Anger Issues in Children: When to Take Action

Paige Geis Bradshaw

Every child experiences anger from time to time, often accompanied by emotional fits or temper tantrums. They don’t call the toddler years “the terrible twos” for nothing!

Those first few years of a child’s life are crucial to their emotional development. They’re discovering the complexity of their feelings and learning how to regulate their emotions, which can look like overdramatic reactions and sudden shifts in mood.

But when your child ages out of their toddler years and the tantrums haven’t stopped, there may be something more going on.

What’s the difference between your child experiencing anger and being angry? Read on to find out—and learn when it’s time to take action.

Signs of Anger Issues in a Child

Occasional expressions of unchecked anger can be expected from children, regardless of age. Even fully developed adults experience moments of uncontrolled anger!

However, if your child’s angry fits are a regular occurrence, these outbursts can be an indication of more significant anger issues. Is your child also exhibiting other concerning behaviors? If so, keep in mind the following signs of anger issues in a child:

Throws Frequent Tantrums

Around the age of six, your child should be leaving their tantrum-throwing tendencies behind. If they continue this behavior well into their elementary school years, it is considered abnormal behavior.

It is also abnormal if your child throws tantrums when asked to do simple tasks like clean their room or do their homework. If your child’s behavior is preventing your family from spending time in public spaces—like eating at a restaurant, attending church, or going to the grocery store—that, too, is cause for concern.

Reacts Disproportionately

Does your child overreact to minor challenges and disappointments, such as losing a puzzle piece or struggling to solve a math problem? Extreme emotional reactions unwarranted by the cause can reveal deeper emotional dysfunction.

In addition to being disruptive, unnecessary angry reactions in response to small obstacles can discourage your child from trying new things. When learning difficult concepts and solving problems result in a fit of frustration, your child won’t want to repeat the activities or exercises.

Is Difficult to Calm Down

It is not typical to take nearly half an hour or more to calm your child down during an emotional fit. When your child has anger issues, adult intervention is almost always necessary in order to control and end a tantrum.

If you feel that managing your child’s angry episodes is consuming your time and energy, professional intervention is likely needed.

Experiences Violent Outbursts

Having an angry child can be frightening if they turn to violence during an outburst. Throwing, kicking, punching, biting, and other forms of physical aggression can not only inflict bodily harm onto others, but can also cause injury to your child as well.

Whether the violence is directed toward people or inanimate objects, it is reason for alarm and should be stopped immediately.

Uses Intentionally Hurtful Language

Children with anger issues know how to elicit emotional reactions from adults. If your child regularly swears, hurls insults, or says spiteful and offensive things, they’re doing so on purpose to get a rise out of you. This is usually a sign that your child is suffering from anger issues.

Has Challenges with School and Peers

Developing a relationship with your child’s teacher can offer valuable insight into your child’s behavior. Your child spends many hours in school each day, and their teacher may see problems that don’t make an appearance at home.

Your child’s teacher will also know how your child interacts with their peers. Whether due to their violent or mean actions toward other children or the need to always have things their way, it is unusual for children with anger issues to maintain healthy friendships in the long term. 

With technology thrown into the mix, children have even more avenues through which they can take out their anger—texts, social media, and Internet forums, to name a few. Thankfully, you can help your child practice kindness and self-control in digital spaces with Troomi.

Listen to your child’s teacher if they express concerns about your child’s behavior. Remember that you both want what’s best for your child!

Deflects Blame

Avoiding accountability from time to time is not uncommon for young children. They often fear doing something wrong and getting in trouble, which can make getting to the truth a little tough.

However, when your child has anger issues, deflecting blame onto others is standard procedure. Children who struggle with anger can’t cope with being wrong. (And if they did do something wrong, it’s never their fault.)

Struggles with Self-Esteem

Children who can’t control their anger are typically trapped in an unhealthy cycle:

  1. They feel emotions they can’t comprehend. This manifests as anger.
  2. They can’t control their response. They feel out of control.
  3. They feel remorse about their reaction.
  4. They feel bad about themselves and their inability to control their emotions.

This cycle of inadequacy will continue throughout your child’s life—unless the cycle is broken.

How to Help Your Child’s Anger

If your child frequently exhibits any of the above warning signs, it may be worthwhile to consider a psychological or psychiatric evaluation for your child.

Your child can be referred for evaluation by their teacher, school administrator, pediatrician, or child psychologist.

As professionals examine your child’s anger, they will study your child’s medical, behavioral, and academic history. They may conduct interviews with you, your child’s teacher, and other adults who spend time with your child. They will also speak directly with your child to understand them and their challenges more personally.

Your child’s anger could be a symptom of conditions like depression, anxiety, or ADHD. Your child’s anger could also be the result of trauma, or an emotional disconnect that simply needs rewiring.

In any case, there are numerous methods that can teach your child how to process and control their anger:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches children effective strategies to cope with angry emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Parent Management Training (PMT) helps parents better prevent and respond to their children’s misbehavior.
  • Emotional regulation techniques teach children how to identify what makes them angry and how to control their response.
  • Communication strategies show children how to articulate their feelings and communicate effectively when they’re upset.
  • Participating in activities like sports can provide children with a constructive outlet to relieve their anger.
  • In some cases, medication may be necessary to help children manage their emotions.

Anger is not an inherently “bad” emotion to feel. Anger shows us what we value, what hurts us, what we need, and what we need to work on.

But when left uncontrolled, anger can be dangerous.

It’s important to recognize that anger issues in children don’t just disappear—they will likely worsen as your child grows. Seeking professional help sooner rather than later will benefit both you and your child, making your home a happier and healthier place to be.