Family Forum: Anger Management

Struggling with a child’s behaviour.

QUESTION:

Does the panel have any advice about anger management please?

The person concerned is a five-year-old girl who can be absolutely beautiful and then can change dramatically.

When angry, she hits family members, throws toys and yells. She behaves well at school.

ANSWER:

 The panel was interested in your observation that the child “behaves well at school” but has anger issues at home.

When a child consistently behaves differently in two different environments it is important to try to understand why this is so.

Young children around her age are still learning which behaviours are acceptable and which are not.

They do this, in part, by modelling or copying the behaviours of those around them. If those in their environment, such as siblings, peers or adults, display anger aggressively, then children tend to react the same way.

It is important to teach young children that anger is a normal reaction to feelings of frustration but that aggression and displays of violence are not.

It is also important to communicate that the focus of any consequences for misbehaving is the behaviour itself, not the child herself.

There are several techniques that can be used to modify children’s behaviour, such as “time-out” and “positive reinforcement”.

Physical punishment should never be used to “teach her a lesson”, as it will only teach her that aggression as a result of feeling angry is appropriate if you are bigger and stronger than the other person.

Helping her to learn how to solve her problems and work cooperatively with others at home, as it appears she can do already at school, is a far better solution.

Behaviour change can take time, so it is important to be consistent and persistent in any approaches to help her to learn to manage her anger.

A useful tool in starting a change process is to watch the animated movie Inside Out with her.

This is available on the internet and details a young girl’s struggle with a range of emotions, including anger.

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