Anger in Children

One of the comments left under the chores posts was about anger in children.  The reader asked:

"Would you please at some point, discuss anger in children? What do I do when my 5 year old responds in anger, blaming someone else, or pouts when he does not get his way? He does not ever hit anyone or throw things but it is his ATTITUDE that I need to take on. How do you get under the behavior and deal with the attitude, the pouty face, the angry look, the blaming? I usually make him go stand in the corner for the there something else I should be doing? He obeys me, it is more the attitude when playing or not being allowed to do something or being told we are changing activities and he has to come in the house, etc. Thank you!"


I felt this was an urgent one to answer because I know how incidents like these can unravel a mom's day.  I DON'T have all the answers regarding anger in little ones, but I can give you some thoughts and ideas.

First of all, I think you are on the right track when you ask, "How do you get under the behavior and deal with the attitude, the pouty face, the angry look, the blaming?"  So many parents deal only with the outward manifestations of anger, resorting to behavior modification techniques rather than getting to the heart of the issue.  To borrow a phrase from OreoSouza, they simply keep the lid on the pot.

A five year old is really not yet at an age where he can discuss the matter with you logically.  He may not even be able to define his anger.  How many conversations have you had that go like this:

Mom- "Honey, why are you so angry?"

Child- "I dunno."

So because he is just learning to define his sin, you need to do so for him.  Tell him that his anger is sin and that you are going to help him get ahold of this area of his life.  Then consistently administer discipline whenever the pouting, angry faces, and blaming manifests itself.

Don't give him the law without giving him heaps of grace. Can you think of yourself as walking alongside this child?  Tell him often that you are on his team, that you are walking alongside him just like Jesus walked alongside His disciples. Remind him that he in no way can control his anger by himself, but that Jesus our Redeemer alone can help him. Pray together, often.


Never allow his sinful behavior and attitudes to result in a positive reward.  In other words, he cannot "win" these little battles or his conscience will be seared and he risks a lifelong struggle with anger when things do not go his way. He also risks Pharisaical behavior that relies on his own techniques rather than the grace of God.

Just out of curiosity, I asked my 13 and 8-year-olds how a mother should handle a situation like this.  They both said, "Spank him."  Wow.  Funny how kids can identify and root out sin as they grow!  They both then expounded on their idea of discipline for a pouting, angry child, saying that he must learn to cheerfully obey his mother or he'll never be happy.  Then the 13-year-old said, "And tell her that one bad apple can spoil the whole bushel." Yes, but particularly when the whole bushel tries to be good, rather than relies on Jesus as the only one who is good.

There are some hands-on things you can do with your son to help him see his sin through Biblical eyes.  Look up verses about anger and memorize them together.  Give him tools to help him replace the sin with something positive, such as serving another family member.  I actually keep a list of extra jobs on my clipboard so that I can refer to it when I need to administer a little discipline.  "You need to bless the family", I'll say to the offending child. 

How about telling him in advance that if you see the pouting or anger begin, he will automatically lose the privilege of (insert a privilege here).  Further, if he cannot get a grip on it and cheerfully obey, then tell him he'll scrub four shower tiles with a toothbrush (or some other tedious chore that blesses and serves your family).  Make it distasteful to fall back upon that sin.  Make it super rewarding to conquer it... bake him a cake that says, "You did it!"


You know what else, though? We love to obey the one who shepherds, loves, and lavishes grace and forgiveness. Remind him that Jesus shepherds, loves, and lavishes us with His grace and forgiveness!