Can Anger in Children be a Sign of Something Serious?

What Causes Anger in Children?

Anger in children is often triggered by frustration. They cannot understand their situation and they do not know how to change it. Helpless and unable to verbalize their feelings, they respond with anger.

Tantrums in children between 2 and 4 are perfectly normal, especially for children who are unable to express their frustration. Tantrums in this age group reflect a stage of development in the child.They mark the child's understanding of a self separate from the world around him. He is experiencing a sense of personal independence which often conflicts with adult intervention, a situation that will be repeated during his teenage years.

Most toddlers are unable to verbalize what and how they feel.Learning how to talk to toddlers and dealing with the terrible twos can help.

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Preschool Tantrums

Every preschooler has tantrums that are perfectly normal.

What can you do when you child has a temper tantrum? There are ways to stop a tantrum in its tracks. The best advice for these strategies come from the voice of experience.

Stopping a Temper Tantrum in its Tracks:What to Do When Kids Lose it

However, long-lasting and severe tantrums may be red flags for professional and medical interference.The following indicators suggest that the child might need professional help:

-tantrums that last more than 30 minutes most of the time

-tantrums that involve violence or aggression towards caregiver and others

-tantrums that involve self-injuries

-frequent tantrum episodes ( 5 or more almost every day)

Recent research also suggests that abnormally frequent aggressive behavior in children before age 2 can be a sign of deeper emotional or psychological problems.

Anger in the Older Child (5-12)

Episodes of anger in children and even fighting among older children (5-12) are normal. In fact, these behaviors become good opportunities in a child's experiences for learning self control and forgiveness.

Even the anger tantrums of difficult children can come within the normal range. There are children who are born with an uncompromising temperament;these are children who are more often than not finicky, colicky and challenging.

But there are other valid causes of anger in children that require attention and perhaps even professional intervention; these are children who are angry because of family separation and child custody issues. Or they may be victims of sexual abuse.

Or their anger can be due to rape trauma.

Repeated episodes of sustained and explosive anger can signal the need for professional intervention. These severe episodes of anger in children can be a sign of the following serious anger issues:

anger disorder
oppositional defiance disorder
bipolar disorder
attention deficicit disorder
depression in Children
anger addiction
Conduct Disorder

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What are the signs that tell you your child needs professional help?

-Anger in the child becomes severe; he tears up his books and breaks things in the house.

-The child's behavior poses a danger to himself and others.

-Anger in the child is sustained,lasting for an hour or more.

-Teachers at your child's school have voiced concern over his anger and behavior.

-The child has performed acts of violence against others( like setting fire in school or torturing animals).

Anger in Teens

Defiant behavior and attitudes are normal in teenagers. However, the following signs may indicate a need for professional attention.

-persistent rude and verbally abusive behavior

-physical aggression or outbursts against others

-physical aggression or outbursts against self

-anger turned inward through starvation, avoidance of friends, self-mutilation

-school attendance and performance problems

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What You Can Do about Anger in Children

Sometimes the most unsettling anger episodes occur in preschool children. I still remember my 3 year old grandson biting his best friend who had invited him to a birthday party. He bit his friend at the birthday party. We were filled with anguish and embarrassment.

Wish we had known then that there are ways to handle these all too common and perfectly normal anger outbursts in preschoolers.

Hitting, Biting and Kicking:How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children

Identifying anger that is abnormal is the first step towards recovery.

Most episodes of rage in children, however, are normal. There are many strategies that can be use to help your child understand that alternate responses are available to him or her.You can find out more about strategies to manage anger in children in our section on anger management and in our section on transforming anger.

Anger in children often comes from stress. Yes. Stress is part of a child's life as much as it is a part of an adult's life. Teaching a child how to handle stress is one of the best things we as parents can do for our children. A healthy dose of stress actually builds resilience ...and optimism. At the same time, parents must also be aware that anger is a sign of child anxieties. There are ways to address child anxieties.

Our Parenting Help page provides advice on anger management tips for parents as well.

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Your Child Needs to Know that Anger is Perfectly Normal

One of the most important things we to understand is that anger in children is a perfectly normal emotion.Your child needs to understand that too. Any time your child displays anger, take the time to explain that it's acceptable to be angry, but emphasize as well that he or she needs to find creative ways to cope with those feelings.

Constructively teach your child that outbursts are frowned upon because they are a very negative approach to a naturally occurring emotion. Never counteract anger with anger. As the parent or caregiver, your job is to help your child develop ways to become a properly functioning adult.

Some anger issues, however,are disorders that need professional help.Bipolar disorder is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed behavioral disorders. Sufferers are subject to severe mood swings. In children and adolescents, bipolar disorder is often written off as simply immature and erratic behavior. People who suffer from bipolar disorder often go undiagnosed for up to ten years. During that ten year period mood swings may range from one extreme to the other. Manic elation can quickly turn to manic depression without warning to those around the affected person. Intense emotions consume the bipolar disorder sufferer and can lead to suicidal thoughts. For anger issues that arise from serious disorders, professional help is needed. Often prescribed medication and cognitive behavior therapy will provide effective control of anger in children.

The most effective anger management comes from recognizing the difference between Reacting and Responding.What's the difference between reacting to a situation or responding to it? The answer is simple: a lot! A reaction is often a quick, rash action that does little or nothing to remedy the original situation. A response is more calculated; it is thought before action. Reacting and responding are two totally different ways to deal with an anger situation.

Famed motivational speaker Zig Ziglar explained reaction vs. response by using a simple example similar to this: If you were to go to the doctor for excessive dry skin and the medicated cream he gave you caused a rash, it "reacted" badly. On the other hand, if the medication cleared up the initial issue, it "responded" very well. A "reaction" is most often thought of as negative while a "response" is looked at in a more positive light.

We can take that analogy to heart with every aspect of life, including the ability to deal with anger in children and in ourselves. Rashly reacting to a situation often breeds negative emotion. Taking the time to respond to the same situation creates a much more positive atmosphere. Choose to respond to things that anger you instead of reacting to them.

Anger management in children could be approached via the respond vs. react method. When the child in your care reacts negatively to anger, talk to him or her about the situation. Explain how a calm and positive response will turn everyone's mood around and make everyone more approachable in the long run. Take the time to explain to the child that proper methods of anger management will help defuse the emotional bomb inside. By defusing this bomb, the child will be able to achieve his or her goals in a more constructive and successful manner.

You can help your child overcome anxiety, worries, and fears. Take a step towards working with. rather than against, your child.By ending your child's battle with anxiety, his or her whole life can move quickly in a much more positive direction and change for the better. You can learn how you can help your child feel more confident, secure in body and mind, and most of all, be happy again by discovering how to shatter the anxiety, nervousness, and fear that may be holding him or her back.

Check out the Anxiety-Free Child Program.

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Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (2007, December 13). Excessive Tantrums In Preschoolers May Indicate Serious Mental Health Problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2008, from­ /releases/2007/12/071213194723.htm

Disclaimer: The above information is meant only to inform and should never displace professional consultation. Visit Our Blog!

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