Mr Donus Loh

Mr Donus Loh (Director and Principal Psychologist, W3ave Singapore)

(Tips for parents on how to handle anger management issues in children)

We often associate Anger Management for children with a public tantrum at the market place or shopping centre. But imagine if you are put in that same situation. Your child is screaming out loud. People are beginning to gossip (“What kind of parent is this?”). What would you do in such a situation?

Ignoring what people might think of you would be a good start. This is about your child, not you. Your child is more important than trying to save face.

The expression of anger is not just limited to explosive tantrums. Children can express their anger through a variety of ways. For instance, they could display openly hostile behaviour or suddenly go silent. It is easy to dismiss this as part of growing up.

The causes of anger could be summed up as such: “This is unfair!” and “My pride is hurt!” These negative thoughts that trigger anger are prevalent in people of all ages. Parents should always continue to engage in open communication with their children and guide them to manage this well.

Anger Management is a key concern for many parents, and rightfully so. Anger, if not properly managed, could grow to become persistent behaviour as child grow up. Parents need to start thinking ahead. When their child enter their teens and adulthood, how would they then manage conflicts with friends and colleagues or even strangers?

Anger Management cases seem to be on the rise and is likely to grow among children.   There are more stressors today and they are likely to increase.  Children are becoming more aware that they are being judged and compared with others by their parents, peers and even themselves. Many parents continue to focus on academic achievements rather than on life skills, and might lack the patience and “know-how” to coach their children in the latter.

Here are two tips for parents to help their children rein in anger:

  • Tell your children that feeling angry is normal but show them methods to express their anger appropriately, like assertively informing others that they are upset and what is upsetting them.
  • Don’t judge your child negatively and make him feel that it’s wrong to be angry. We should not jump to conclusions as to why he is angry.  Allow him to calm down and talk to him later.

Teaching children how to manage their anger takes time, and it need not be confined to times when they are angry. Parents need to be patient and persevere as it is not easy for their child to learn and pick up this life skill.  Where possible, parents should share their personal experiences with anger and ask how their children would react.   They could also use TV programmes or news bulletins to develop their child’s ability to better understand his anger and learn to cope with it.

During stress periods such as the PSLE, GCE “O”, levels and end-of-year examinations, children are more likely to lose their temper.  This is a good time to teach children how to manage their anger and stress. Identify specific situations that might cause your child to get angry. Then, help them to better manage the situation.