Anger is one of the most difficult emotions for your child to cope with. Understanding where it comes from, what to do with it, how to express it in a safe and appropriate way, and then how to problem solve to resolve the anger, is a monumental task for any tween—and their parent.
Understanding the levels of anger can keep your child going from zero to sixty in a blink of an eye. It can help the two of you get back on track faster.
When you look at the different levels of anger you can start to determine where your kid is at, and what her anger “needs” are.
Some identifiable levels of anger are:
I’m sure you can identify a few more levels of anger you’ve seen in your kid (or even yourself!).
Let’s talk about fussy anger. You may have heard that term when your child was a baby, and thought that it was only applicable to infants. Not true! Fussiness can apply to the tween, teen, and adult years.
Fussiness is a low-lying anger. It’s sounds like whining, looks like your kid dragging her feet, and yep, the pouty mouth is definitely there! Fussiness can actually be your child’s way of saying “my body needs something.” But your child may have a hard time knowing that about herself, so she doesn’t communicate it very well.
Is your child hungry and in need of a mid-afternoon snack? Does she need sleep because she was up all night on Facebook? Too hot because she’s been running around in the backyard and hasn’t had a rest in an hour? Uncomfortable because she’s got a tag on her shirt that’s scratching her? (9 times out of 10 that’s why I’m fussy!)
Being able to anticipate what your child’s needs are and communicating them to her so she can learn to understand what’s going on is beneficial. Ultimately she’ll gain insight into what bothers her so next time she can communicate that and take care of her own needs without having to get fussy.
Full blown anger outbursts, where your kid is throwing objects, kicking things, screaming and yelling, and maybe even hitting you or a sibling, is a whole other level of anger.
Explosive anger is a very different reaction with a very different reason behind it.
And in the moment it’s difficult for you is to figure out what your kid needs, while at the same time trying to get control of the situation so she can start to calm down.
Explosive anger usually escalates because somewhere along the way your child feels that you didn’t initially understand her first attempts to communicate. Now she has to escalate in order to feel heard. But the core of the “why” behind the anger still needs to be explored.
Think of it this way:
Anger is like an iceberg. An iceberg has a tip that pops out of the water, but is very small compared to the whole chunk of ice underneath.
Your child’s anger explosion is the tip, and the chunk of ice is the reason for it. If you can work with your child to heal the anger, the explosion won’t need to happen!
The key to healing this anger iceberg is you and your child working together so your kid gets the insight she needs and you learn strategies to help her manage her outburst.
If you’re having a challenge understanding why that anger iceberg exists or the behaviors are getting to the point where she is…
- hurting herself or others
- the anger is impairing her ability to have healthy family or peer relationships
- or she’s having academic struggles at school
…I encourage you to seek out help from a mental health professional. That anger is uncomfortable and sometimes unsafe and both of you deserve all the support you can get.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.