"My son is always angry at every one, and I just can't stand dealing with him anymore!" says Sarah, the mother of 9-year-old Jimmy (not their real names). We're on the phone before our first counseling session and she sounds desperate.
The stereotype of children is that they are happy, carefree little bundles of sunshine who take life as it comes and have much to teach adults about seeing the bright side of life. But in truth, there are many children who have problems managing their anger. They start arguments with siblings, parents, friends, and teachers. They may become physically aggressive, verbally abusive, or withdrawn and isolated. An angry child can cause difficult family relationships and tense social situations.
Anger in children is a sometimes mysterious and usually stressful experience for parents. It may be the most challenging and intimidating emotion because of its tremendous potential for destructiveness. At the same time, we can't afford to ignore or downplay the anger our children feel. Because of its intensity, mishandled anger can create anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, and despair in children.
As if anger isn't challenging enough, the church often imposes unnecessary and even unhealthy taboos against anger for both adults and children. While the Bible says, "In your anger do not sin" (Psalm 4:4), many Christians hear and teach only, "Do not be angry."
Anger is a natural human emotion and it's essential that we help our children learn to deal with it in healthy ways. But before we teach them effective anger management, we need to understand the causes of their anger.1