The angry child: Knowing when to seek professional help

Every parent experiences misbehaviour and angry outbursts in children at some point in their parenting journey.

While occasional angry outbursts do not mean your child has a problem, there may be course for concern when his anger is frequent and is accompanied by aggressive behaviour and violent outbursts. Uncontrollable and unexpressed anger can have far-reaching consequences in the childhood years and beyond.

Experts agree that how you parent has a great impact on your child’s behaviour.

They suggest that behaviour driven by strong emotions (tantrums, angry outbursts, backtalk, disrespect, etc) can be largely reduced if parents:

  • Set clear expectations
  • Are firm but also receptive to their children’s viewpoints
  • Are 100% consistent with how they discipline their child Use natural consequences, i.e., as far as possible, match behaviour to the consequences
  • Use the right strategies the right way
  • Take their rightful place as parents
  • Encourage emotional regulation
  • Learn to manage their emotions

Despite your best intentions, however, many attempts to control a child’s behaviour fail.

Children’s anger is not always “just a passing phase” and may signal serious underlying behavioural problems. It is important to seek professional help if your child’s anger is out of control.

Knowing when you need professional help

• When your child puts herself and others in danger (or threatens to inflict harm on herself or others).

• When you child’s siblings are frightened of him.

• When your child hurts animals “for fun”

• When your child’s explosions of anger are frequent.

• When you “tip-toe” around your child and do your utmost to avoid upsetting him because you fear the consequences. When family decisions revolve around “how your child will react”, you might need some help.

• When your child breaks and damages things.

• When your child’s behaviour consistently gets worse despite your consistent attempts to control her behaviour. It is worth mentioning, however, that when you begin to implement a new strategy (for example ignoring behaviour such as whining), the behaviour is likely to escalate at first, before gradually disappearing. If, however, you observe no changes over the long term, professional help might be necessary.

• When you’re at the end of your rope and feel more anxious and depressed. When you no longer know what you can do, it might be time to seek help.

Getting professional help: Things to keep in mind

Asking for help can be difficult for many parents especially because the inability to manage our child’s behaviour is often associated with a personal parenting failure.

There is no shame in seeking help. Asking for help means you care enough to want to help your child overcome his/her anger.

When seeking help, there are a few issues to keep in mind though:

  • Talk to your child’s teachers and find out about his/her behaviour in school. If your child is behaving appropriately at school, find out what strategies his/her teacher uses and how you can adopt these at home.
  • Not all counsellors will be a good fit for you so find the right counsellor. Talk to your family physician. Take your time and ask around. No amount of counselling will help your situation if the counsellor is a poor fit.
  • Despite your attempts to get counselling, your child, especially if he/she is older, might be unwilling to participate in the counselling sessions.
  • Be prepared. Working on yourself and changing your parenting style can improve your relationship with your child and improve his/her behaviour. Improving the parent-child relationship often requires that you both work on yourselves. Check out my “mindful discipline” free e-course here.

If you’re reluctant to see a professional right away, there are also great resources that may help. You can also join my free Anger and Anxiety management e-course to help teach your child to identify and manage strong emotions.

Resources for the angry child


Resources for parents of an angry child




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