Anger is a natural and normal reaction that is often used to respond to threats, stressors or losses. These threats can be real or ones that we make up in our mind. To be human is to be angry some of the time. Anger is a powerful emotion that can have many negative consequences if it is not managed properly. It is important not to make anger bad. An interesting way to understand anger might be to look at it as being a hammer. Therefore, it can be used for a tool for destruction or to build something.
Often, anger is confused with aggression. Aggression is a behaviour that is intended to cause harm to another person or damage to property. Aggression can include verbal abuse, threats and violent acts. Conversely, anger is an emotion that does not necessarily lead to aggression. A person can become angry without acting aggressively.
Anger becomes a problem when it is felt too intensely, frequently or is expressed inappropriately. Even when out of control anger does not always lead to violence. It is the inappropriate expression of anger through verbal abuse, intimidation or threatening behaviour that results in negative consequences.
Symptoms of anger often vary from individual to individual. However, some of the common symptoms include the feeling of blood rushing to the head, sweating, dry mouth, increased heart rate, tensed muscles, behavioural tantrums, explosive outburst, challenging authority, school refusal, refusal to complete assignments, social withdrawal and use of aggressive body language.
Strategies that you can employ to assist your child manage their anger often vary depending on the age of your child. For younger children up to the age of 8 years, it is important for you to understand the cause of your child’s anger and to label the emotions for your child. Let your child know that there are rules for dealing with anger and assist by identifying strategies such as time out, asking for what you want and relaxation exercises to calm down. It is important to ensure that your child understands your behaviour plan and that the plan is implemented immediately and consistently once the undesirable behaviour is displayed.
For older children and adolescents, learn to listen to your child and assist your child in increasing their awareness of their anger through the identification of triggers and cues. Like with younger children, suggest strategies that your child can try to help them calm down and problem solve.
Despite the age of your child, it is important for parents to practice what they preach. Therefore, always remember to model the desirable anger management strategies. Also, do positively reinforce your child either through verbal praise or providing privileges when they are make progress towards managing their anger.
Should your child’s anger persist to increase in intensity or frequency and, result in negative consequences despite the interventions emplaced by you, considering professional assistance from a psychologist is highly recommended.