Understanding the process of your child's anger

It is my belief that no child wakes up in the morning deciding to be angry. No parent does either. It is not a desirable state, it is an unhappy state and one which we want to avoid. It is also a very unhealthy state which leads to stress and disease.


Let's look at the process of how anger happens so we have a better understanding of how and when to intervene.




Let me explain the process. You'll probably find it helpful to fill in the little sentence completions at the end of each stage. Do the exercise for yourself and your own anger first so you familiarise yourself with the different stages. Then repeat it for your child or teen.


First something happens, something you see or hear or something someone does. It may also be a smell or taste. Basically through your senses, you notice something. Something has happened. We call it an external event. It's important to note a few things about this external event

1) You cannot control an external event. You can control what you make it mean and how you respond.

2) Your meaning will be unique to you based on your filters

3) If you are more visual, noticing more the things you see, then those things have more power to make you angry than if you were more auditory (focus more on what you hear) or kinaesthetic (focus more on feelings) . Similarly an auditory person will get more angry as a result of sounds and a kinaesthetic person will get angry from their feelings or touch. Most of us favour one or two senses but usually one will dominate and of course not all your children will have the same preference.


Think about something that happened recently that made you angry. Was is something you saw, heard, or felt? Circle the one that applies below.


I was angry when I saw/ heard /felt.......................................................................................................................


Now let's look at the filters.


Have you generalised eg. "he always does that", "she never ........", "No-one ................." "Everyone.........."

Have you deleted the context eg. "the room looks a mess" (the whole room?) "she plays up at bedtime" (every day?)

Have you distorted? eg. "I'll never get them to school on time" (how do you know that?) "He'll never get a job with that attitude?" (can you predict the future?)


Think about these. Be honest! Which do you tend to do most often?......................................................



These filters tend to be affected by our beliefs, values, memories and experiences.

Our beliefs are what we think to be true about a situation eg. "he's deliberately being annoying" (but is he? Is this a mind read? Is there another way of thinking about this?)

In the situation you're thinking of, what was your belief?


I believed that ................................................................................................................................


Can you think of another belief about that external event that might not have resulted in you being angry?


Beliefs are choices, they are not facts although they can sometimes seem to be!


I could have believed that..................................................................................................................


Values are the rules you live by, what you deem to be important and non negotiable. Breaking our values often triggers quite an emotional response but it doesn't have to be anger.


Our own experiences and memories from childhood can affect how we respond to an external event and can cloud the situation.


As a result of all these factors, our mind creates an internal representation which is basically what you have made this mean.


In the situation you are thinking about, what did you make it mean about you personally.


I made that situation mean that I am .............................................................................................


We are now angry or whatever emotion or state you have created fro yourself as a result of the external event. What was yours? .....................................


As we create our own personal meaning, we express this in our physiology, how we look, how we stand and our whole body stance.


And then we act, we do something.


What did you do?


I ...............................................................................................................................................


This then takes you into the next external event


Now look back at that model and think about how your filters have affected the outcome. What choices did you have? What could you have done differently? What different belief about the situation would have had a more positive outcome?


Next time this happens I will................................................................................................................


Now that you've done this exercise for yourself, I'm sure you'll know how to help your child when they get angry.


If you need more guidance, you'll find lots of ideas in the 'Anger' chapter in 'Empower your kids! A coaching guide for parents'.








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