Child anger

A young boy shouting and looking above them.

What is child anger?

Anger in children is normal and to be expected, and it is an emotion that’s useful in their development. However, child anger can become problematic if it’s aggressive and/or out of control. Children can show anger when something doesn't go their way or if they feel that something unfair is happening to them, for example.

Symptoms of child anger

  • Tantrums are happening past the developmental age range in which they’re expected. Tantrums and outbursts should stop after they are seven to eight years’ old.
  • They are having problems at school due to aggressive behaviour
  • Their behaviour is causing them to be socially distanced from other children

Children may be aware of their anger but feel unable to stop their outbursts. They may also feel loneliness and sadness if their behaviour is negatively impacting relationships.

If their outbursts are becoming dangerous for themselves or for others, or if their behavioural in general is worrying, seek help from your GP who may refer you to a specialist, or contact a specialist directly.

What are the causes of child anger?

Children can become angrier than usual for numerous reasons, but common ones include:

  • Being bullied
  • Seeing family members argue
  • Stress
  • Being anxious
  • Childhood trauma and/or neglect
  • Hormonal changes that come with puberty

It’s possible that a child’s anger is caused by an underlying condition such as:

Treatments for child anger

Behavioural intervention is the first step to helping a child with their anger, which can be dealt with at home and with the help of a specialist. A specialist can provide therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Ways to help children are:

  • Be sure to praise positive behaviour
  • Find the triggers that set off episodes of anger
  • Help them understand that it’s okay to feel angry, but not okay to use the anger to bully, hit or cause disruptive environments
  • Let them know that they’re not the problem, only their anger is
  • Consider how you respond to their anger because they will learn from your reactions
  • Teach them breathing techniques like breathing slowly and deeply while counting to ten

Which type of specialist treats child anger?

Paediatric psychologists and psychiatrists can help children learn to manage their anger.

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