Home > Blog

Accepting Defiant Child's Anger But Not Violence

It’s hard to believe that your child's angry tantrum could turn into violence. More than a few caring, firm, parents have found themselves in a position when their child displayed violent behavior. Seeing your child throw or hit something can be frightening, especially in an older child. However, if your child has something like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) you probably accept that there are anger issues but you cannot permit violence in your home.

Admitting that you are afraid of your child is difficult but you must keep everyone safe. So how can you keep your child's anger from turning into acts of violence? Why does it happen? What fuels the anger and frustration? How do you diffuse it? Finding the answers with the help of a professional will help your child gain better angry-control and keep things from turning violent.

The Shame

Oppositional Defiant Disorder is a condition in which symptoms often include defiance and anger or emotional issues. Many kids have times when they are contrary, moody, and stubborn with others, especially adults. However, kids who have been diagnosed with ODD, experience intense anger. Consuming anger can easily escalate into verbal or physical violence against you, their siblings, or other people. For some, just the diagnosis and related behaviors make them feel ashamed of themselves or their loved ones.

As a parent, when your child's behavior isn't appropriate, you look to experts and other parents for advice. If that advice doesn't work, you may start to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty. You may feel that others are judging you by how your child behaves. These negative feelings only add fuel to the fire, not only for you but for your child. Remind yourself and others that self-improvement is an everyday event throughout your life. This is no different.

The Thought Process

Many children with ODD have a skewed view of the adult/child relationship. They may even see themselves as an adult rather than a child. These kids may see and speak to you as if you were a peer, obey you when they feel like it, and tend to be manipulative to get what they want. You may notice that, as long as the kids get their way, everything goes smoothly. However, things can get ugly when you don't agree with your child or they are upset by your response.

Unless the skewed thought patterns are corrected, the behavior patterns could continue throughout childhood and into their adult lives. Angry, defiant children, with little control of their anger, can grow into abusive or even lethal adults, in certain circumstances.

Taking the Bang Out of Anger

While each child, family, and circumstance is different, when it comes to soothing /calming someone who is angry or diffusing a potentially violent situation, there are some common strategies that work well for many parents. To help take the explosive "bang" out of your child's blowup, you may want to incorporate some of these ideas into your strategies.

Different Strokes for Different Folks - Kids with ODD often need you to use different strategies than you might normally use. For example, you will need to focus more time on helping your child make sense of emotions and feelings. Learning how to recognize triggers and escalating anger, as well as how to self-calm, are a few things that may need extra attention or require different strategies.

Real, Relevant, and Consistent: Keep rules, boundaries, and expectations relevant and consistent. Defiant kids will push the limits to get a first-hand idea of exactly how much you will tolerate, what you will do, and most importantly, if you will be consistent. Let kids know the consequences of their actions.

When it comes to violence and safety, yours or theirs, there is no room for making exceptions or excuses. If they harm someone, it is assault. If they destroy something, it's destruction of property. If they hurt or harm an animal, it's animal cruelty. Call the police to handle the situation. Having to do this can be heartbreaking to you. However, learning where the unmovable boundaries are in real life makes later experiences easier for everyone.

Change the Channel: Channel angry energy into a constructive activity. When the kids (or you) are mad, adrenalin surges through the body. The madder you are, the more adrenalin there is. Work with your child to come up with a list of things that may help your child work out the angry feelings and energy without hurting you, themselves, animals, or tearing up property. Try each idea, making note of what worked best and what didn't work at all. Many parents and children find that cycling, running, jumping, and other whole body activities help to use up the adrenaline, often enabling everyone to think more rationally.

Combine Talk and Do: For many children and adults, officially sitting down to talk things out is overwhelming. It's easier for people to talk about uncomfortable topics or deep feelings while working on a project or activity together. For example, try discussing your child's anger or feelings while playing a 1-on-1 game of basketball, walking to the store, planting flowers, etc.

Keep Calm: Any time anger or negative emotions, like frustration or fear, are in the mix, it's extremely likely that someone will start yelling. Since you're a role model, it's important for you to keep your cool. Remind yourself that your child is yelling as a way to get rid of the adrenaline, but there are much better ways to accomplish that.

When your child starts to yell, keep your voice calm and even while speaking in a quiet, low tone. This helps your words reach primal and rational parts of the brain and tells your child that you are serious. Once you've made a decision, be firm, stick to it, and refuse to give in to emotional manipulation.

Accepting that your child may need extra help with anger issues, is good. However, violence and abuse, whether verbal, emotional, or physical, can never be tolerated or accepted, even from your child. Once violence sneaks into your home, it affects every family member, friend, and even your pets. Do everything you can to keep it out of your home and life, even if it means calling the police or other officials.