Anger and aggression
If you need support to respond to your child’s anger or aggression, here’s some advice on what you can do and where you can find help.
How can I respond when my child gets angry?
Try to separate your child’s feelings from their behaviour, remembering that all feelings are okay, even though some behaviour is not. Make it clear that everyone feels angry sometimes but it is not ok to hurt others or break things.
Try not to get angry yourself. Focus on keeping a calm manner, simple sentences/words, minimal language and open body language – for example, not folding your arms.
Avoid asking them lots of questions when they’re feeling very angry or distressed. Acknowledge that they’re feeling angry and let them know that you’d like to talk with them about what’s going on when they feel ready.
Offer them some time and space to calm down. Leaving them alone (if they are safe) or turning your back (if possible) removes their audience and allows them to calm. Sometimes it helps to offer suggestions of what they could do - listen to music, get under their bed covers. Try thinking through things that help them stay calm, when they are calm. Then you have prepared them for when they are needed. Have those items or photos of the activity or space to hand so you can reach for them as needed. Try to suggest a child uses their strategy before they reach the point of crisis; when you can see they are 'bubbling.'
Once calm, give consequences. The consequence is for the behaviour not for getting angry. If they become angry but use the strategies you have discussed, this is a really positive thing and they should have lots of praise and reward for this. Make sure you are consistent with consequences. When children are angry they can also feel frightened about how out of control things seem. While they might not like it, they do need stability and consistency from you.
Once things have calmed down, try to open up a conversation about what’s going on. A child’s anger can boil over for all sorts of reasons – and sometimes there might be other feelings such as stress, sadness, hurt or worry underneath it. A person who’s feeling angry a lot of time probably isn’t feeling very happy – and while it might not be obvious, what they often need is support.
Help them to recognise the patterns around when and how they get angry. Think together about what triggers their anger, and whether there are things that would help them to realise this is happening before situations become overwhelming.
Give yourself and your child some time for things to get better. Things don’t always change straightaway, and sometimes children just need their parents to notice and acknowledge that things are hard for them.
How can I respond to aggression and violence?
When a child is really angry and is struggling to manage this feeling, they can be verbally or physically aggressive, or violent. Sometimes you might not feel safe, and if this is the case it’s important that you reach out for help.
In these situations:
- If it is safe for you and your child, remove yourself and any other family members from the room.
- Risk assess your home when your child is not home. Remove heavy or potentially dangerous objects from the room.
- If not safe to remove yourself, and you feel that you or anyone else is at immediate risk of harm, warn your child that if the aggression does not stop you will need to contact the police. Follow through and call the police if the aggression continues and you do not feel safe. Calling the police in a situation that involves your child is an incredibly difficult thing for any parent to have to do. But if your safety, or the safety of other family members, is in question, this may be the only course of action.
A child who is behaving in this way may need professional support to help them understand, and find ways of coping with, their anger. It's a good idea to speak to a professional if your child's anger is at this stage.
You can speak to a member of SLT, our Family support Worker or your child's class teacher. We might discuss a referral to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for professional support. Speaking to your GP is another source of support.
Violence and aggression from a child is a very difficult thing for a parent to deal with. Things will get better - ask for help.