Anger is an emotion that everyone has, and it is necessary to express that emotion when we feel it. Just look at a toddler for instance who gets angry at another child for taking her toy away, or when she can’t have something she wants. Maybe she is having a difficult time communicating due to lack of adequate verbal skills, and because of that, shows anger or frustration toward you. These are all completely normal behaviors that should eventually iron themselves out as she learns how to control the way she shows anger in certain situations.
However, there are times when children lash out for no apparent reason, and the anger becomes completely unmanageable. When this happens, it may be an indicator that something else is going on, and it might be time to seek professional help for your child. Here are some things to watch for and consider before doing that.
- Have your child’s tantrums continued past the developmentally appropriate age for most children (age 7 or 8)?
- Has your child expressed frustration because he can’t control his anger? Does it make him feel bad?
- Is your child a danger to himself or others?
- Are you receiving reports from teachers or other parents that your child’s behavior is out of control?
- Are playdates or interactions with other kids a challenge?
- Are the outbursts causing serious contention at home, making family life difficult?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may want to seek help from a licensed child therapist who is trained in these areas. Because, when children have regular uncontrolled outbursts, it could be an indication that he or she has one or more of the following:
When a child lashes out before certain situations, perhaps before going to school, church, or prior to visiting a certain family member, it could be an indicator that he is anxious or fearful in anticipation of going. It’s possible that something happens at school that causes him to be fearful, like bullying. Maybe the same happens at church. Perhaps there is abuse happening by a family member that causes a great deal of stress.
In situations like these, your child’s “fight or flight” response takes over, and if he can’t run away, you will likely have a fight on your hands.
Undiagnosed learning problems
When a child acts out before school, it isn’t always an indicator that he is being treated badly. It could be that school is hard. Perhaps he is struggling with reading or math, and has a great deal of anxiety or fear about being called on in class.
Make sure to keep an open dialogue with your child’s teacher(s) so that you are keying in to those issues. This way your child can receive the help he needs in those areas of concern.
When a child experiences a trauma, whether physical or emotional, it can cause her to act out. Maybe there was a death in the family, or a divorce. Maybe there is bullying at school or even at home. Your child could have been abused physically or sexually. All are examples of trauma that could cause your child to act out.
In all cases, you should seek professional help to help your child cope.
ADHD or other disruptive behavior disorders
It is not uncommon for children with ADHD and/or other disruptive behavior disorders like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) to struggle with anger. In fact, according to The National Resource on ADHD found that many children with these disorders also have learning issues which can add to the uncontrolled impulses and aggression.
It is important that all children with symptoms of ADHD be assessed for it and other like disorders so that behaviors can be treated. Many of these treatments include interventions, child therapy and parent training. It is also important to seek support in the school to help you and your child through this challenge.
There could also be a chance that your child is on the autism spectrum. Due to the nature of autism, there tend to be challenges with his heightened sensitivity to sounds or other sensory issues. And this sensitivity could cause him to be overwhelmed and in turn act out. Changes in environment can also do this. Coupled with an all-too-often communication barrier making it difficult to express his needs, he could very easily have a meltdown.
With the right professional support team including doctors, therapists, school counselors teachers, and you, the parent(s), you can begin to weather this storm, and you and your child will not only survive, but thrive.