5 Signs Your Child Needs Help Managing Anger

Angry child looking at her mother
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Everyone gets angry sometimes. In fact, anger is a normal, healthy emotion when expressed appropriately. But some kids are frequently angry and struggle to enjoy life. They get into fights when they play games and argue when they're doing something fun. Their inability to cope with their emotion affects their quality of life.

If your child has difficulty expressing anger appropriately or otherwise struggles to manage this powerful emotion, they may need help from a mental health professional. Treatment will help give them the skills they need to feel better.

What's Behind Kids' Anger

There are many factors that can contribute to a child feeling angry or expressing anger in challenging ways. Unresolved feelings, such as grief related to a divorce or the loss of a loved one, can be the root of the problem. A history of trauma or experiencing bullying may lead to anger, too.

Mental health issues also may be linked to angry outbursts. Children with depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder struggle to regulate their emotions.

There isn’t always a clear environmental or mental health issue behind a child’s angry behavior. Some kids just have a lower tolerance for frustration than others.

Signs That Your Child Needs Help

Some kids seem to be born with a short fuse. They may be impatient, intolerant, or aggressive when they're not happy. Dealing with unpredictable behavior can be stressful for the entire family.

While it’s age-appropriate for toddlers to throw temper tantrums for and preschoolers to lash out aggressively at times, it’s important to keep an eye out for behavior that differs from normal childhood behavior. These warning signs may indicate that you should seek professional help for your child.

Difficulty With Relationships

Hitting a sibling or calling someone a name once in a while is normal in young children. However, when kids' angry outbursts prevent them from maintaining friendships, or interfere with developing healthy relationships with family members, it's time to address the issue.

Disruption of Family Life

You shouldn’t have to walk on eggshells in your own home. If your daily activities are disrupted because of your child’s angry behaviors, it’s not healthy for anyone in the family. Skipping outings or giving into your child to avoid a meltdown are temporary solutions that will lead to long-term problems.

If you're missing out on fun activities, or your one-on-one time with another child is frequently interrupted, your child's behavior needs to be addressed.

Aggression

Aggression should be a last resort. But for kids with anger problems, lashing out often becomes a first line of defense. When children struggle to solve problems, resolve conflict, or ask for help, they may be using aggression as a way to get their needs met. Sometimes, teaching new skills can help a child learn that aggressive behavior isn’t necessary. 

Immature Behavior

While it’s normal for 2-year-olds to throw themselves down to the floor and kick their feet when they're mad, that’s not normal for an 8-year-old. Meltdowns should decrease in frequency and intensity as your child matures. If your child’s temper tantrums seem to be getting worse, it’s a warning sign that they're having difficulty regulating their emotions.

Frequent Frustration

As kids mature, they should develop an increased ability to tolerate frustrating activities. If a 7-year-old throws their building toys when their creations topple over, or a 9-year-old crumples up their papers every time they make a mistake on their homework, they may need help building frustration tolerance.

How to Help Your Child

If you're struggling to help your child feel better, consider getting professional help. A mental health professional can assist you in teaching your child anger management strategies. They also can address any underlying issues your child may be facing.

Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns. Your child's physician can rule out any medical issues that might contribute to the problem and then make a referral to a mental health provider.

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  1. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Oppositional defiant disorder. Updated January 2019.