Learning how to manage with angry children more effectively

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 16, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

No one ever said being a parent was going to be easy. You’ve probably heard your parents or other loved ones tell you similar things in the past. This is a sentiment that can ring especially true when your child is experiencing severe anger. Some children seem to carry a lot of anger inside, and angry outbursts can become very pronounced.

When a child starts to develop an anger problem, it can be difficult to know what to do. You love your child, and you just want them to be able to cope with anger. Sometimes children get angry just like the rest of us, but the problem may have progressed beyond the point of simple angry outbursts.

Many people have problems controlling their emotions and anger. This is a common concern with adults, and it can affect children as well. It can be difficult for the family to cope with someone in the household being angry. Anger in children can be just as concerning as anger in parents. However, there are strategies that you can use to try to defuse anger-inducing situations and get things back to normal.

Avoid physically punishing children

iStock/evgenyatamanenko
Helping your child manage their anger can be challenging

When children go out of their way to anger their parents, it can be tempting to try to punish them right away. Your parents may have spanked you or physically punished you when you acted out in the past. However, research shows that corporal punishment is linked to several negative outcomes, including increased aggression and violence. One study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics found that parents “who reported using physical discipline were 2.8 [95% CI 1.7, 4.5] times more likely to report aggressive child behaviors of hitting/kicking and throwing.” A child may just get angrier and start lashing out more frequently if you choose this method of punishment.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Don’t punish anger itself

When addressing your child’s angry outbursts, it may also help to avoid punishing your child due to the anger itself. During an outburst, your child likely gets overwhelmed with emotion, and then the emotions manifest in anger. Instead of correcting their anger, it may be more helpful to correct the outburst or misbehavior. Many experts of child development discourage the idea of punishment and focus instead on teaching children to emotionally control, which may include modeling how to handle anger. The goal is typically to correct the misbehavior, not to make your child feel pain or shame.

Some parents use time-outs to punish misbehavior or calm their child down, but some researchers believe this may be isolating or shame-inducing. However, other researchers point to the evidence base for time-outs. The key may lie in how time-outs are used and the communication that happens between parent and child.

If you’re experiencing anger yourself due to an outburst by your child, a short time away from the situation may help you avoid saying something you don’t mean. When you come back to the situation, it may help to explain that you aren’t upset about your child’s anger but that you are worried about how they are expressing their anger.

Don’t let your child get what they want due to an angry outburst

It can be important to maintain your authority when it comes to addressing an angry outburst by your child. If your child starts to see that having an angry outburst gets them what they want, you may be creating a pattern that causes you more stress. As an example, if a child throws an angry tantrum due to not being allowed to purchase a toy, you may be tempted to acquiesce to their demands just to get them to settle down. However, this can show your child that a tantrum can get them what they want, and they may lash out further.

Regardless of whether your child is doing this on purpose or they cannot control the outbursts, it may help to stick to your instinct and avoid rewarding this behavior. This may help prevent your child from lashing out to get what they want. 

Develop effective ways to calm your child

iStock/dragana991

Your child needs to be able to calm down when they are feeling angry. If you have a system in place to address this behavior, then it may not seem so problematic. Children are going to get angry and have emotional moments. Knowing how to handle these moments may help to keep your household peaceful.

One possible way to help a child calm down and avoid an outburst is to use a time-out, but according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, time-outs may be best used with toddlers and children of preschool age. A short time-out can separate the child from others and likely take the child away from whatever was causing the anger. It may help to allow your child to do a quiet activity in their room or to focus on another approved activity to calm down. You just need to remove them from the situation so that you can stop the angry outburst before it gets too pronounced. 

The activities that help your child to calm down may be different from the activities that work for others. One way to make a list of calming activities is by talking to your child about what helps them feel calm when they are not in the middle of an angry outburst. You can also think of things you notice they enjoy doing.

Lead by example

When you’re trying to help your child control their anger, it may help to lead by example by modeling emotional control. Everyone has bad days and gets emotionally frustrated sometimes. It is not even unusual to have disagreements with your spouse or partner. Before your next disagreement arises, it may help to begin working on emotional control yourself so that your child doesn’t see you lash out in anger. You may find that this strategy not only models appropriate responses for your child but also reduces your stress.

If you’re feeling angry or upset with your child, you might simply verbalize how you’re feeling and let your child know that you need a moment to gather your thoughts. This can be a healthy way to control your emotions, and your child may start to exhibit that healthy behavior as well.

Talk about feelings

It may also help to take the time to talk about feelings. Your child might be lashing out in anger due to not being able to express themselves properly. You might encourage being open about emotions in your household. If your child doesn’t feel that they can tell you how they’re feeling, then extreme responses such as angry outbursts may start to feel natural.

If you can teach your children to talk about how they’re feeling, it may make a significant difference. Your children should be able to talk to you about whether they’re feeling upset or angry about a specific thing. Then you can talk to them about it calmly. Kids may become angry or upset about things that seem minor to adults, but it may help to show your child that you take their feelings seriously. 

Children who understand their emotions may feel empowered to manage them. Emotions can be powerful, and children need to know how to express them in positive ways. Talking with children about emotions and different ways to cope with feelings may help curb extreme anger problems.

Consider anger management therapy

If you’re child experiences severe anger, they may benefit from speaking with a licensed therapist. A therapist may be able to help your child through anger management therapy.

Anger management therapy is designed to help children address their anger more effectively. Some kids may have certain emotional concerns that need to be addressed by professionals. A therapist may make a significant difference by helping to identify triggers and teaching your child evidence-based anger management techniques. These techniques may help to defuse anger-inducing situations and help your child to regain their sense of calm.

The therapy process may be different for each child. Anger may stem from problems at home or concerns that they’re going through at school. It can be frustrating, but having a licensed therapist working with your child may make things more manageable.

Online therapy may also be an option

Getty/MoMo Productions
Helping your child manage their anger can be challenging

If you think your child may feel uncomfortable with traditional in-office therapy, you might consider online therapy, which research shows to be effective for a number of mental health challenges. Some child therapists may offer online therapy to help children manage their anger more effectively. Sometimes this might even be a more convenient option as your child can connect with a therapist from the comfort of your home at a time that works for your schedule. Your child can speak to the therapist through video chat or over the phone. 

You might also consider signing up for online therapy yourself to get help and coping skills for raising a child who is experiencing problematic anger. With BetterHelp, you can contact your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may prove to be helpful if you experience difficulty helping your child with their anger in between therapy sessions.

Takeaway

anger management, your child may still experience problematic anger that affects your entire family. If you find yourself in this situation, you may benefit from speaking with a licensed therapist. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping parents deal with angry children more effectively. Take the first step toward getting support as a parent and contact BetterHelp today.

Learn to separate anger from behavior
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started