5 Year Old Gets Angry and Growls When Loses Patience

Updated on April 10, 2008
B.M. asks from Louisville, KY
15 answers

My 5 year old son loves to play games -video, playstation, computer. When he comes to a section he can't pass, he gets really angry and yells and growls. I've asked him to calm down; he's had time outs from whatever he's doing; and has had things taken away to remove the problem. He does this in other situations also. Any advice on how to keep him calm when things get difficult for him to do?

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So What Happened?

Perhaps I should have used a different example. The question was suppossed to be about his temper - not his game playing. (He is only allowed to play after dinner on certain days and only if he has earned the right to play.) I did get some helpful advice (Kay S) and am working with him on calming breaths and avoiding situations where he would get frusterated. About the divorce, his dad was rarely a stable person and is in his life about as much as he was, so nothing has changed much in that area. I think a lot of his frusteration is because of adjusting to school (which now that he's realized that he's actually learning something - he can read Dr. Suess now!- he's better at school)and the fact that there are no other seemingly good kids around for him to play with. Anyone have a kindergardener at Dixie Elementary in Valley Station,KY? Thank all of you for your advice.

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answers from Johnson City on

My daughter did the same thing and it is a part of learning, i talked to her and let her know it is just a game. take him outside find something sootheing that will calm him down, I dont think he can become anything other than over weight from sitting in front of a tv all day playing his games, its more of the "he wants to win" and thats it. if he is the only child then he needs to be out with other children around him inorder for him to learn how to share and that will also make a difference.

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answers from Huntington on

Dealing With Anger in Children

Most families don't have a plan for dealing with anger. They just continue on, hoping things will get better. When families don't resolve their anger, however, they just keep trying to start over. Trying again is helpful, but we each need to have a bigger plan if we want negative patterns or anger to change.

Five Steps Toward an Anger-management Plan

There are five essential steps in helping children deal positively with their anger. We'll explore each one.

Step 1: Identify Cues That Indicate Your Children Are Getting Angry

Many children move quickly from a trigger to an angry reaction. A trigger might be an unkind comment from a sibling, a request to do a chore, or a difficult part of a homework assignment. The best way to slow down this reaction is to identify early warning signs that indicate anger is approaching. Children often don't recognize anger. In fact, many times they act out before they even realize what happened. This first step helps children become more aware of their feelings and better able to control them.

Before you help your children recognize the cues earlier, think about the cues that tell you when you're starting to get angry. One dad said, "My eyebrows turn down, and my forehead becomes tense. My shoulders raise, and I tend to lean forward. My voice becomes louder and more strained."

How can you tell when you're getting frustrated? Here are common cues in children that indicate they're starting to get angry:

> They tense up and clench their teeth.

> Their behavior increases in intensity.

> They begin to cry or feel like crying.

> Their tone changes to whining or sarcasm.

> They become restless, withdrawn, unresponsive, or easily provoked.

> They begin to talk incessantly, often with greater intensity.

> They make noises like growls or deep breathing.

> They pout.

> They squint, roll their eyes, or develop other facial expressions.

Take time to jot down the cues that each of your children demonstrates when getting angry. Once you've identified these cues, teach your children how to recognize them. Your job is to help your children recognize their feelings of anger and identify specific positive actions to take before the anger becomes more intense. For very young children, you can point out that this emotion is called anger and offer suggestions for responding differently.

Let's say, for example, that a dad sees frustration (an early type of anger) developing in his son, who can't get his sneakers on. "I can tell you're getting angry," Dad might say, "because your voice is getting louder and you're squinting your eyes." The boy needs to recognize his frustration before he becomes so angry that he throws the sneaker across the room.

If your teenage daughter is frustrated because the shirt she wants to wear is in the laundry or is winkled, you can help her recognize that frustration and deal with it appropriately before it intensifies into anger or rage.

In this step of identifying the cues, you can use various methods to raise anger awareness. One fun way is to ask your children how they can tell when you are starting to get angry. Children seem to come up with answers quickly: "Your eyes get bigger" or "You raise your voice." Children benefit from recognizing the anger cues of other people because it helps them to become more sensitive to their own physical signs. (If you use this method, be sure to respond honestly, and don't give excuses for your inappropriate anger.)

Another way you might help your kids learn about anger is to watch a children's video with them. Most animated movies contain lots of emotion, and nonverbal cues are exaggerated. Have a child stop the video when he or she sees anger in one of the characters. Then ask, "How can you tell that person is angry?" Children often learn to see anger in others first before they can identify it in themselves.

Step 2: Step Back When Anger Starts

One of the healthiest ways to respond to anger at any of its stages is to "step back." This gives children (and parents) time to acknowledge that anger is developing, to rethink the situation, calm down, and determine what to do next. Otherwise, frustrations can easily build, rage can become destructive, and bitterness can form. Stepping back helps to stop the progression of intensity and gives children time to respond differently.

Unfortunately, many children (and adults) don't want to step back when they're angry. Instead, they want to press forward and even attack. The anger they feel is so intense that they need to make heart-level changes before they can respond with constructive behavior.

When children lack the self-control to work on anger, they need parental control to help them. Let's say that you tell your child to take a break, but your child begins to badger, argue, and push your buttons. And even when you attempt to leave the situation, your child follows you, continuing to press with intensity. This manipulative technique is designed to draw you into a fight. Don't engage! Determine not to allow the child to bait you into an argument. If you start fighting back, he or she will escape the important lessons of anger management and learn to use anger to control other people-including you! Have the child sit in the hall or on the stairs to settle down. Children must learn this step in order to respond well to anger, and it may require your firmness to teach it. Whether you stand there or leave, make it clear that you're done with the conversation until your child takes a break.

Children learn that stepping back may just involve looking away or taking a deep breath. Other times, it may mean changing the activity or walking away. During the most intense moments, it may mean leaving the situation or getting alone. The child who is frustrated with a puzzle, for example, may choose to work on something else for awhile. The girl who is angry with her brother may need to cool off in another room.

When you teach your children to step back and evaluate the situation, you are teaching them wisdom and maturity. After all, this is a skill many adults do not possess. Many moms and dads would benefit from stepping back when anger starts to take over.

Step 3: Choose a Better Response than Anger

Many parents move to choosing better responses too quickly, thinking that the complete solution lies here. Although this step is important, it won't work alone. The first two steps will go a long way in helping your children to learn anger control. Only then are they ready for this step.

While children step back, they can choose more appropriate responses to their situations. As children see the effect their anger has on others, they begin to see the need to control themselves. They need to learn that they can control their anger and that the way they respond is their choice. If you tell Susie to go to bed and she gets angry, the way she responds is up to her. She can stomp off and slam the door; or she can choose to adjust her expectations, accept your instruction, and remain calm.

People who always blame others view themselves as victims. Children need to take responsibility for their actions, even when they're responding out of emotion. They must not blame their hurtful responses on someone else. (And, of course, parents must not blame their anger on other people, either. A child's wrong behavior doesn't give a parent the right to use anger as a weapon.) Parents and children both need to take responsibility for themselves. They need to learn to control their anger and choose to respond in appropriate ways.

But what better choices should children make? Parents who are frustrated about their kids' anger often respond negatively, pointing out the wrongs without suggesting alternatives. Statements such as "Quit pouting" or "stop hitting" don't provide enough information for children to know what they should do instead.

Parents need to teach their children other alternatives, and simplifying the choices makes the decision process easier. Here are three positive healthy choices to get kids started:

> Talk About It. If six-year-old Carl doesn't like the way Trevor is playing with his favorite car, he can recognize the anger (frustration) and choose to talk about it by saying, "I don't like it when you play rough with my car." Talking about it can help solve the problem without saying or doing something hurtful.

> Get Help. A second choice Carl has is to get help. A third party can give counsel and advice and help resolve the situation without anger. This may be another child, a parent, or a teacher.

> Slow Down and Persevere. Sometimes children who are becoming angry can choose a third option: to take a deep breath and determine to persevere. Just acknowledging his frustration may allow Carl to continue to play with Trevor without becoming angry. You might explain perseverance to a child this way: "If you're cleaning out your closet and the bucket of Legos suddenly falls off a shelf, instead of kicking your blocks across your room in anger, you can slow down and persevere. That means that you stop for a moment, go back to the problem, and pick up the blocks. This approach will help you get through the problem without making it worse."

You can help your children learn to handle their anger by reflecting what you see and offering assistance without telling them what to do. "Jeremy, I can tell you're getting angry because your voice is getting louder. Remember you have three other alternatives. If you need help, just ask me." Even though it may be easy to get caught up in your children's emotions and try to solve problems for them, don't do it. It's better to help them process their emotions rather than solve the problems.

Step 4: Control Rage; Don't Vent It

When children's anger progresses beyond frustration and controlled anger, they become enraged. Rage is anger out of control. Enraged children no longer think rationally. Their anger is now controlling them. You may see a host of venting behaviors such as yelling, hitting, saying mean things, kicking, screaming, manipulative behaviors, and/or withdrawal. When a young child is enraged, we call it a "tantrum." But rage isn't reserved for young children. Even some adults have a problem with rage; we just don't call it a tantrum.

Whatever form it takes, children (and adults) must learn to control rage and not vent it. Proverbs 29:11 reads, "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Allowing children to vent anger is dangerous for them and anyone else around. If young children are taught to hit a pillow or a punching bag when they're angry, they won't know how to stop that behavior when they get older and stronger.

One boy was allowed to kick the furniture when he became angry. His mom called it "letting off steam." When he grew up, he still kicked the furniture-plus his car, his dog, and anything else that got in his way, including his wife and kids. No. It's not okay. Venting anger teaches children an unhealthy response pattern. Children must learn anger control and rage reduction early in life, so they have the opportunity to develop habits of self-control and healthy communication.

After a temper tantrum is over, require a discussion. As you and your child reflect on what went wrong, talk about inappropriate ways to handle anger. Be sure to validate the angry feelings when appropriate, and distinguish between the emotion and the child's response. "I understand that you're angry because Joe took your CD without asking. That makes sense, but we have to solve the problem differently because hitting him is wrong." Talk about a better way to respond next time. This kind of discussion after each episode can help a child learn to rethink anger and build new positive patterns.

Keep in mind that your goal of anger control may take some time. You're trying to decrease the frequency and the intensity of angry episodes. Frequency has to do with the number of times a child loses his temper. Intensity has to do with the amount of anger the child pours into the situation. Reducing both is important. Talk to your children about this goal, and point out examples of the improvements you're seeing. "Bobby, I know you got angry with Josh a few minutes ago, but it seems that you stopped from becoming too intense. I like that." Or, "Shannon, you used to get angry a lot, but it seems that more recently you're not getting angry as often. Good job."

Step 5: Choose Forgiveness, Not Bitterness

Anger has many faces, and bitterness is one of the ugliest. Bitterness is anger connected to hurt from the past, the ability to catalog painful memories so they can be used at any time to fuel present anger. Bitterness harbors anger for longer periods of time than other forms of anger. Some people don't think of themselves as angry because they don't experience rage. Instead, their frustration and anger go straight to bitterness. Bitterness is much easier to deal with in children than in adults, but it's dangerous nonetheless.

> Children may be experiencing bitterness if they are using such phrases as "You always…!" or "You never…!"

> Responding in anger more frequently and intensely than the situation warrants.

> Using sarcasm or becoming cynical.

> Becoming negative and critical; or

> Withdrawing and becoming unresponsive.

These symptoms don't always mean that a child is bitter, but they may indicate a problem. Bitter and resentful children need to see what their anger is doing to them. Holding on to offenses as a type of revenge is not helpful. People were not created to carry around thoughts and plans of revenge. They need to let it go. When children hold on to offenses, they become miserable, plotting revenge, developing a critical spirit, and are generally unhappy.

Don't ignore bitterness. Don't assume that children will outgrow it. If anger isn't dealt with, it gets worse. Address it. Talk about it. It may mean listening to your children and communicating understanding. Resentful children sometimes feel as if they're misunderstood and that no one listens to them. You might say, "If sounds like you're still angry about not being able to go to your friend's house yesterday."

Children need a plan for dealing with ongoing offenses such as meanness, unfairness, and rejection. Confrontation can bring resolution to a problem, but justice isn't always possible. Bitterness is a poor choice for coping with the unfairness of life because it turns the offended person into an angry person.

The solution to bitterness is forgiveness.

Forgiveness, a heart-level response that can ease anger, is not about forgetting an offense. Children sometimes hesitate to forgive because they think they must forget that an offense occurred or ignore the pain it caused. Forgiveness acknowledges the offense and chooses to let go of the desire for revenge, recognizing that God is the judge. Forgiveness means letting go and moving on, not holding the offense against someone any longer. Forgiveness is a mature and healthy response that says, in effect, "You have done wrong to me, but I am responsible for my own actions and my response to you. I choose to let go of the offense."

Once children understand forgiveness, healthy confrontation can take place. Children need to learn about forgiveness and understand how to clean out their anger tank every day. A good anger-management plan contains a strategy for dealing with accumulated anger and preventing it from hampering one's life.

Excerpt taken from Home Improvement: Eight Tools for Effective Parenting with permission from Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pueblo on

Sounds like he's normal! Just a couple of quick things. I have 3 boys (4 if you count the husband) who all love to play the games. If they can't keep their tempers under control, they don't play. You say you've done time outs and taken things away. Take the games away. Give him no game time for a period that seems suitable to you and then give him a chance to play without blowing up. The first time he blows up, take it away again. This is the part that becomes training. He may instantly blow up the next 100 times you let him play, but eventually he'll get the message or you can take him with you to sell the games and the whole system back to the game store.
Be more cautious of the games you let him play. If he's playing games that are clearly beyond his abilities, he's definately going to stay frustrated. Limit his game time to so many minutes a day. When he realizes that the time is precious, perhaps he'll see it isn't wise to waste his time "flinging fits."

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Huntington on

Well first of all, growling is a healthy way to relieve some stress. Sometimes we think that we deal with anger by controlling it...that is not true. As long as he is not hurting anyone or himself then let him be. If he is really out of control then tell him he needs to take a break for so many minutes (another activity) then he can come back to it. If he is getting a time out (as punishment) for expressing his frustrations he will learn to be like the majority of men and keep it bottled up and explode one day. So let him get it out. If he doesn't want to do another activity then re-direct his attention by asking him for some help with something you are doing.



answers from Knoxville on

It's kind of like how people get addicted to soap operas and they believe they are real. I've found when my son gets too angry at the games, then he's getting to emotionally involved. It's not just time for a time out, it's time for a time away - days, weeks, not hours. There's books to read, toys to play with, card games, checkers, and outside is great these days. I explain that they are not real and if he can't act appropriately then he's not playing. Of course if there's the extreme but extreme behavior calls for extreme correction. A pop on the hiney with the words "that's not the way we act, it's just a game" and then it's taken away, always works well too.



answers from Johnson City on

My four year old has issues with controlling himself after playing video games. He doesn't want to stop and then at times I think he is "playing games" in his mind with others and it gets him into trouble.

We have set 30 minute limits for gaming at one time. Some days if he has really good behavior at preschool he can have two slots. Some days he doesn't play at all, now. It has gotten better. He is completely focused on it even when he's not playing. If we set limits it seems to help for him to play with other things or read.

I like the idea of taking a break, without being a time out.
You don't want him to feel punished for expressing anger or frustration. We all have to learn ways to deal with it.

Good Luck and I am getting some good ideas from your responses.



answers from Knoxville on

I have a similar problem with my 4-yr.old son. He has always had a bad temper, and has a problem with self-control. We have struggled with how to handle this and are still working every day to teach him to control his outbursts. I've found that having some snuggling time during the day calms him down. Reading to him for long periods of time calms him down. Before he starts a video game or computer game, I give him a warning that if he starts yelling or crying, he will not be able to play the rest of the day and possibly for two days. If I prepare him before he starts, he might remember to try to stay calm. He's getting better, but it's a slow process. He's very stubborn & self-willed. I just have to be very consistent with my discipline. Good luck!

A little about me: I am a part-time working mom with 2 boys (4 & 7).



answers from Louisville on

sounds like he may be learning a bit too much from the games... try taking the game time down to like less than an hour a day..... good luck



answers from Greenville on

How is he handling the divorce? Has it been recent? Could he be releasing anger this way? He really isn't too young to talk about it if he was old enough to remember. He may have hurt feelings or think it was his fault. I would set aside a 10-15 minute block of time everyday to talk about whatever he has been feeling that day and express his emotions. Then he may not feel the need to do it at these other times. Children just want to be heard and listened to. They often feel left out and that their feelings are not important. I know it seems strange but it is true even at this young age. They are dealing with pressures that we have forgotten because ours are bigger but to them they are mountains. We want to teach them now how to start handling things or they will be a mess when they are older. If you can start allowing him to communicate with you now you will see that when he is a teen he will open up to you more than most do. It will let him know that you really do care and are concerned for his feeling and thoughts. This is SO important as they grow for you are all they have to guide and protect them. They are counting on you to show them how to handle pressures and to do the right thing. An old saying "Monkey see monkey do" sounds corny but is so true. They will immulate us later in life. They watch everything we do and will do it also. Show him now how to communicate with his own child someday. I may be wrong but I really think he is trying to get your attention about something much deeper within. Hope I helped.
A. - Mom of 2 teens



answers from Fayetteville on

It's time to teach him now how to recognize his angry feelings and how he should handle them appropriately. Here are a few tricks you can try: counting to 10, breathing exercises, drawing, making funny faces, even talking about his feelings. He needs to get a grip on it now, or it can get worse. If you have a video camera, tape him secretly while he's acting out. Show him at a later time in the day when he's his usual self. Ask him what he sees. What does he look like when he acts like that? Does it fix his problem? How can he do better? You're doing well by time outs. Less time in front of the tv/cpu monitor and more time outside will work wonders, too! Hope this helps!



answers from Raleigh on

my 5 year old nephew is the same way. He would throw himself into total tantrums if he couldn't get through a stage on a video game.

My mother had to say "I'm sorry that this game is making you so upset. Maybe we need to turn it off for a few minutes to let you calm down." and then she would shut it off and the TV off and just let him sit or read a book with him if she could. Then he could get back on when he decided he could calm down.

He eventually started to do that himself. When he got frusterated, he would stop playing and come back to it later. he's really funny now because if it's a game he knows that he can't quite get, he'll ask someone else to play so he can watch :)

Event hough my son isn't old enough for computer games, I would suggest the "I'm sorry this game is making you so upset...." that way, you're not blaming him and you're giving him a tool to deal with his frustration



answers from Raleigh on

Understanding the brain is very helpful. Brain 101:

3 basic parts,
Primal = Survival/instinctual
Emotional = Impulse/Reactionary
Reason = Thinking/Conscious Action

Your son (as most children) exist in the emotional & when they feel unsafe or threatened will revert to primal (inconsolable tantrums, for example)

YOU need to stay in the calm, quiet, rational Reasoning brain while dealing with him. Set the example to show him & tell him how to use words to express his feelings. Give him lots of examples like "I know you feel frustrated when you get to a hard level..." Validate his feelings.

Let him know it is ok to feel frustrated, but also let him know that feeling frustrated make it hard to concentrate, which he needs to achieve a hard task. (Like video games or schoolwork or working things out with his friends, etc) Be frustrated with him, show him OK ways to express frustration, then show him how to collect himself & calm down so he can focus again.

You can make it fun if you dont let his frustration pull you into that Emotional brain as well. Be silly with it to show him its ok to have strong feelings & it is ok to recover from them.

Yes, easier said than done, but it is doable & worth the effort! Just remember he is a child & is programmed to react in that way. You are a conscious, thinking person & you have the great honor of showing him how to achieve that!

I hope this makes sense & is useful. My son actually has been expressing his anger & frustration to us in words lately. SO, it is worth the effort!

Good luck!



answers from Louisville on

I am writting in regards to the fact that he plays video games and playstation. I am not sure how often he plays but there are strong links to the development of ADD, ADHD, obesity, and violence behaviors with playing video games and watching too much television. Also boys can become easily addicted to playstation. I know of men who dropped out of college because they spent all their time playing playstation instead of going to class. I know it is hard, I have a daughter who loves TV and she is always begging me to watch TV, but their is so much evidence that too much can lead to the above problems I don't mind listening to her crying when I tell her no. Maybe limiting his time on playstation might help. Try more reading or outside play. It seems like you are a good mom, because you are concerned about this and doing something to change it. Hope this helps some and comes across as good positive information. Keep up the good work!



answers from Greensboro on

Hi B.,
My four year old did this alot last year. I am certainly not an expert on the subject, but I think it is because he doesn't know how to deal with frustration. Next time he does this I would suggest sitting him down and calmly asking Are you frustrated/Angry? and tell him that everyone gets angry sometimes including mommy and daddy and explain what you do to calm down, this may take alot of practice, hope it helps!



answers from Nashville on

Take the video games away and send the kid outside. It's amazing what running around and being a kid can do for disposition. When you do allow the video games again be vigilent of what sort of images they include. Seeing violence on the screen has a real effect on the mind and hence the actions.

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