Seven-year-old Sherri's eyes were ablaze, her sturdy body taut and her voice shrill: "I don't want to clean my room, and you can't make me! I hate you!"
What parent hasn't struggled with an angry child? Although anger is a typical response for many 5- to 8-year-olds, it's rarely the primary emotion. At this age, angry behavior is often the result of other feelings that may be new to your child: tender, vulnerable or downright painful feelings.
Developmentally, children this age are learning to be responsible. This means more is expected of them: handling new tasks at home and at school, accepting one's faults honestly and making reasonably good choices.
For Sherri, cleaning up a room cluttered with clothes, toys and school papers may appear to be an overwhelming and seemingly impossible chore. She may believe the task is an excessive burden and that she has been singled out for unfair treatment. Such feelings are likely to be expressed as "You're mean! You're not fair! Sam doesn't have to work like I do!"
Early elementary school children have mixed feelings: they want to be big, but sometimes feel little. When teachers and parents place demands on them they feel are too heavy, they may feel overwhelmed. But rather than admitting that, they act aggressively or express their anger through resistance.
Try not to give in to your child's seeming anger and don't take accusations seriously. This stage is built on a foundation of trust, the healthy separation of a child from dependency on parents and the growth of a sense of initiative and creativity.1