Handling an Angry Child

Your guide to the ages and stages of development
Handling an Angry Child

Even if your child is sweet and quiet by nature, occasional outbursts of heated anger are common, especially once he reaches school age.

Educational researcher Marian Marion explains that anger has three parts. The first is anger's emotional state. This occurs when your child is prevented from reaching a goal or from having his needs met. The second stage is the actual expression of anger. This expression may be communicated nonverbally (sulking, facial expressions), verbally (protests or hurtful words) or physically (hitting, kicking or running away). The third and most mature aspect of anger is an understanding of the emotion.

When helping you child deal with feelings of anger, Steve Maurer, a clinical psychologist, recommends parents first acknowledge their child's emotions. Try speaking in a soft but strong voice and saying things like, "I can see why you're angry." Second, try to hold your child or remove her from the situation in order to help her cool down. When your child is able to talk with you, ask things like "What made you so angry?" and "What do you want to do now?" Help your child get the logical, thinking part of her brain working again. Maurer also emphasizes that parents should remain calm and supportive and model good anger control for their children. Don't let their anger fuel your own.

The Bible has a lot to say about anger. For instance, David wrote, "In your anger do not sin" (Psalm 4:4) as a reminder that anger itself isn't a sin, but what we do when we're angry can be. (For more on anger, look at Proverbs 15:1 and 16:32; Ecc. 7:9; Matt. 5:9; Luke 6:27-31; Eph. 4:26, 31-5:2.)

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