If you’re a parent wondering why your kid is so angry all the time, you’re not alone. Kids can have strong emotional reactions at any age, but there are a couple of distinct times during their growth and development where you may notice it more often.
Seven year-olds, for instance, can be moody and hard to satisfy as they begin to grasp the concept of fairness. They can sometimes still throw tantrums or have meltdowns at their age if they experience a breakdown in learning or they have difficulty expressing themselves.
Once a child reaches adolescence, they tend to spend more time exploring and asserting their own self-identity — often by seeking greater independence from their parents while also becoming more preoccupied with their peer relationships. This natural desire to break free into their own world combined with intense hormonal changes can cause strong emotional reactions.
As a parent, there are a few things you can do to help your child or teen manage their emotions in a healthy way. Here’s where you can start.
Stay Aware of Anger
It’s important to understand that emotions — even angry emotions — are completely natural, and kids aren’t necessarily choosing to misbehave when they’re angry. For some kids, their flight or flight responses can be triggered more often due to the neurological
changes they’re experiencing.
By paying close attention to your child’s emotions, you may be able to pick up on any hints of anger they’re experiencing before it becomes worse. You can do this by watching for changes in their body language, facial expressions, posture, or tone of voice.
Lead by Example
Angry kids can make parents angry too, but parents who respond harshly often end up escalating their kids’ aggression. By staying calm when they’re being difficult, you’re actually modelling and teaching them the type of behaviour you want to see.
Try noticing any feelings of frustration or anger in yourself before reacting to your child. Take a few deep breaths and focus your awareness on any signs of physical tension, relaxing into them slowly as you breathe. You can show your child how to do the same for themselves when they’re angry.
If you do get angry with them, acknowledge it and immediately reroute your behaviour. Take a moment to regain your sense of calm, apologize to your child for the way you reacted (harder than it sounds for many!), and tell them what you should have done instead.
Be Their Emotion Coach
When your child is angry, avoid dismissing it. There’s probably something deeper they’re feeling or experiencing behind their anger, and you can help your child become more comfortable with talking about their feelings through emotion coaching.
Emotion coaching parents view their child’s negative reactions as an opportunity to connect with them, listen to what they have to say, and validate their feelings. After listening, parents can then help their child name their feelings and explore solutions together.
As an emotion coaching parent, you essentially teach your child that all emotions are acceptable, but all behaviours may not be. This is how you can effectively help them redirect their negative behaviour and possibly prevent it from happening again in the future.
Teach Effective Coping Skills
Instead of telling your child to stop misbehaving, offer them a small tip or ask them a question about how they can deal with their anger. Saying something like, “Take a deep breath,” or asking, “What can you do instead of kicking the furniture?” can be enough to help your child to cope better.
You can also use items and activities to help your child move through the anger process in a safe and healthy manner. Try using things like stress balls, relaxation prompt cards, soothing sound effects, and activities that involve drawing or journaling.
Set Limits for Angry Behaviour
No matter how good of a parent you are, your child still may express their anger through physical or verbal aggression from time to time. It’s important to teach your child which behaviours are unacceptable in your household so they know when they’re about to cross a line.
Establish rules and set limits for behaviours like screaming, shouting, name-calling, cursing, hitting, destroying property, and slamming doors. It’s up to you as a parent to set rules and limits that feel most appropriate to you, but in general, any behaviour that you think is disrespectful toward others should be considered unacceptable.
Use Positive and Negative Consequences
Kids respond well to a structured relationship with their parents when they use consistent consequences for their behaviour. This goes for both the behaviours you do want to see, and the behaviours you don’t want to see.
For behaviours you do want to see, give praise and specifically label the behaviour to help them better understand what they did well. You can also implement reward systems when they behave — like allowing them extra screen time or a favourite dessert after dinner.
For behaviours you don’t want to see, remain calm and remind yourself not to give in. If your child is very upset, wait until their tantrum or meltdown is over before trying to reason with them. You can give them the option to do something you want them to do, and if they don’t, follow through immediately with appropriate consequences — like time out, loss of privileges, extra chores, or grounding.
Final Thoughts on Parenting Kids Through Their Anger
It’s quite normal for kids to have the occasional outburst. But if it’s happening a lot or in response to trivial things, it could be a sign of something else that needs attention.
As the parent of your child, you know them better than anyone. If you suspect that their anger or strong emotional reactions are a cause for concern, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with us to have your child assessed and get expert parenting advice from our team of mental health professionals.