Responding to Anger
If you're finding it difficult to deal with your child's angry behaviour, here is our advice on what to do and where to get help.
How can I help my child?
While having some angry feelings is normal at all ages, some children and young people struggle more than others to control these feelings and to sort the problems out. Angry feelings and aggressive behaviour can be very hard to deal with and can have a big effect on family life, but there are ways you can talk to your child about how they're feeling and work out coping strategies together.
These are things which can really make a difference:
- If your child doesn’t know why they are feeling angry, try and work out together what might be causing their feelings. If they aren't ready to talk, try saying you are there to listen whenever they are ready.
- Say that you have noticed they don’t seem happy and ask if anything is worrying them or stressing them out.
- Don't change your usual rules. When teens are angry they can also be frightened at how out of control they feel; this is the very time they need family stability, so be consistent.
- Give yourself and your child some time to allow things to resolve. Sometimes children just need parents to notice and acknowledge that things are hard.
- Help them to recognise patterns of when and how they get angry.
- Help them to work out ways of channelling their anger differently, for example, you could try encouraging them to:
- try some simple controlled breathing techniques
- do some physical activity like sports
- plan some 'time out' doing something they enjoy
- get creative to communicate their thoughts in a different way e.g. drawing, writing, texting
And remember to look after yourself and keep yourself strong. Parenting can be tough, so do talk to friends or family for support, and try to find a bit of time out for yourself.
How should I respond when my child gets angry?
Here are five which can really help:
- Separate your child’s feelings from their negative behaviours; feelings are valid, bad behaviour is not. It is important to try and make your child understand that you are not rejecting them and their feelings, but that you do not accept their behaviour. When children and young people act irrationally, they don’t always understand your reasoning, and this can be when difficult situations escalate and get out of hand. Keep explanations calm and simple to avoid misunderstandings.
- Don’t mirror the anger. Keep a calm manner, neutral voice and open body language (no folded arms).
- Limit your questioning. Acknowledge they are feeling angry. Say you would like to talk through how they are feeling and what they are communicating once they’ve calmed down.
- Hold boundaries and be consistent in how you set consequences. They might not like it, but this helps a child feel contained; it helps them in their development and their understanding of what is acceptable behaviour and what is and isn’t okay.
- Plan ahead. Work out what to do if your child’s anger outbursts increase.
Dealing with aggression and violence
When a child or young person is very angry, they can get verbally or physically aggressive and even violent. It can be hard to help them, especially when they say there is nothing wrong and that everyone else has the problem.
If safe to do so for you and the child remove yourself from the room.
If not safe to do so, and you feel that you or anyone else are at immediate risk of harm, warn the child that if the aggression does not stop you will contact the police and follow through if they do not stop.
Calling the police to intervene in a situation with your child is an incredibly difficult thing for any parent to have to do. If your safety, or the safety of other family members, is in question, this may be the only course of action. The police can be incredibly supportive in responding to mental health issues, and can section someone under the Mental Health Act, if appropriate.
Developmental disorders and anger
Young people with developmental issues may struggle to manage angry feelings. Children who have speech and language problems can get frustrated when they find it difficult to understand and communicate their emotions. It may be that more specific strategies are required with such children and charities such as the National Autistic Society and Contact provide great advice on this.
Conduct Disorder/ Oppositional Defiant Disorder
If your child’s angry and difficult behaviour has taken over their life, is severe and persistent, the GP might suspect Conduct /Oppositional Defiant Disorder and offer advice or referral to CAMHS. Support and treatment should be available for you at home, in school, in the community.
Where can I get help?
- Advice about dealing with teenagers’ anger and aggressive behaviour
- Free and confidential talking support with Live Chat via website.
- Other counselling available - telephone, messaging, webcam - charges apply.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
- Offers support to young men in the UK who are feeling down or in a crisis.
- Helpline: 0800 58 58 58 (Daily 17:00- 0:00)
- Online advice and information on anger, teens and boundaries, discipline, lying and stealing and violence.
Gangs and young people (NSPCC)
- Advice for parents worried about their children’s involvement in gangs
- 24 hours freephone helpline: 0808 800 5000
- 70 alternative ways to channel your anger! And 10 tips for parents about talking to teenage boys
- Advice for parents about dealing with anger.