Anxiety looks different in angry children, so it is often missed. In this blog, you will learn how to help an angry child, and about challenging and concerning behaviors you may not have realized are signs of anxiety in an angry child and tips to help you start working with your child collaboratively and proactively.
Does 👇 this 👇 story sound familiar?
Noah refused to get into the car before school each morning. He’d yell at his mom and poke at his sister- literally and figuratively. The standoff frequently ended with Noah’s mom threatening to take away his electronics or bribing him with a ride through the Starbucks drive-through for a cake pop and a shoeless Noah ranting and raving all the way to school.
Noah was an explosive child, and meltdowns were the norm at home. Since Noah loved school, his parents thought he was just trying to control and manipulate another situation by making such a commotion on school day mornings. Noah’s parents were convinced that he derived pleasure from these antics.
Noah’s parents didn’t realize he was experiencing anxiety. They knew other kids who were considered anxious. “Anxious kids” were worrisome, clingy, and quick to cry. Nothing like Noah!
Noah was independent to a fault, and his tears were reserved for extreme frustration, not sadness, and he certainly did not seem afraid of much. They just thought Noah was an angry child- their angry child, and they were doing the best they could to deal with him.
If your child is anything like Noah, you will need different tools to help your angry child manage their anxiety and resulting behaviors.
Noah is considered a prized fighter in the world of anxiety. Anxiety triggers the fight-or-flight response, and when Noah feels anxious, he goes into fight mode!
Here are three types of behavior you may not have realized are signs of anxiety in an angry child:
1. Disruptive Behaviors such as yelling, screaming, getting into others’ personal space, refusal to listen, and lack of cooperating
2. Destructive Behaviors such as knocking over furniture, tearing things up, throwing and breaking things
3. Aggressive Behaviors such as verbal threats, intimidating gestures, physical aggression toward others, and self
These behaviors are not what most parents commonly associate with anxiety but become telltale signs when you understand that angry children can go into fight mode when anxious.
So here are three tips to help you start working with your angry child collaboratively and proactively:
1. Shift your lens! Although it is much easier said than done, if you do not look at your child’s behavior differently, you will not do something different about it.
My Mindful-Ish™ Parenting program (launching super soon, get on the waitlist to be the first to know!) is a magical mindset makeover for parents that empowers you to quickly reframe challenging or concerning behavior and see it for what it is- a signal communicating, “I need help meeting this expectation a better way.” It empowers parents to feel calm, capable, and confident so they can problem-solve and create new possibilities with their children.
2. Look beneath the behavior. Now that you know that challenging behavior is communication start to notice when it happens, where it happens, and who it happens with. If you say, “All the time, everywhere, and especially with me,” then you are too triggered to make an observation.
Take a deep, cleansing breath and recall your lens shift. Now, look beneath your angry child’s behaviors. Notice what expectations are difficult to meet reliably- those are unsolved problems.
3. Believe that all kids do well if they can. Unsolved problems or unmet expectations are fueled by lagging skills. Anxiety that impedes thinking rationally is a lagging skill- not a choice- not a behavior. Therefore, we must reframe the notion that kids do well if they want to do well to kids do well if they can. Likewise, parents do well if they can. It boils down to skills, not motivation.
The tips above are inspired by the Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) Model developed by Dr. Ross Greene. Coach Franny is a Certified Provider of the CPS Model.
Click here to learn more about Parent & Family Coaching with Coach Franny.
I empower parents and teachers to feel calm, capable, and confident so that they can problem-solve and create new possibilities with their children.
Check out my FREE parenting resources.
Which chakras do you need to balance to be a more mindful parent?