Anger is generally perceived to be a negative emotion. It is actually an emotion which has to be channeled consciously for positive causes. Mild anger helps fight the evils of society. But if this emotion is not controlled and kept within limits it becomes harmful for the person and people around him. People loose control of their words and behavior when angry and are prone to abusing, physically hurting self or the cause of anger, which may further create dangerous enemies.
Anger in infants : Infants do not have words to express their feelings. When their needs are constantly ignored or somehow you are not able to understand his problem and he is not able to convey, the frustration finds expression in the form of temper tantrums.
Some kids are quite amicable and mild tempered, but some are demanding. It is difficult to calm down a demanding baby when she starts crying. If you take away something from her which may be harmful, she will be after it, shouting, crying, throwing her hands and legs. When you try to feed her she may spit or shake her head aggressively, or may even push away the dish. Such aggression can be easily differentiated from refusal to eat due to some medical ailment.
Anger in toddlers: As the child grows from infant to toddler, who has learnt to walk and also learning to say words and sentences, he begins to realize his importance and identity. At this stage kids know exactly what they want. Temper tantrums occur mostly when they do not get food of their choice, or they want some particular toy. Some kids do not like it when their parents are talking to someone else or are busy with their work. Short tempered kids cannot wait to get their demands fulfilled. Neither do they want to listen to any explanation or reason. She will get angry even if you softly say- ‘don’t go near the dog, it can bite!’ The ‘no’ is more important for her, not the reason. The denial, to do what she wanted to, will upset her. She may pick up anything and start throwing and breaking things.
Anger in preteen kids : Preteen kids know well their place in the family, in school and among friends. The sense of competition has developed and they compare themselves with others. They are clear about what they want. They are often obstinate about what they want and what they do not want and may resort to acts like shouting, not eating, not studying, not obeying etc.
Anger in teenagers: Ways of expressing anger is similar to preteens. Other than that teenager resort to ‘revolt/rebel’ type of behavior. For example- not talking to parents, dressing in a way which parents disapprove, spends more time outside/with friends etc.
Causes of anger: Everything has a cause; anger being no exception to this rule. Expression of anger varies depending on how much adjusting the child is. Sometimes being short tempered runs in the genes too. Some common causes of anger are-
- Frustration- The child may be frustrated due to some failure. In infants and toddlers it may occur when some of their needs are not fulfilled and they are unable to express/convey it clearly. In such situation they resort to temper tantrums. Older children may be dissatisfied with something or have some unfulfilled wishes.
- Lack of communication with parents- When children cannot communicate with parents, there are lots of things, feelings and emotions, which they should share with their parents, remain unexpressed. Reserved children do not even share with friends, and so all stored up feelings comes out sometime in the form of anger.
- Failure in competition- It’s a competitive world even for kids. When a child tries his best but does not get selected, he gets angry. It is difficult for a child to accept that his friend is better than him.
- Some hurtful incident- Taunts in school which the child doesn’t want to tell her/his parents, but it does hurt her/him badly finds expression in the form of anger.
- Too much attention- Sometimes kids are pampered too much, by fulfilling all their demands. When parents relent easily and the child realizes she can have her way by shouting and crying, it becomes a easy way for her to get her wishes fulfilled. This becomes a habit.
- Way of seeking attention- This is more common among kids upto five. But it can be found in older kids too who do not get sufficient time and attention from parents. Sometimes kids try to dominate over friends by showing anger, which is an expression of strength for him.
- Aggressive parents- When parents frequently fight with each other angrily, shouting at each other, at the kids and other people around, the kids learn the same. Such behavior becomes normal for them.
- Unhappy family- When parents do not respect each other and fight frequently, it makes the child unhappy and frustrated.
- Too many restrictions- Just as too much love spoils the child, so does too many restrictions. If the children do not get sufficient freedom, anger begins to accumulate within them and they rebel against your rules.
- Stress- Sometimes when the kids are stressed due to situations like school exams or competitions, they may get irritated easily.
Management of anger: Parents should sit back and try to find out the possible causes of anger. Analyze the situation, try to remove the causes and help the child control his/her anger. Along with removing the cause, the child should also be made to realize that anger can be harmful and hence it should be checked.
Some ways to control angers and temper tantrums:
- Begin early- Children should be made to realize that certain traits and behavior like anger are not acceptable, right from infancy. When you have to say ‘no’, say it firmly even to an infant. Do not accept all their demands. The child should know that parents know best!
- Be patient- When a child is angry, do not react in a similar fashion. Instead be patient and talk to the child gently. Your calmness will have a calming effect on the angry child and she will be more willing to talk things out. Dealing anger with anger will only aggravate and worsen the situation.
- Hug the child lovingly – Love opens doors to communication. Hug the child lovingly and ask him the reason. Often when you hug and angry child, he will break down and start talking. Love does wonders. When a child sees that you are not angry with him even when he surrenders and obeys and tries to understand your reasons.
- Explain the child the harmful effects of anger- When the anger has subsided and you have mutually resolved the problem, explain the harms of anger on the child’s life. For example tell him how he may lose his friends due to his short temper; he may hurt someone in rage; if he doesn’t practice controlling his anger now it may become unmanageable later; it will badly affect his studies and other activities by affecting his level of concentration;health problems like high BP, asthama attacks,heart problems in future and so on.
- Distract the child- Infants and toddlers should be distracted when they start showing signs of a temper tantrum.
- Do not pay too much attention to the temper tantrums- If it is a frequent happening, do not pay too much attention or heed to his demands. Let the mood subside on its own. Then explain your reasons to the child gently but firmly. When the child realizes that her crying and shouting has no effect, she will gradually give up.
- Engage the child in creative activities- Artistic activities like music, dance, drawing, painting, sculpture, theatre etc. has calming effect on the brain. These activities need concentration, and because the final product of artistic activities is something beautiful, we love doing such things. The child feels mental satisfaction. When the mind is engaged in some creative activities, anger gradually wanes and the child gains more control over her emotions.
- Outdoor games- Games and sports which require rigourous physical activity is also a healthy way to vent out the excess energy which is wasted in anger. Along with physical involvement, sports also provide fun, competition and achievement. All these together help in a positive mental health.
- Deep breathing- Yogic exercises involving deep breathing has a positive impact on the brain and thereby helping us to control our emotions in a better way.
- Never fight in front of the kids.
- Happy, loving, understanding family- This is the most important of all things. Spend time with kids. Spending time with kids does not mean just staying at home. Spending time means talking to them like friends, playing and reading with them, enjoying life with them, for them. This way the child becomes free with parents and shares his/her feelings, activities everything. They know their parents will help them out lovingly in any situation.