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Oregon Family Magazine

Helping Kids Deal With ANGER.

10/04/2011 ● By Anonymous
Children today seem to have the weight of the world on their shoulders, or at least they seem to think they do. It’s not uncommon to walk down the street and see them dressed in black clothing from head to toe, hear them voicing their frustrations loudly to whomever will listen, or simply see them scowl at the world. Unfortunately, this behavior is not isolated to teens, who parents have accepted as the “angry, angst-filled” segment of the population; it can be witnessed in younger children aged, three to thirteen, as well. With busy social calendars, more toys, clothes, and gadgets to their names than any other generation in the history of the world, and more income at their disposal than previous generations – it brings to mind the question of exactly what do these children have to be angry about?

In generations past were children angry? Yes. However, it was more the exception than the rule. A mere couple of generations ago children were too afraid of the wrath of their parents and/or respected their parents too much to behave in this manner. Today it seems as though children who are not feeding into the angry, sullen, “misunderstood” role are the exceptions, and unfortunately difficult to find. What makes children behave this way? Is it society? Have parents become so accepting of this behavior as a form of rebellion, or the “rite of passage” into adulthood that it’s simply expected? Do children see this behavior in peers and adopt it as a means to fit in? Is it just a way to “get back at” parents, caregivers, authority figures or siblings?

There are many questions surrounding the anger issue, and while it seems to be pandemic, each child may be displaying this behavior as a unique expression of what is going on in his/her own life. Thus, each situation will be unique.

What is Anger? Anger is just one of the many emotions humans experience. Just like an overabundance of anger is unhealthy, so is a lack of anger. Anger is an expression of displeasure. It is a natural feeling, but just like it is not expected that every experience will be enjoyable, it is also unrealistic for every situation to provide displeasure. Thus, anger should not be “on” 24-7. According to, when anger occurs it’s impossible to think rationally because the body reacts so quickly, the mind just doesn’t stand a chance of catching up. Physically, the rapid heart rate and inability to catch one’s breath are the result of neurotransmitters and stress hormones racing through the body and brain. While someone immediately reacts to anger, the affects to the body take a long time to wane, sometimes days. That’s a long time to have your body be that amped up. Imagine the body being in that constantly. Anger can create serious health problems, and result in death if left to continue over a period of time.

How to Combat the Anger Issue There are different schools of thought on how to address the anger issues. First and foremost, parents should try to determine why anger is present and being displayed in an inappropriate manner. Below are some possible reasons:

  • Does it stem from a lack of communication?
  • Are children being bullied and are reacting to treatment they are receiving?
  • Are they trying to fit in by mimicking the actions and behaviors of their peers?
  • Are they simply over tired due to busy schedules and being short-tempered?
  • Do they have no time for true downtime between school, other activities, television, video games, hand held devices, and cell phones?
  • Is anger an emotion they often see in adults and they are just modeling that behavior?
  • Is there a food/chemical imbalance that manifests as anger?
  • Is there a mental problem or family history that could be the cause?
  • Are children missing time to interact with parents?
  • Have children learned how to voice their anger instead of demonstrate their frustration?
  • Do they know that and understand that anger is healthy, but tantrums are not tolerated by your family?
According to psychologist Dr. Randy Cole, children can be legitimately angry, but parents have to let them know they are responsible for their anger, and will be held accountable for their inappropriate displays of temper. For example, if a child is upset and takes his/her bad temper out on someone, the child will not be encouraged to continue the behavior. Unwittingly, adults and others often feed into the anger cycle by providing fuel to the anger fire. They ask what is wrong, argue with the person wallowing in their anger, or lose patience with the individual and the situation escalates. Dr. Cole suggests completely ignoring the person to let them know the behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Offer an alternative to anger.  Develop parameters for what is acceptable, how and where anger can be displayed. Let it be known anger is a normal and acceptable reaction, but I should not be taken out on others, violence should not result, and it can be more therapeutic than destructive. Other outlets should be explored.

Look to who may be influencing the anger behavior and either work on helping the instigator diffuse their issues, or help the child limit interactions with the person(s). Get them out of the “group think” situation and help them rewire their brains. Help them learn to be happy, enjoy new experiences, and seek out situations that are not negative and will not feed into the anger mode. It’s hard to be angry when you’re having fun, or spending time with people you truly enjoy. Seek the assistance of a medical professional. Sometimes children need to discuss something, but they feel their parents simply will not understand, or approve. This can result in anger or bitterness towards parents; when a child feels they cannot turn to their parents for advice. Additionally, a medical professional can determine if there is more to the anger issue than what may be perceived.

Healthy Outlets for Anger - Younger Set

  • Teach them how to get out their frustration – dance to music, play Wac-a-Mole, beat up a stuffed animal, or punch a pillow.
  • Teach them how to tell someone what is wrong and not act on their anger. Talking it out is the key to combating the anger.


  • Crank up the tunes and sing! Singing is a great way to change one’s mood. Even sad songs can help get rid of bad feelings.
  • Talk it out. Find someone to discuss your feeling with – even if it’s not mom or dad. Having someone to talk to – grandparents, aunt/uncle, trusted teacher, minister, etc. can help you get in touch with your feelings.


  • Take up a sport or join a gym. Physical exercise is a good way to eliminate those stress chemicals.
  • Spend time with others doing something productive, not just hanging out. Join a group, volunteer time for a worthy cause. Feeling good about one’s accomplishments is a good way to eliminate anger.
Things to Watch For While it’s normal for children to fell misunderstood, and they think parents have no idea what they are “going through”, it is not normal or healthy for children to exist in a constant, or near constant angry state. Prolonged anger can result in increased instances of bad behavior, violence, or death. Here are some things to look for:
  • Sudden depression, anger and withdrawal.
  • Anger that has morphed into violent outburst and destructive behavior.
  • A pattern of anger that does not seem to have a cause.
  • Any physical bruises, signs of self mutilation.
  • Drug or alcohol use.
  • Abandonment of old group of friends for new group.
  • Anger that does not seem to abate.

Children today have no more of a reason to be angry than the children of past generations. There’s simply a larger percentage of the population acting in this inappropriate manner. Just like they would not like or expect parents to be angry and sullen all the time, parents should hold children to the same standard. Let them know what is acceptable, what will not be tolerated, and stick to your guns. Hormones may come into play from time to time, but anger shouldn’t be taking up residence in your home indefinitely. Be sure to seek professional help if anger continues, or something seems completely abnormal. In this case, it’s much better to be proactive. A medical professional can steer you in the right direction.

Kim Green-Spangler, B.S. Ed and M.S. Eng, is a freelance writer, wife and mother. Her niche is writing articles pertaining to family life, health, fitness, parenting and home based businesses. She may be contacted through