5 Signs You're Raising an Angry Child

An angry child may be covering up hurt with aggression.
Matteo Colombo / Moment / Getty Images

Everyone gets angry sometimes. And anger is a normal, healthy emotion. But some kids are angry almost all the time.

Angry kids struggle to enjoy life. They get into fights when they play games, they argue when they're doing something fun, and they can't stand being told no.

There are many factors that can contribute to a child being angry and hostile. Unresolved feelings, such as grief related to a divorce or loss of a loved one can be the root of the problem. A trauma history may lead to deep-seated anger too.

Mental health issues may also 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 issue or mental health issue behind an angry child’s behavior. Certain kids just have a lower tolerance for frustration than others.

Some kids seem to be born with a short fuse. They're impatient, intolerant, and downright aggressive when they're not happy.

Within a matter of seconds, a seemingly minor event can lead an angry child to have a complete meltdown. Dealing with such hostile and unpredictable behavior can be stressful for the entire family.

While it’s age-appropriate for toddlers to throw temper tantrums, and preschoolers to lash out aggressively at times, it’s important to keep an eye out for behavior that goes above and beyond normal childhood behavior.

Here are some warning signs that may indicate you should consider seeking professional help for an angry child:

1. Angry Outbursts Interfere With Relationships

Hitting a sibling or calling someone a name once in a while is normal in young children. However, if your child’s angry outbursts prevent him from maintaining friendships or his attitude interferes with his ability to develop healthy relationships with family members, address the issue as soon as possible. Otherwise, he may have ongoing difficulties with long-term relationships.

2. Your Child's Behavior Disrupts Family Life

You shouldn’t have to walk around on eggshells in your own home. If your daily activities are disrupted because of your child’s anger, 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 more long-term problems. Your child's hostility may grow worse.

Worse yet, other family members may grow resentful. If you're missing out on fun activities, or your one-on-one time with another child gets interrupted, your angry child's behavior is a problem that needs to be addressed.

3. Your Child Uses Aggression as a Tool

Aggression should be a last resort. But for kids with anger problems, lashing out often becomes a first line of defense.

If your child struggles to solve problems, resolve conflict, or ask for help, he may be using aggression as a way to get his needs met. Sometimes, teaching new skills can help a child learn that aggressive behavior isn’t necessary. 

4. Temper Tantrums Aren't Age-Appropriate.

While it’s normal for a 2-year-old throw himself down to the floor and kick his feet when he’s 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 he’s having difficulty regulating his emotions. He will likely need coaching and training to help him express his feelings in an age-appropriate manner.

5. Your Child Has a Low Tolerance for Frustration

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

Seek Professional Help

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

Start by talking to your child’s pediatrician about your concerns. Your child's physician will want to rule out any medical issues that might contribute to the problem and then, if it's necessary, a referral to a mental health provider can be made.

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  1. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Oppositional Defiant Disorder.