The number of children who display extremely poor anger management skills and a lack of impulse control is on the rise. Headlines about children murdering other children, committing school shootings, and killing their parents have led some people to wonder if some children just born bad. Or are these children merely victims of a poor-quality home environment? Are they a product of nature, nurture, or a combination of both?
There may be organic causes of brain dysfunction that precipitate children toward such aggressive, angry, and destructive behaviors. There is some evidence suggesting that excessive stress during pregnancy can cause a higher level of testosterone in hormonal bathing, producing a child who is chemically more prone to anger and hostility.
Another possible reason for these tendencies could be severe physical abuse leading to damage of the frontal lobes of the brain, the area that helps control impulses and reactions.
Children grow up angry when they experience family aggression or those whose needs are neglected by their parents. They have the belief that no one cares about them. Excessive stress in their early lives may cause changes in their brain chemistry. These abused and/or neglected children grow up viewing others as objects to be used. Their lack of early socialization skills and bonding make them into uncaring adults who feel justified in hurting others. They see the aggressor in the home as holding all the power, and they crave that power for themselves. This leads them to become aggressive and feel no remorse over forcing their will on others.
Some young people turn to violence because they do not see other ways to endure what they're feeling at that moment. They may not understand the consequences of violent behavior.
These tips may help if you think your child who is withdrawing or exploding too easily over everyday frustrations:
- Look at your own anger management skills. Are you modeling good skills for children to imitate?
- Teach basic problem solving skills and anger management. When upsetting things happen, the child who has practiced these skills will be more likely to think through the consequences and ultimately be better able to make nonviolent choices.
- Show confidence in his or her ability to develop good anger management skills, and model positive behaviors.
- Encourage the child to walk away from sources of stress and spend some time doing activities he or she enjoys. A change of scenery or activity can provide distraction from the source of the anger.
- Tell your child that everyone experiences anger, talk about the last time you felt really angry, and share the positive ways to handle anger.
If none of these approaches work, seek help. Talk to a doctor or pediatrician. You may decide that your child and family need help learning positive anger management skills from someone with professional mental health training.
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