Anger is a prompt emotion. It often deploys danger reactions but also referred to as the child’s way of proclaiming independence and self-expression. There are many reasons that can accelerate the child’s anger which may sometimes lead to aggression (behaviour that can cause harm to oneself or another). At the age of kindergarten, aggression usually won’t appear as a result of immediate anger because children have learned to stop themselves from instinctive urges. Eventually, when the children reach school age, parents can expect distinct forms of aggression like sulking, pouting, and whining.
Young children are little, they are not allowed to do everything they want, they often fail at many things they try, which ultimately causes anger and/or aggression. The scene is different for the elder ones, they are big and strong and they can make to do whatever they feel like doing. Toddlers perceive danger, even if it is absent or sometimes there are chances of overreacting to it. While in this situation, they look for protection by causing someone upset or annoyed. At this particular instinct, impulses are difficult to control, the ability to stop and listen to other side and to reach out on the common platform of compromise and negotiation will barely remain as a dream. This is all known to the adults, but a young child should learn that anger is the name given to certain feelings and that the physical sensations of the anger include, a pounding heart, heavy breathing, and a feeling of getting warm. Acknowledging and naming the emotion of the child can blow away their heat of the moment by just saying: ‘I can feel your anger’. Help them in identifying the triggers that lead to these feelings such as- other child grabbing a toy, threatening to hurt, an adult spoiling their happy moments or punishing unjustly or failing to reach the new set goals. As the times passes by, with the help of parents the child learns that these are the various circumstances which make them scream.
Causes of anger in children
Frustration is one of the most common causes of anger in the children, caused when they cannot get what is asked for or when asked to do something which they don’t like. Mental health problems can be the triggering factors of anger for the children who are experiencing mental disorders like ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactive disorder), autism, OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) and Tourette’s syndrome. Genetics and other biological factors can also activate anger in the children. Parenting styles which are harsh and punishment-oriented, prodding and pressurising children by interfering their daily life will obviously lead to anger and/or aggression. Trauma caused due to the sudden death of a family member and experiencing bullying can be root causes of anger. Environment like unhealthy social interactions can also be a reason that child will likely to expose the anger-related issues.
Anger management in children
- Calming techniques should be instructed to children like taking deep breaths, drinking a glass of water, distracting with a story/ song when physical symptoms of anger are shown.
- Self-analysis should be encouraged so that they can ask themselves ‘What do they want to happen as the result of anger?’ Make them realise that retribution and revenge are not worth acting on.
- Nurture empathy so that they can understand other people’s point of view before acting just as they want, their point of view to be understood. A child can show empathy from 3 years old, all that they need is our help.
- Time break from the situation and person who is responsible for their anger and better take them out of the room until the emotions come under control.
- Yoga and meditation can help really well if practised every day which focus on deep breathing and stretching.
- Relaxation strategies like taking them to the karate classes or martial arts, as few children respond well to discipline classes.
- Encourage healthy communication of their angry feelings by asking them to express their frustration or anger in a non- confrontational manner – let them complete the sentence: ‘I’m feeling angry because…’
When anger turns into aggression
- Retrieve safety by separating the fighters and assure both sides that they will be safe and that they can learn to be in control and protect themselves.
- Teach the consequences. A child must know the consequences of his/her actions and should learn to stop and think before acting.
- Lay on the law and set limits of their actions and behaviour and let them know that who’s in- charge when they are out of control.
- Forgive by helping them to take out the guilty feelings which came from knowing their wrong deeds and give hope to change themselves and do better.
Anger is a universal emotion and it seems sound and relevant to conclude that there is nothing wrong with feeling angry. With the context that many adults feel difficult in controlling anger, it is no shocking that anger feelings outbursts in children. It is absolutely normal, if a child feels anger and that how the parents deal, respond and react with the anger issues is the key to control tantrums.
Image credit: Freepik
Navya Gedela is an MSc student in Human Development and Family Studies at Punjab Agricultural University.
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