Why Is My Child So Angry?

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Most kids have the occasional tantrum or meltdown which relates to anger. Anger is an extremely powerful emotion which often relates to a child feeling unfairly treated, insecure or misunderstood.

Anger often conceals other feelings which relates to more than just what has happened in the immediate situation. When my second child was born, my eldest daughter (who was just a toddler at the time) suddenly started throwing tantrums, which was actually related to her feelings of insecurity of a new little person gaining attention from Mom and Dad. This is however typical behavior, but when kids have these outbursts repeatedly, or they can’t control their tempers most of the time it may just be more than typical behavior.

Here are a few red flags that may indicate a problem:

  • He’s behavior is dangerous to himself or others
  • The tantrums or outbursts are occurring past the age of about 7-8 years (this is the age when they are developmentally expected to outgrow it)
  • If the behavior is interfering with his ability to get along with other children
  • If the behavior is causing him to get into serious trouble at school
  • Frequent tantrums
  • Very long tantrums
  • The inability to calm himself after the tantrum
  • Aggression towards caregivers/parents or even objects – if this happens in more than half of the last 10 to 20 tantrums, it may signal a disruptive disorder.

What should parents do if there are red flags?

When a child continues to have regular emotional outbursts, it is usually a symptom of distress. The first step is to understand the triggers of this behavior. There are many possible underlying causes and it’s best to speak to your child’s pediatrician to point you in the right direction. The pediatrician may recommend a pediatric neuropsychologist who will conduct a broad assessment – including an assessment of what is happening in the whole family as the behavior could be in response to family difficulties for example. You may also be referred to a child psychologist who will focus on the child’s emotional control as well as the family angle.

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