When looking after your child, you might notice the occasional tantrum.

This is normal, but more extreme outbursts could signify wider behavioral problems in a young person. By keeping track of and understanding childhood anger, you can start to understand the source of these problems and work towards a solution that ends in better behavior and a more peaceful environment.

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What is childhood anger?

Childhood anger refers to a situation in which a young person has angry outbursts consistently and to a dangerous extent. Some emotional outbursts are normal in young people, as they are just learning to respond to daily life’s difficulties. However, when this anger gets worse, there can be a serious risk to the safety of others and the child’s development. This anger comes with many causes, and there are a few alternative methods of resolving childhood anger that parents, teachers, and counselors use when working with young people.

When should emotional outbursts concern you?

There are a few situations in which emotional outbursts should concern you. Some of these more concerning aspects of outbursts include:

If the outbursts occur at an older age

As people develop, they learn how to react to more difficult situations. This includes responding to challenges more emotionally and securely and limiting the amount of anger someone shows. If extreme emotional outbursts occur in the latter stages of a child’s development, this is a sign that intervention is necessary.

If the behavior is dangerous

Many emotional outbursts are primarily verbal and do not physically affect the people around them. However, in some cases, an angry individual can get physically or emotionally abusive. This is a sign that the anger has gone too far and requires intervention from an adult such as a parent, carer, or member of a school’s well-being team.

If their behavior damages their social life

Social interactions are a fundamental part of a young person’s growth. Through conversations with their peers, young people learn how to build relationships and retain them for years to come. Excessive anger can lead to the breakdown of these relationships, harming a young person’s long-term development and cutting them off from their important social groups. There is a clear social cost of anger to a successful social life.

If any outbursts upset your child

While anger primarily affects the people around the person who is getting angry, there are some cases in which an emotional outburst seriously impacts the person who is getting angry. If a young person doesn’t understand the cause of their anger, wants the anger to stop, or starts to dislike themselves because of the anger, intervening in the situation becomes necessary.

Causes of childhood anger

Several causes of childhood anger occur as a result of both permanent disorders and temporary issues. Some of the causes of anger in developmental years include:


A lot of children have ADHD without even realizing it, and this can lead to emotional outbursts that a young person doesn’t understand the cause of and can’t necessarily stop without external help. People with ADHD find holding their attention to a single subject for a long period frustrating and struggle to comply with instructions, which can lead to severe emotions in some situations. ADHD is a permanent condition that people learn to manage rather than finding a more permanent response that resolves their issues for the rest of their lives.


Young people misbehaving is sometimes caused by severe trauma. Issues such as neglectful parents, a death in the close family, or a chaotic home life can lead to young people seeking to exert more control over their lives wherever they can. When this doesn’t go right for them, there is a greater chance of an emotional outburst as they feel a loss of control. Part of this anger also comes from misunderstanding what behavior is acceptable. As they experience a lot of anger and instability in their home lives, this translates to how they treat people around them. This is a common cause of anger at all levels.

Learning difficulties

People with learning difficulties often have increased frustration in educational settings such as schools or universities. An issue such as dyslexia, especially undiagnosed, can add extra stress and frustration to a learner’s day. If this is a constant issue rather than a struggle with individual pieces of work, the student can resort to anger as they see this as the only feasible response to their long-term learning issues.

Sensory issues

Some young people suffer from conditions that lead to greater sensitivity. When people have sensory issues, a standard level of light or a minor adjustment in the volume of their space can lead to issues like discomfort, anxiety, distraction, or being completely overwhelmed. In more extreme cases, these stimuli lead to meltdowns or outbursts that people with standard sensory perception don’t see as a problem.


Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a condition people have from birth that affects how they receive, process, and conveys information to the people around them. The condition also leads to a reliance on a routine, such as having a specific way of going to bed every night or liking their meals cooked a certain way. Any major deviations from these routines can lead to someone with ASD becoming overwhelmed, with this presenting itself as anger. This also occurs when someone has an issue but lacks the language skills to communicate it.

Ways to reduce anger in children

There are several ways of reducing anger in children, each requiring a unique way of resolving their anger issues. This is because all children are different in how they approach issues, with some reacting the way they do because of conditions they have had since birth and others doing so due to experiences in their lives. Some possible methods of reducing anger in children include:

Medicate existing conditions

One of the first steps to consider when resolving childhood anger is to medicate any existing psychological conditions. For example, people with ADHD take medication, including stimulants, as this increases the amount that people can focus on the task they are dealing with at that moment. By getting the opinions of expert psychologists, schools and parents increase the prospects of young people and reduce the chance of a violent outburst by getting an accurate diagnosis and using the right medication.

Talk to the person

An important part of reacting to any outbursts a child has is understanding the underlying cause of the outburst. This means talking to the person, asking them why they reacted the way they did, and discussing how they can react more appropriately in the future. In the case of someone that has suffered a trauma, this can help by demonstrating that anger is not the right reaction and sets a positive example for the future. By talking clearly, you convey the expectations of yourself, the family unit, or the school you work for.

Focus on consistency

When resolving issues with childhood anger, focus on retaining a high level of consistency in your approach. Many people suffer from childhood anger due to outside issues like ADHD, ASD, or other neurological issues. A consistent approach in these cases helps to build a routine in people who suffer from anger, preventing many of the frustrations that cause angry outbursts.

Coordinate school and home

Where possible, coordinate the school’s response to anger with how their family responds to outbursts at home. This isn’t always an option, for example, in cases where home life is the cause of angry outbursts, but it is a feasible response when dealing with people with issues such as autism or ADHD. By coordinating the response between school and home, you continue to integrate a routine into a young person’s life, increasing the chance of anger management techniques becoming habits.

Understand the triggers

Taking a preventative approach to angry outbursts is another option for schools and parents. To prevent outbursts before they occur, one of the most important things to know is the triggers that set these outbursts off. By understanding these triggers, you can remove them from the person’s environment or reduce their potential impact on a young person. This ultimately reduces the chances of childhood anger and leads to far better management of the situation on both sides.

Deescalate before you negotiate

Negotiating with someone when they are in an angry moment seems like the best route forward, but doing so immediately isn’t an ideal strategy. When someone is angry, they are far less likely to be rational and will take your advice less. This makes calm discussion less likely in the earlier stages of an outburst and means that you could be seen as acting against the person struggling to control themselves. By approaching someone after the outburst, they are more likely to talk rationally with you and discuss strategies for the next event.

Consequences of childhood anger

There are a few potential consequences of excessive childhood anger in later life, including:

Behavioral issues in the future

One of the main concerns of childhood anger is that it can cause behavioral issues in the future. By having a habit of anger, a young person defaults to this state of mind whenever anything doesn’t go their way when they’re older. This means that they behave poorly in various situations and can lead to violence in some extreme cases.

A worse social life

When someone with behavioral issues such as anger tries to create a social life, they have more issues than some peers. This is first because they don’t act appropriately in various social scenarios. For example, if someone with sensitivity issues finds themselves in an overwhelming situation, they could become angry and irritable without the people around them understanding why.

Poor school performances

Anger issues can lead to poor performance throughout education. This is due to disagreements with teachers causing punishments such as detention or even exclusion from classes. When this happens, a student spends even less time inside the classroom, which limits their teaching and worsens their results.