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A lot of times, when a small child throws a tantrum, acts out in anger, or does anything outside of what we wish they would behave like, we tend to categorize them as a ‘bad’ kid. In reality, having emotions doesn’t make them bad, and when a child continues to get angry and act out on the regular, it’s likely there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Children aren’t fully developed yet, meaning that they don’t know how to express their emotions. They don’t understand that they are angry because they are tired and not getting enough attention, they simply know that something doesn’t feel right. So, instead of saying, “Mommy, I am tired because I didn’t get enough rest,” they throw things. They scream. They slap. And while it’s not a good idea to allow them to throw things and hit people, it’s also important to not act like they are the worst child in the world.

Instead, try to meet them where they are, understand where the behavior is coming from, and show them how to express their emotions healthily. Here are 9 reasons behind a child that is acting out in anger.

1. They are going through a major life change. (New school, loss of a family member, parents arguing & fighting.)

Major life transitions that may not even seem like that big of a deal to us can feel huge on a child. Examples of this are school changes, moving, and parents changing jobs, and on a larger scale, they can happen if your child loses someone close to them.

2. Lack of attention.

Children need attention. Talking to their parents, playing with them, and spending time with them are what help to shape their development. When they are lacking attention, they will act out, because they NEED it.

3. They are repeating behaviors they see from their parents.

Anger is oftentimes a learned behavior. So, if they see one or both parents throwing things, screaming, and hitting, it’s very likely they will repeat the same behavior. If an angry person is living around the child, it might be valuable for that person to seek therapy.

4. They are tired.

Much like us, when kids feel uncomfortable (i.e, tired) they are going to feel agitated. Most adults can barely function in very little sleep, so imagine being a child.

5. They are hungry.

There again, most adults I know can barely handle hunger without getting hangry. So, it’s helpful to keep this in mind if your child is acting cranky and it’s close to their meal time.

6. Coping through hormone changes caused by puberty.

Around the time between 9-15, most kids will begin transitioning from being a child to a teen. Hormone changes associated with puberty can be intense. A typically calm child may end up easily getting agitated or frustrated for seemingly no reason.

7. They feel like they have no control.

Feeling a lack of control is an uncomfortable feeling. And while small children have barely any power over their own lives, this feeling can lead them to feel tense, afraid, or anxious.

8. They are a victim of trauma.

Pay attention to the signs of trauma. If a child is being neglected or abused, they will act out. And anger is a MAJOR sign (especially when other signs are present, and you notice something seems off) that something isn’t quite right.

9. They are getting bullied.

There again, anger is a learned behavior. If a child is being bullied by a child at school or even a parent at home, they are far more likely to act out in anger.