6 min read

My child keeps getting angry and lashing out

- Many children express their anger in ways that are hard to cope with, such as verbal outbursts, swearing, throwing things and fighting. You can teach your child to understand and manage their angry emotions in a calmer way.

Things you can try

  1. Stay calm when it happens

    Of course this is easier said than done! But if your child is lashing out verbally or physically the best thing you can do is stay calm. Focus on your breathing, and take some deep breaths.

    Remind yourself that your child isn’t acting like this on purpose.

  2. Recognise and explore the anger before it escalates

    If you notice your child getting angry before they launch into aggressive behaviour, you can help them recognise their feelings. Then you can reassure them that those feelings are normal. Finally you can help them understand why they might be feeling that way.

    First, notice what they look like and comment on how it might show their emotions. For example, you could say “That is a big frown on your face, it looks like you are feeling angry”.

    Then acknowledge that you have heard how they feel, even if you are not able to change the situation. For example, you might say ‘I know it’s frustrating that you can’t have an ice-cream now, but you’re just about to have your lunch. Come on, what flavor will you want when we come next time?’.

    Sometimes, the reason why they are angry might be hidden beneath the surface. You can help your child to connect with their feelings by offering a possible reason for their anger.

  3. Teach your child to anticipate and regulate their angry feelings

    On a day when your child is feeling positive, talk to them about times they have felt angry and what they did. Discuss how they could do things differently, when they next feel angry.

    For example, ask them ‘When someone takes your favourite toy, what could you do instead of shouting at them?’.

    You can turn it into a list making game - where together you list all the things your child can think of that make them angry, and plan safer, calmer ways to react when they feel that way. Ask them to rate which ones are hardest to do - so that you can give them extra support.

    This is also a great time to introduce the idea of calming techniques.

  4. Role model how to manage anger

    We often stress about how to hide our anger from our children, but it’s helpful for children to see their parents managing emotions in a healthy way.

    So if you are angry, try to express this in words, and show your child what you do next.

    For example, you could say ‘Ok, (deep breath) I am really, really cross now so I am just going to take 5 minutes to calm down’. Then take a 5-minute time away to stop, breathe deeply. Then come back and explain what made you feel angry, and what you would like to happen next.

    There are more tips on managing your own anger in our topic My child pushes my buttons.

  5. Encourage meaningful activities & interests

    A lot of angry feelings can come from feeling stupid or ashamed. Help your child to become good at something they like. This is one of the best ways to build a sense of confidence. That confidence can transfer to other areas of their life and help them feel less angry in general.

    Find out more about helping your children develop talents.

    Your child is unique and we hope there are some takeaways here that work for you. If you’re looking for help parenting children with additional needs, you can get specific advice from specialist organisations. Check out our list of support that we can recommend.

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