Anger Management for Children

Childhood is the stage where a majority of our behavioural patterns are learnt and the foundation of our personality is formed. This stage is critical for the development of the basis for appropriate and healthy coping skills, emotion regulation strategies, and the ability to differentiate between feelings and behaviour. If at this point of time, a child learns inappropriate and unhealthy behaviours, then it can become difficult for him or her to unlearn it at a later stage. And so, when your child shows signs of not being able to tame his or her temper, it is time for you to incorporate some strategies for anger management for kids at home. 

While anger is a normal emotional reaction, and meltdowns can be common among children, they can often become more destructive. Kids may try to vent out their bottled up frustrations by hitting, screaming, or breaking things in the house.

If left unchecked, smaller issues with anger and defiant behaviour can quickly turn into bigger problems that may stay with your child even during their adulthood. 

Signs of Anger in Children 

Some of the behaviours that are associated with tantrums and meltdowns among toddlers are:

  •  Crying,
  •  Screaming,
  •  Shouting,
  •  Biting,
  •  Kicking,
  •  Stomping,
  •  pulling or shoving,
  •  Hitting &
  •  Throwing objects, etc. 

Toddlers, more often than not, respond to emotions like anger with tantrums. In most cases, children grow out of this phase as they develop communication skills and appropriate strategies. But there is a possibility that they don’t, and in that case, it means that they haven’t been able to attain the right developmentally appropriate skills yet. 

You have a reason to be concerned if: 

  • your child’s outbursts are getting more frequent; as frequent as multiple breakdowns in a day,
  • these outbursts last longer than usual despite of you trying to help them manage their behaviour,
  • and you feel worried about them accidentally injuring themselves in these situations.

If this is the case then you must consider talking to your child’s pediatrician and opt for anger management therapy for kids. 

Anger Management Activities for Kids

Trying to raise a child and helping them develop emotional intelligence is, no doubt, a difficult job. On top of that, handling frequent anger tantrums is even more challenging. There are going to be several ups and downs in this journey as your child learns self regulation. He or she is bound to lose control every now and then. But you must try to make it as easy and comfortable as possible for your child. 

Anger management for kids doesn’t have to only be about disciplining. As you read on further, you’ll get to know some creative ways in which you can help your child deal with anger. 

  • Cozy Dungeon for Keeping Calm: 

Make a safe place somewhere in the house or your child’s room itself where they can go whenever they recognize that they feel angry and need to calm themselves down. This place could be a kids’ tent with fairy lights and your child’s favorite stuffed toys in it. Or, it could be a corner where there are a bunch of pastel cushions, a giant teddy bear, and some crayons and sketchbooks, ready for your child to express themselves into. This soft and cozy place will help the kid to relax and at the same time avoid any injuries, both to themselves and all others in the household. 

  • Tickbox for Triggers:

As for adults and for children, finding one’s triggers which set one off is very important. It can be even more difficult for children as they haven’t developed the kind of emotional intelligence that adults tend to have. Creating a checklist of common triggers will help them figure out what exactly really makes them throw tantrums. Consider discussing it afterwards and helping them understand their emotions even more deeply. 

  • Draw And Tell:

Anger is a very physical emotion. It is physical in the sense that whenever it is felt, anyone, be it a child or an adult, feels strong sensations in the body. Helping your child conceptualize anger using drawings or make-believe stories can be the first step for them to begin identifying anger is an emotion, and aggression as an unhealthy response to that emotion. 

Your child may draw an image of them with a warm head and hands indicating that this is where they feel their anger. Or, they may tell you that they feel anger beating in their hearts as if it’s a canine, willing to lash out any second. You may be surprised with how elaborate descriptions children can come up with. This will not only help your child explore and accept what they feel and come to terms with it, but also help them vent it out in the healthiest way possible. 

  • Levels of Anger:

You can help your child create a chart in which they can tell you which triggers or situations makes them angry and rate them from 1 to 5, or 1 to 10 and so on. This may help you find the exact cause of their anger and prompt your child to think about it in-depth. 

  • 1-2-3-breathe: 

Breathing exercises help everyone to calm themselves down and be mindful of their emotions and their thoughts. These are the simplest relaxation techniques that can enable you to take control over your anger. For children, too, this is the best way to ensure that they remain calm and composed under all circumstances. A way to make breathing exercises interesting is to hold up your fingers and ask your child to imagine that they are birthday candles. Ask them to take a deep breath and blow them out by breathing out with their mouths. 

Role of Parents

As parents, it is important for us to understand how central we are in our children’s little universes as agents of socialization and as the first teachers for life skills. The home environment is supposed to be, in a sense, a simulation of the outside world, which effectively helps children learn coping strategies and how to conduct themselves as they grow up. It is a parent’s duty to set ground rules and restrictions, but at the same time, positive reinforcement strategies are also very important. 

Also, we must bear in mind that it is our behaviour that our children model after. We must keep ourselves calm and composed and give ourselves enough time for self care and nourishment to be fit in mind and body for handling our children and other aspects of our lives. Following are a few tips that may help in anger management for children: 

  • Stick to a daily routine for meal times, waking up and going to bed, studying, playing, etc. 
  • Make plans for when your child might throw tantrums using the activities given above. 
  • Let your child express themselves and their emotions with harmless and healthy behaviours like stomping or saying a sentence that may let you know they are angry.
  • Help your child navigate through their problems and find the right solutions.
  • Reward your child whenever they exhibit good behaviour.
  • Try not to put your child in surroundings or with toys that they are not comfortable with. 
  • Control your own emotions and avoid any outbursts as your child will model after your behaviour. 

Therapy and Options Beyond The Behavioural Plan

If your child is lashing out more than usual, it may be time for you to consider professional help. Behavioural therapies can help you and your child develop a positive relationship and at the same time reduce the negative effects of anger in your child. Options like PCIT (Parent-child interaction therapy) is known to be a very helpful option for children between ages 2 and 7. Other options are parent management training, in which the parents learn certain skills and techniques, and CPS (collaborative and proactive solutions) which helps children learn skills for emotion regulation and building resilience over anger. 

At times, such behavioural plans may not work with some children. This may indicate that your child might have an underlying mental health condition that needs to be treated otherwise. A few such conditions include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), anxiety, learning disabilities, sensory processing issues and autism. Such conditions have a different route of treatment plans which may involve further exploration and maybe seeing an expert in that particular field.

At the end of the day, learning how to handle your child’s aggression with behavioural approaches can prove to be difficult and challenging. This requires patience and willingness on the part of the parents, however, it proves to be worth the effort knowing that it will result in a better relationship, a warm environment at home, and a healthier, happier child.

Smartphone Addiction in Singapore

The birth of these slender marvels of technology, which we call smartphones have revolutionized how we communicate and interact with all sorts of media content. In these twenty odd years since the launch of the first smartphone, it has managed to replace more than 50 things – be it your Fuji digital camera, be it your Sony walkman, flashlight, compass, clock, newspaper, or even the theater and the list goes on. But like all good things, these indispensable gadgets too come at a serious cost. Smartphone addiction statistics in Singapore tell us a grim story about this ever-expanding, all-pervading phenomenon as well. The Statista Research Department has made forecasts, that by 2025 Singapore will have over 6 million smartphone users, climbing up from 4.7 in 2015.

Statistics for Smartphone Addiction In Singapore

PewResearch, Northpoint Washington, Tiger mobiles and a few other sources have compiled a few interesting statistics about smartphone addiction globally:  

  1. The average time spent on smartphones a day is 2 hours and 51 minutes. 
  2. The average smartphone owner will click, tap or swipe their phone 2,617 times a day.
  3. When leaving their phones at home, 50% of respondents feel uneasy.
  4. While 58% of smartphone users have admitted to trying to limit their device usage, only 41% succeeded in lessening their cell phone addiction.
  5. 87% of smartphone users check their device within an hour of going to sleep or waking up.
  6. 69% of smartphone users check their device within the first five minutes of waking up in the morning.
  7. More people have smartphones than toilets on a global scale.
  8. 20% of respondents in a smartphone usage survey would rather go without shoes for a week than be without their phone.
  9. Almost 40% of all consumers and 60% of 18-to 34-year-olds admit to using their phones too much.
  10. On average, people will spend 5 years and four months of their lifetimes on social media.
  11. On average, smartphone owners unlock their phones 150 times a day.
  12. Constant interruptions by alerts and notifications can contribute to ADD.

While being an extremely productive tool, the phenomena that smartphones have popularized the most among the masses, called social media has added a completely new dynamic to how we interact with people without actually being in the physical presence of each other. Naturally, with this added ease at being connected to the world can be overwhelming and brings along several negative effects with it. Smartphone addiction is unlike being addicted to drugs such as cannabis; sedatives; tobacco and alcohol. Smartphone addiction falls under the other category known as action behavior or behavior addiction such as gambling or gaming addiction. Although smartphone addiction is not defined or listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), several researches have compared it to gambling addiction, which has clearer diagnostic criteria and is defined in the DSM-5.

Symptoms for Smartphone Addiction

People with smartphone addiction in Singapore can be found preoccupied with their smartphones while being engaged in important tasks, feeling uneasy while not being around their phones, sometimes even manifestation of negative emotions can be observed when phone usage is restricted.

A lot of research has gone into this new domain of technological addiction, and in case of smartphone addiction it is usually classified it into five dimensions:

  • Inability to control cravings
  • Preoccupation
  • Feeling anxious and lost
  • Disregard harmful consequences, and
  • Productivity loss

However, smartphone addiction symptoms vary across different age groups due to difference in usage. 

Certain problems caused by smartphone addiction and their warning signs could be:

  • Having trouble finishing chores because you got caught up replying to texts, or playing video games on your smartphone for too long just because you had to cross that level, or unlock that bonus.
  • Feeling restless and dreadful when you go out somewhere without your phone, or if your battery runs out midway. Or constantly checking up on that notification bar to look for new messages, emails or updates.
  • Isolating oneself from family and friends can also be a problem that occurs with smartphone addiction. With smartphone addiction, people tend to feel that their online friends and virtual relationships are more important and valuable than the ones that they have in real life. This isolates them with the people that they’ve known for far longer and far more intimately in person. 
  • Not being able to do the daily tasks and fulfill the duties that you regularly are required to do. When your obsession and constant preoccupation with the smartphone takes over you so much that it interferes with your work life, social life and other duties, it can be called an addiction. 

Causes of Smartphone Addiction in Singapore

There is no known exact cause for this phenomenon, however, certain linkages have been found between widely researched behavioural addictions and cell phone obsession or overuse. The major factor here is the triggering of a chemical or a neurotransmitter in the brain, called dopamine, that reinforces this behaviour and turns it into a compulsive reaction. Social interaction can also release this feel-good chemical inside the brain and as phones are used for this very purpose by most people, they quickly develop the habit of constantly checking for notifications or connecting with someone on social media. 

This can be a problem of impulse-control and can be experienced with many other devices such as a laptop or a desktop computer. However, the small and portable size of the smartphones allows us to gratify our compulsions at any given time at our very own convenience. It is a fact that we’re barely ever away from our smartphones and most of us stay within a few feets of its radius. The loop of dopamine release after following through with the compulsive behaviour can also quickly lead to the build up of an addictive tolerance, making us rapidly expand our screen time and waste away the rest of the day. 

Problems Caused by Smartphone Addiction

Overusing the smartphone and increased screen time can be an indication or a symptom of other underlying mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness. It can also lead to such problems and in some cases even exacerbate them. Using the smartphone as a coping strategy to relieve negative feelings or to escape social awkwardness will only lead you to harming your connections with those who are present around you. A 2014 study has found a positive correlation between high social media usage and instances of depression and anxiety among the subjects. Smartphones, like stated earlier, also increase stress as work-related emails and other notifications make our smartphones beep all day, compelling us to check and be readily available 24/7. This may even contribute to burnout. 

Heavy smartphone usage is also known to worsen attention deficit disorders and diminish one’s ability to concentrate, creative and critical thinking skills and deteriorate our problem solving mechanisms as well. Excessive smartphone use is known to interfere with sleep cycles which severely impacts a person’s overall mental health. A higher likeliness to display (or develop) negative personality traits such as narcissism is also associated with high social media usage, as shown by a UK study.

How To Deal With Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction, like other behavioral addictions, are difficult to let go of. However, with some essential measures and taking some effective steps towards eliminating the symptoms and overcoming this problem, one can easily keep smartphone and internet usage under control. These steps are as follows: 

  • Record your phone usage with an app or a personal diary and set limits to restrict yourself. If you achieve the limit goal, then reward yourself with something nice at the end of the day. 
  • Switch the phone off or use a productivity app that would help you restrict your smartphone usage during certain times of the day: Whenever you are trying to be productive, spending time with those around you, driving, etc., switch your phone off as it is best to do so.
  • Do not scroll on social media or use the phone before going to sleep: This will most definitely disrupt your sleep cycle. Instead, pick up a book to read before going to bed. 
  • Find out what exactly makes you use the phone so much: It could be loneliness, or boredom, or a way to cope with bad moods. All these problems have healthier and more effective solutions, like spending more time with friends and family, meditating, or picking up a sport to practice regularly. 
  • Work upon your self development and coping strategies: Build upon your social skills that will help you be more confident interacting with people offline. Social interaction in person is an essential need that we all have, and online communication simply cannot replace that. Try coping with your erratic moods in healthier ways such as working out, practicing relaxation techniques, or seeing a counsellor, etc. instead of spending time on the internet. 
  • Find and develop meaningful connections with those that you know in person: This will help you strengthen your support network. Dedicate some time to the people you know in real life, especially your family. You can also opt for volunteering for something good or enroll yourself in a hobby class or join a book reading or a fitness club. This way, you’d develop friendships and relationships more organically. 

At the end of the day, if you feel that your smartphone addiction is taking over you and is disrupting your daily life, then you must see a mental health professional. Certain therapeutic approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy, among others, can help you understand your problem and yourself much more effectively and bring in changes into your behaviour and thinking patterns. A study even suggests that CBT can help alter and balance the underlying brain chemistry associated with cell phone addiction. Reaching out for help is always the right thing to do when you feel overwhelmed, anxious and in need of guidance and support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who is at greatest risk of developing a smartphone addiction?

Smartphone addiction, according to some studies, peaks during the years of adolescence and then gradually declines among people of older ages. And hence teenagers, mainly 13-15 year olds are at the greatest risk of developing a smartphone addiction.

Q. Can smartphone addiction cause withdrawal symptoms? If so, what are they?

Yes, it can very well cause a number of withdrawal symptoms that are experienced in gambling addiction as well. They are restlessness, anger or irritability, inability to concentrate, disrupted sleep cycle, constantly wanting to access the smartphone.

Anger Management Issues

Anger is an extreme or intense emotional response to a perceived threat, harm, or a provocation. It is accompanied by strong physical manifestations that can prove to be detrimental to the health of the person who tends to feel this emotion more regularly and frequently than how much a normal person should. While anger is a good thing and is important for one’s survival, it is important to learn how to manage it. It should be perceived as an emotion that is neither positive nor negative, but is instead simply a response to the threats in the environment. Anger truly becomes a severe problem when every single slightly provoking event begins to anger individuals to an extent that is unhealthy. Such events could be receiving slight criticism by others, or being stuck in a traffic jam, or internal frustrations due to having a bad day, etc. People with anger management problems do not know how to control their anger, or how to appropriately vent out their emotions. 

Once the perception of an individual is changed, they may begin to see their environment differently. The same situations that they viewed as threats earlier, they’ll begin to view them as non threatening events that were clearly not intended to hurt or harm them.

You may have an anger problem if: 

  1. Your angry outbursts are too frequent
  2. The emotions felt during such outbursts feel too intense
  3. Such outbursts last too long
  4. They lead to aggressive behaviour
  5. They disrupt your occupational and social functioning

Causes for Anger Issues

Just as we tend to become stressed out when our situational circumstances change drastically or life hits us with consecutive frustrating challenges, anger issues also seem to mainly arise from problems in a person’s environment. 

Overwhelming requirements of one’s resources such as time and energy, financial problems, any kind of abuse, poor social and familial situations, etc. all contribute to the development of anger issues. Some genetic or hereditary links are also found as anger management issues are more prevalent in individuals whose parents also had problems with anger. Moreover, brain chemistry can also be associated with anger management issues because it is found that if your brain cannot respond normally to serotonin then you might find it difficult to regulate your emotions. 

Signs and Symptoms of Anger Problems

Anger can cause a person to feel mentally, emotionally and physically frustrated and tense due to the increase in testosterone and cortisol levels. Following are some of the symptoms that may point to the presence of anger management issues. 

Some emotions go hand in hand with anger. Thus, emotional problems that occur with anger are:

  1. Frustration
  2. Irritability
  3. Anxiety
  4. Stress
  5. A sense of being overwhelmed
  6. Racing thoughts
  7. Guilt
  8. Rage
  9. Impulsivity 

Anger can have a very bad impact on your health. The flow of stress chemicals and metabolic changes that are associated with anger constantly flood our system. This can prove to be detrimental for one’s health. Following are some of the short term and long term health problems and physical health symptoms that are linked to anger management issues: 

  1. Headaches
  2. Digestion issues, pain in the abdomen
  3. Insomnia 
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Tingling sensation
  6. Muscle tension in all limbs or torso and head as well

Not knowing how to calm down from anger and how to control anger can lead to many other problems as well in the spheres of a person’s social life and career. Constructive criticism at the workplace, creative differences, debates with colleagues become triggers for a person who has anger issues. They alienate themselves from their managers, clients and supervisors. At the same time, their coworkers lose their respect for them. They may even face unemployment due to their behaviour. 

Also, not controlling anger properly and letting it seep into your relationships can also cause the ties between you and your loved ones to weaken considerably. Some forms of anger, like explosive anger, can make it difficult for other people to trust you, or be comfortable with you. People may even stop being honest with you altogether. Anger issues can be especially damaging to children.

Types of Anger Issues

The following are the types of anger management issues: 

  1. Chronic Anger

People with chronic anger issues get provoked very easily and feel angry over the smallest of the problems they may face in day-to-day life. They very frequently over-react to situations which often disrupts their social and occupational spheres of life. 

  1. Passive Anger

Passive anger is anger that is unexpressed and is channeled into other emotions that could be sarcasm, spite, or apathy for the person they’re feeling angry towards. The person having problems with passive anger may not even be aware that the emotion they’re actually feeling is anger. 

  1. Aggressive Anger

People with aggressive anger problems express it in very unhealthy and destructive ways. They may not get provoked very often, but when they do, it is a very unpleasant experience for them and those around them. This could completely destroy their relationships and career as aggressive anger is a serious problem. Ways in which aggressive anger is expressed is abusive language, passive aggressive behaviour, retaliatory actions, etc. At times they even express rage which is the unhealthiest and most extreme form of anger. 

  1. Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) 

This is the most severe anger management problem of all the ones that are discussed here. Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) involves experiences of distinct episodes of aggressive behaviour that are very violent responses relative to the amount of provocation. Such episodes occur very often and the anger expressed is like that of the kind of rage episodes people with aggressive anger issues may experience. Intermittent explosive disorder can lead to people critically damaging property, their relationships, their career and their well being. 

Tips to Manage Anger Issues

Learning how to manage anger and how to control anger involves learning of some tried and tested strategies. These methods are simple, effective, and some of them can help you on the spot, other methods are intended to help you in the long term. Following are some anger management strategies: 

  1. Relaxation Techniques

Anger can be conquered best by using relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, creative visualization, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, etc. Repeating a calming word or statement and positive affirmations can also help control anger. Yoga asanas are also a powerful tool to help you in controlling anger. 

  1. Cognitive Restructuring: Change The Way You Think

When you’re angry, think of the situation not in negative terms, but in realistic and rational terms. Try to stop telling yourself that the situation is “awful” or “terrible” or that you can’t do anything about it. Such perceptions occur because we’re angry and our thinking gets exaggerated and overly dramatic. Instead, resist thinking in this way and replace such thoughts with rational ones. Remember, logic defeats anger. 

  1. Exercise

Exercising can help you reduce your stress that may be causing you to become angry, and at the same time, it can help you vent your anger in constructive and healthy ways. When you feel that your temper is getting out of hand, go ahead and do some cardio. Go out for a run, or a swim, or do some skipping, or push ups and pull ups, go to the gym or anything that works for you. 

  1. Use Humor

Humor can light up the air in the most miraculous ways. It helps diffuse tension and makes you confront your triggers and unrealistic expectations for how things should go in a way that doesn’t make you flare up. It helps you let go. An important tip, though: you mustn’t try to laugh off your problems, but instead, face them using humor to become more grounded and rational in the way you think about your current situation. 

  1. Problem Solving

Anger and frustration can often be justified and caused by things that are out of our control and at the same time quite disturbing. At these moments in our lives, we need to think using an attitude that lets us handle and face the problem in the most effective way possible. Making an action plan, giving your progress frequent checks, and facing your problem head-on without punishing yourself and giving it your best will help you ease up and control your anger. 

  1. Improved Communication

When someone acts out of anger, they tend to jump to conclusions and such conclusions can often be based in irrational thoughts and perceptions of reality, and can be very inaccurate. When in a heated discussion, first, one must slow down and be mindful of what they speak, think and act. Body language is also a part of communication, so you must keep a close check on the non verbal cues that you’re giving away. At the same time, listen very carefully to what the other person is saying and closely analyse their expressions and gestures. Another useful tip is to always paraphrase once or twice so that you can make sure that you completely understand what the other person is trying to say.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the drugs that are prescribed to reduce the symptoms?

In some cases, drugs are prescribed to help ease the anger problems. The type of drug prescribed depends upon the diagnosis and intensity of symptoms experienced by the individual. Options generally include prozac, or other antidepressants, benzodiazepines, lithium or other drugs to help regulate moods.

Q. What are the side effects of medications that are prescribed for anger management issues?

The side effects of such drugs are:

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth and increased thirst
  • Fatigue and dizziness
  • Fever
  • Addiction
  • Tremors
  • Changes in thinking or cognitive patterns

Q. Is anger bad? Will I ever be able to learn how not to be angry?

Anger on its own isn’t a problem as it is a normal human emotion that you certainly can’t get rid of. However, we need to learn how to manage it and behave in an adaptive way without causing harm to our environment or the people around us. While you will eventually get angry less after the programme, the major (and most important change) will be seen in the way you react when you’re angry and how you deal with the emotion.

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