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Explosive Anger: Managing Anger Outbursts and Anger Issues in Children

Being the parent of a child with explosive anger is not easy. You try bribes, compromises, and strategies to avoid triggers. Too often, because of their anger outbursts, these children also end up with serious discipline problems at school. All of this may leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Here a few tips that may help.

First, let your child know it is okay to feel anger and it is the behavioral reaction that makes the difference between out-of-control explosive anger and positively dealing with the angry feeling.  Teach your child that when he or she is angry it is okay to say “I’m angry,” but anger outbursts that result in the child acting violent, hurting self or others, or breaking things is NOT okay.

As a parent, when you hear your child expressing anger verbally, show empathy by stating “It looks like you are angry.  Can you tell me about it so I can help?”  If your child is behaving inappropriately (hitting, biting, etc.) simply state that the behavior is not allowed. Next, direct your child to a cool down period separate from the action.  Repeat, “We don’t hit.  Hitting hurts.”

Further, help your child express his feelings by teaching “I” statements.  Have your child complete this sentence frequently, even when not angry, to get accustomed to expressing feelings:  “I feel (sad, mad, afraid) when _______  happens because_______.”  Take turns with your child and use different feeling words like, “I feel proud when you pick up your clothes because you are helping me out,” or “I feel angry when I lose my keys because we might be late.”

Finally, check your own reaction to anger.  Anger issues in children are often the result of modeling what they see and hear, so if you are expressing anger over the driver who cut you off, your child may copy you.  Never become abusive or violent.


Jennifer Meehan, M.Ed., LPC, NCC 

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