clever idea, a child who is bought everything and anything on a whim may become accustomed to this, leading them to expecting everything in life without any work being required to obtain the item.

If, however, the child’s anger is due to something a lot more serious than a broken toy then naturally- you don’t judge. Professional help may be needed both for the child and the parents; this could be from anything such as a serious/terminal illness, a loss in the family or abuse.

Find emotional triggers: emotional triggers are anything that can remind an individual of an event in their life that was extremely traumatic. Triggers can be formed at any age and can come from things that may seem ordinary. For example, what may seem like a regular car to you may trigger someone to a traumatic event that occurred in that brand of car- such as a car crash. Triggers can be hard to avoid, especially if it is a particular brand of car, however they can be handled.

Young children may experience triggers via people that look similar to those who have mistreated or abused them, or things that they find scary that they have nightmares about. As they grow older, they may see someone resembling their abuser, which can produce a ‘flashback’ of memories in their mind, reminding them of every emotion they felt at that particular time in their life. This can not only make someone uneasy, it can also make them angry and aggressive. Let them express their anger artistically - allow them to draw or paint when they are in that emotional state. Let them relax; take time out of your schedule to spend quality time with your child. A simple hug, sitting in silence or just talking with a young child can help. Although they are young, they are not stupid. It's important to remember that they too feel every form of emotion just as you, as an adult, do. If you notice that they are starting to grow easily annoyed, and they are getting more and more aggressive, try and tackle this with something positive. Put on their favourite DVD, give them their favourite snack, or simply just allow them to take deep breaths and talk to you about it.

If your child wakes up and says they don't feel well, and are visibly uneasy and upset, then avoid anything that can result in their emotions worsening. This means avoiding asking them to tidy up or do chores, moreover it's important to know when your child is genuinely in a bad mood, or whether they're taking advantage. Don’t let them use your good nature to get off doing work or staying home from school; however, as a parent you will be able to tell better than anyone whether or not your child is faking their emotions.

Remember that the more positive activities you do, the more positive memories will be created for that child. Although some events that cause anger and aggression can be soul destroying; positivity and creating positive memories will remind them of the good times.

NB - Everything does get better, and people can rebuild their life after such traumatic events.

Have a goal in mind

Having a goal in mind regarding where you want your child(ren) to be emotionally is essential.

If a child grows angry multiple times a day, your goal may be to make this only a once a day, then to once every two days and so on. Although we can't systematically control emotions, as we never know how our day is going to plan out, it's still ideal to try and have a goal in mind. A goal will not only give you something to focus on, but it will bring joy to you and the child once it is achieved.

Ensure that goals aren’t too hard to reach so as to avoid disappointment if they aren't met the first time around. Ensure that the child knows of these goals, as they can't be achieved without them having knowledge of it. Praise them: praise and positivity are extremely important. It not only boosts confidence and self-esteem, but it makes everybody happy. Knowing that they're doing well will encourage children to continue that good behaviour.

Some children are rarely praised, therefore leading to setting themselves extremely elevated expectations to try and get good recognition for their actions. Your children are your world, and therefore any good behaviour should be praised, be it them saying ‘thank you’ or them scoring high on a spelling test.

Recognise anger

As previously stated, we talked about looking at the causes of anger.

Recognising anger involves looking at the physical signs of anger before a child has an outburst.

This may include anything from sudden silence, lashing out, clenched fists, becoming tense all over or they may have a facial expression. Recognising these signs can help to handle the outburst before it has begun, so that you can begin to calm them down and prepare anything that is needed to help cheer the child up.

When children grow angry or aggressive, a lot of loud screaming, shouting and crying may also accompany it. As a parent, it can be difficult to control, even leading you to grow angry as well. lt’s important to try and stay as calm as possible, if you allow yourself to grow angry you may say something that you don’t mean resulting in a child not only growing angrier, but it could also hurt their feelings. First, talk to them. This may seem obvious; however, a lot of people forget this and simply skip to shouting at the child. Start by talking to them reasonably, show that you acknowledge why they’re angry, and that you're there to listen and talk.

Using a calming voice may help to also calm the child down, automatically raising your voice at the first sign of anger will only lead them to grow louder as a form of retaliation. If the reason behind a child's anger/aggression is more serious, then it's best to seek professional help/counselling - as stated before. Moreover, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to try as well, depending on the age of the child, and what they personally want; you may accompany them during these discussions.

Seeking help is not in any way a sign of weakness, nor does it mean that you’re a bad parent. Seeking help is a sign of strength that you have recognised that there are traumatic experiences that you alone can't help your child heal from.

Of course, the child needs to agree and consent to these sessions, as it is about them after all.

Allowing your child, a space to talk about their help them come to terms with it all. A lot of times, people tend to repress traumatic events hoping to forget about them, only later to be triggered by something, thus transporting them back to the beginning.

A lot of times, people tend to repress traumatic events hoping to forget about them, only later to be triggered by something, thus transporting them back to the beginning. Being open about it all will help them to make sense of it all. Healing is a long and stressful process, yet it can be achieved overtime with a lot of care and dedication.

The simplest and easiest way to deal with anger is through relaxation. Relaxing not only helps the child to calm down, but also yourself. Remove/turn off any objects from the room that may cause extra distraction, this includes the TV, mobile phones, and any portable game consoles like a Nintendo DS or PSP. A relaxing atmosphere can be created either by soothing music, complete silence, or the use of scented candles and incense. Often when young children/young people are angry and agitated their breathing quickens.

Help them to deal with this by asking them to take a deep breath in through their nose, count to five and then take a deep breath out through their mouth. Repeat this until their breathing and heart rate has slowed. In severe cases, they may even suffer from a panic attack.

Panic attacks are a severe rush of anxiety, as a rapid heart rate, shaking, nausea, which can produce physical symptoms such sweating and dizziness. The same breathing method can help calm those suffering from a panic attack; however, they will also have to ride it out. They can last from five minutes to as long as half an hour; having someone with them to reassure them that the feelings will pass will also be beneficial. Don’t look for distractions during a panic attack and continue with what you were doing. If, however, it's beneficial to the individual’s safety to stop whatever they’re doing- then stop.

Physical restraint may be needed in some cases of anger, however try to avoid this as best you can – it’s often classed as a last resort. If the child is growing increasingly angry and starting to lash out,

remove them from others and take them into an empty room. This is not only for the safety of others that may be around, but also the child's safety. After an outburst they may feel guilty about

the way they acted. In these sorts of situations, it's important to stay calm and ensure the child knows that what they did was wrong and can’t be repeated. Explain the situation of which they were in and how acting out in a violent manner will not solve anything. lt’s always important to explain any situation in which a child has grown angry or aggressive, making sense of it all will help them to come to terms with the consequences that they receive. If the situation is not that serious, then you

can try making light of it using humour. Humour can help to improve the mood of the child and help them to laugh at something that they once were angry about. Moreover, this can only be done with situations that aren’t serious, if you try and if make light of something that has seriously affected a child, it will be perceived as patronising and mocking.

Ignore any bad behaviour that is minimal, such as spilling a drink or accidently knocking something over. Some people perceive this as bad behaviour; however, they are merely just accidents. lt’s important to know the difference between bad behaviour and an accident- as if an accident can’t be helped and wasn't done intentionally - punishing a child for an accident will lead them to blame themselves for everything, even things that had entirely nothing to do with them.

And, most important of all, ensure that you’re a good role model for children to look up to.

Children are easily influenced and observe everything around them. If you use expletives around them, they’re likely to pick this language up and use it without knowing its actual meaning. The same goes for the way you behave - violence in a violent household is likely to cause the child to grow to be violent themselves

ADHD

Children who have ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, can be a lot more active than young children without it. All children are active and often have their hyper moments, yet a child with ADHD will be overactive; and they do not grow out of this, unlike children who don't have ADHD.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD it can make calming them down (especially when angry) a lot more difficult. Children and young people who have ADHD often show the following symptoms:

In severe cases, they may be prescribed medication by their doctor; however, this isn't always the case.

Discipline is important when it comes to the upbringing of a child.

- No discipline at all will mean that the child will feel as though they can do anything and get away with it, whereas too much discipline will stop them from having fun and discovering themselves, only leading to rebellion when they’re older and keeping secrets for the fear of being scolded when telling the truth. Stating the importance of honesty from an early age will help ensure that everything your child is up to is common knowledge. Yes, it’s likely that they won't tell you

absolutely everything, but that’s completely normal. Everyone has a private life, and everyone has things that they'd rather keep to themselves. Moreover, it's unlikely that a young child will have secrets. If they do, try and ask them if they're okay. A lot of children who are bullied often keep

this a secret, when it's much better for them to tell someone, be it a teacher or their parents. It's important for children to know that they can talk to their parents about anything that is bothering them without fear of being scolded. Over disciplining children will lead to them not wanting to share anything with their parents. To make sure that there is the right amount of discipline between a parent and child, ensure that firmness, clarity and reasoning are present. Bad discipline often comes in the form of physical violence, harsh and inappropriate punishments and verbal abuse.

Although some people believe that hitting a child, by smacking them or even strongly pinching them, will instil discipline, it is a form of physical abuse. It will not only make them afraid of you, but it may also affect them later in life- growing scared of any form of physical contact with others. It may also make them feel as though hitting others is perfectly fine.

Violence is in no way acceptable, unless it is necessary in an act of self-defence.

It’s important that children are respected and looked after no matter what they're going through.

Anger can be a scary emotion, either scaring those around you or soaring yourself.

Help calm children down by speaking in a cool collected tone and ensure that everything will get better for them. lt’s important not to scold as soon as a child shows signs of anger, as you don’t know the full extent to their feelings just yet.

Everyone, no matter how old, gets angry. It’s a natural reoccurring emotion that we all must deal with every once in a while. Moreover, it can often be difficult to deal with when it comes to young people and children. Children are well known for being unpredictable, with their emotions changing extremely quickly.

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Handling Anger Management in Children/Young People