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Basic Mechanisms For Dealing with Anger in Children I

Excessive anger, selfishness and fears in children can be major causes of tension and conflict in families and marriages. This write up is meant to help parents to come to a deeper understanding of how they can protect the emotional lives of their children and guide them. A number of virtues will be presented which can help children and teenagers grow in their ability to deal with their anger, insecurities, fears and sadness in an appropriate manner.

There are basic mechanisms that are used to deal with anger in children.

Denial

During early childhood, the most common method of dealing with anger is denial. The dangers attached to denial include emotional harm to the child, increased feelings of sadness, guilt and shame or the misdirection of the resentment towards others.

Expression

The next method commonly used for dealing with anger is either to express it openly and honestly or to release it in a passive-aggressive manner. It is of benefit to review with children the numerous ways in which anger can be vented passively.

It may be helpful to view actively expressed anger as encompassing three types:

  1. Appropriate
  2. Excessive and
  3. Misdirected

Children benefit from learning the value of healthy assertiveness as well as the danger of responding consistently to situations in an excessively angry manner. It is important for them to realize that when they do not resolve their anger from a particular hurt, they may later misdirect the resentment towards others. Such anger can damage friendships, interfere with learning, harm family relationships and limit participation in team sports. In clinical practice, it’s been found out that the most common recipients of misdirected anger are younger siblings, peers, mothers and teachers.

Concepts of displacement and the consequences of displacing anger can be difficult for children to understand and accept, so, concrete examples need to be used. At times, it can be helpful if parents relate stories of misdirected anger from their youthful experience.

Some therapists believe they have been successful in treating anger in children and adolescents when their young patients express anger they had previously denied. Actually, what has been accomplished is only one step towards actual resolution because, in itself, expression is incapable of freeing children from the burden of resentment which they carry. The experience of anger can lead to a desire for revenge which does not diminish until the existence of the resentful feelings is uncovered and subsequently resolved. Without this uncovering and resolution, anger can be displaced for many years onto others and erupt decades later in loving relationships. Anger may not be fully resolved until a conscious decision is made to work on forgiving the offender.

Victims of misdirected anger:

  • Mothers
  • Siblings
  • Teachers
  • Peers
  • Self
  • Society
  • The Church and God
Forgiveness
It was discovered that children need to learn the following issues and that is why we need to clarify what forgiveness is not. Specifically, forgiveness is not tolerating and enabling angry, abusive people to express their anger. It is not being doormat or acting in a weak manner and it does limit healthy assertiveness.
It does not mean trusting or reconciling with those who are abusive, insensitive or show no motivation to change their unacceptable behavior. Finally, forgiveness is not necessarily going to others and informing them that one is forgiving them.

As already stated, clinicians often  discover that the relationship in which children experience the greatest degree of disappointment and subsequently the greatest degree of anger, is in the parental relationship, especially the one with the father. This is particularly true at the present time when almost forty percent of children and teenagers do not have their biological fathers at home. Numerous studies have documented difficulties with resentment and aggressive behavior in the children of divorce (Block, Block & Gjerde, 1988Guidubaldi, 1988; Hetherington, 1989; Johnson, Kline & Tschann, 1989; Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989). One study of parental love-deprivation and forgiveness, revealed that most respondents implicated the father, not the mother, as being emotionally distant (Al-Mabuk, Enright & Cardis, 1995).

 

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