Working with "bad kids."
I work with a lot of angry people in my private practice, with a range of angry reactions. Mostly, the children that get referred to me, especially when I collaborate with schools, are kids that are termed as "angry," "bad," "trouble makers," etc. They get sent to the principal's office frequently. Their teachers are at the end of their rope. Their parents get at least one call a week.
Honestly, I love working with these seemingly angry kids and adolescents - because they're usually not just angry.
Stress, CBT, and angry outbursts.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, children and teens with anxiety can get in trouble or seem angry because of their high stress level and resulting outbursts. Other factors to consider are low mood or low energy. Children with depressive symptoms also frequently get misdiagnosed as "angry kids," because their attitude directly impacts how the view themselves and others.
Needing someone on your side.
Usually, though, teens and children with anger really just need to build healthy relationships. While structure and consequences are crucial in classroom and home settings, in my office a frequently let my clients know that they aren't in trouble with me - even for an earlier angry action. I work to build a good relationship, because having that unconditionally positive support goes a long way in helping angry children feel less angry.
Identify the real emotions behind the anger.
Children and adults both can have difficulty figuring out what is underneath their anger. Affective identification skills - recognizing your body's response to different emotions - is a huge component of counseling for anger.
It's also important to start identifying personal triggers to anger and building the best skills to manage it. Everyone needs their own personalized plan.
How to best deal with angry kids and teens.
Always acknowledge that they have a right to be angry, frustrated, or furious. Anger can be a really helpful tool in letting us know that we don't like what's going on! However, while it is absolutely ok to be angry, it is not ok to have angry overreactions that lead to damaged property or violence against others. Praise your child when they let you know that they're starting to get mad, and build a coping plan for how to respond to anger.
If you're curious to hear more, or if some of these examples are sounding familiar, please contact me to schedule an initial assessment and see if this approach is right for your family!