How to Cope With Your Child’s Hot Temper

angry child calming with bubbles

Some children are placid, and nothing seems to annoy or upset them. Others have a “hot temper” and often feel angry. Their response can seem out of proportion. They might become furious over minor problems and concerns. 

When younger children feel angry, they often have tantrums, a physical outburst to express their emotions because they don’t yet have the language skills to communicate how they feel.

Your young child may feel angry over very little things, like not being allowed to do something or having to stop something they enjoy. Most children grow out of tantrums around the age of 7-8.

As children grow older, they may show their hot temper in different ways:

  • Slamming doors
  • Stamping feet
  • Screaming and shouting
  • Ripping or breaking things
  • Hitting and kicking at objects or people
  • Speaking or acting aggressively
  • Vandalism

Anger is not a bad emotion. We all naturally feel angry at times. The aim is not to get your child to suppress these powerful feelings. Instead, they can learn better ways to cope when they feel angry and recognise the signs of anger before they feel out of control. 

Why do some children have a hot temper?

Children feel angry for a wide range of reasons. Usually it’s in response to a specific event and they eventually calm down. But, some children often feel angry. 

There are lots of reasons why they may have a hot temper:

  • Anxiety: The “fight or flight” response means they can respond angrily when worried or feeling trapped.
  • Low self-esteem: Some children feel they’re worthless or stupid because of an unmet learning need, specific learning difficulty, or neglect.
  • Trauma: Traumatic experiences can have a significant impact on emotions.
  • ADHD: Children who struggle with impulsivity can quickly and frequently feel angry.
  • Communication difficulties: Children who struggle to communicate their feelings may act physically when angry or frustrated. 
  • Autism: Children with autism may have difficulty understanding and communicating feelings. Sudden changes to usual routines can also affect them as can sensory overwhelm.
Angry child with a hot temper

Supporting your child with their hot temper

Children with strong tempers benefit from lots of physical activity. Encourage them to take part in sports, run off steam in the park, go on walks, and play outside. 

Talk to your child about their temper and behaviour when they’re feeling calm, rather than when they’re already angry. Name the emotion and focus on how it made you feel when they behaved that way. You could say, “When you screamed at me, it made me feel frightened and unhappy. What would have been a better thing to do?”

Help them decide a range of appropriate things to do when they feel angry. Remind them that everyone feels this way at times and you still love them when they lose their temper.

They could:

  • Rip up unimportant papers
  • Kick or throw a ball outside
  • Go for a walk or run
  • Scream into a pillow
  • Use breathing exercises 
  • Try relaxation techniques
  • Get outside into nature
  • Have a drink or snack
Child calms down anger with yoga exercises

When your child is angry, respond in a consistent and calm way. They won’t be able to talk to you about it, so try to give them some space and take them away from any difficult situation to calm down.

You might feel tempted to give in to your child if their temper is embarrassing, but this can show them that inappropriate behaviour can get the result they want.

Journaling is a useful way to spot patterns in your child’s behaviour. You might spot particular triggers to their behaviour, such as when they feel hungry, tired, or overstimulated by their environment.

Further help

If your child is often angry, hurts themselves or others, is getting in trouble at school, or struggling to maintain friendships, you need to take action. Talk to your GP for further support and check the Young Minds website for helpful information and practical support.

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