Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive?

In this guide, we will discuss ‘Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive’, what are some of the potential causes, how to identify triggers, how are anger and aggression diagnosed, treatment options, and some additional considerations when your child’s behaviour seems to be of control. We will also have a clear picture and some understanding of why a child could display angry and aggressive behaviour and how you could go about addressing it. 

Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive?

There could be several factors why your 6-year-old is so angry and aggressive. One of the most common triggers is frustration when they are not able to get what they need or want, or even when they are asked to do something they don’t feel like doing. Anger issues have been linked to mental conditions such as ADHD, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette’s syndrome.

No one likes to feel angry, frustrated or upset but we all get to feel like this from time to time. Children have a difficult time expressing anger and frustration healthily and productively, which may result in tantrums or outbursts. As parents, we often wonder what we could do about the tantrums or angry/aggressive behaviour but we are left with more questions than answers.

Moreover, children aged 4 or less can start having frequent tantrums with behaviours like crying, kicking, stomping, hitting and pushing that usually last between 5 to 10 minutes, but it will vary. It is believed that most children outgrow this behaviour during kindergarten but some will continue as they get older having problems at school, family and peers. However, know that anger issues are the most common reason children are referred to a psychologist.

If your child is having issues developing and maintaining relationships with peers, family members, if their behaviour is dangerous to themselves and others, it is causing serious problems at school or teachers are reporting your child is out of control, address the issue as soon as possible to prevent it from developing any further into your child’s life.

Potential causes

Several factors may contribute to your child’s behaviour and particularly, how they manage anger, frustration and aggression. One of the most common triggers, as we have mentioned, is being under frustrating situations, where they may not get what they want (or need) or they are asked to do something they don’t want to. However, genetics and other biological factors seem to play an important role in anger and/or aggression. 

Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD and others, have been linked to angry outbursts. Moreover, the environment is also a powerful contributor, this is why when we analyze a child’s behaviour we could understand a lot when asking about their family and if there has been any loss or trauma, parenting styles, school history (i.e. bullying), among others.

According to Amy Morin from verywellfamily.com, “There are many factors that can contribute to a child being angry and hostile. For instance, unresolved feelings, such as grief related to a divorce or loss of a loved one can be the root of the problem. A history of trauma or experiencing bullying may lead to deep-seated anger, too.”

Morin adds, “Some kids seem to be born with a short fuse. They’re impatient, intolerant, and downright aggressive when they’re not happy. Within a matter of seconds, a seemingly minor event can lead an angry child to have a complete meltdown. Dealing with such hostile and unpredictable behaviour can be stressful for the entire family.”

Finding the triggers

It is important to analyze and understand what triggers your child’s anger and aggressiveness. For instance, if getting them to shower in the morning becomes a real problem and causes angry outburst then you could anticipate by giving them time warnings, waking up earlier or showering the night before. Children usually respond well when the tasks are broken into pieces or simple steps that could be posted somewhere for them to see. 

If your child’s behaviour is out of control, it is a good idea to follow a step-by-step parent training program such as:

  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy
  • Parent Management Training
Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive?

The training programs we have mentioned will help you to recognize and positively reinforce the desired behaviour (or the one you’d like to encourage) and give consistent consequences for their behaviours (those we want to extinguish). 

How is anger and/or aggression diagnosed?

If you have already detected certain behaviours that indicate your child is struggling to manage their anger and have become aggressive then it is recommended to visit a mental health professional for a psychological or psychiatric evaluation. You may have received some complaints already from school, from a teacher or even other children’s parents. 

The real problem with letting this type of behaviour develop when the child gets older is the potential problems they may have further in life (i.e. problems with the law) when they become adolescents and even more so difficulties may follow through their adult life.

The assessment usually is thorough and in-depth, because as we mentioned, it is necessary to look at the behaviours in the context of the child’s life. This includes but it is not limited to obtaining medical records, input from parents and teachers, academic history, behavioural records, developmental history, etc., mostly done through one on one interviews with parents and the child but there are also research-based measurement tools that could help.

Subsequently, to determine a precise and accurate diagnose, mental health professionals, tend to use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) where the potential diagnoses for children with anger, irritability and aggressive behaviour include:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct disorder (CD)
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)

However, many clinicians may use other terms that are not specifically part of the DSM but have been used in research or education. If you have any questions, it is important to ask and have a clear picture of what could explain your child’s behaviour.

Are anger and aggressiveness treatable?

After a professional has indicated there is a potential diagnosis, they usually mention options for treatment. Although there seems to be a range of therapies that can help treat childhood anger and aggression, not all of them have scientific evidence to back them up. However, we will mention some of the available options:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) within this approach, a child can acquire new and effective strategies that allow them to regulate their emotions, anger, thoughts and behaviours.
  • Emotion regulation: allows a child to identify their emotions, focusing on anger triggers that will help when developing preventive strategies.
  •  Developing new communication strategies: this is done through role play where real-life situations are simulated. The main goal here is to help children prevent and resolve the potential situations that may trigger their emotional response.
Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive?

Why is this blog about Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive important?

As we have mentioned, being angry or aggressive from time to time is completely normal since it is a way our child expresses frustration or discomfort. But when it becomes frequent and it starts to interfere with normal life, making and maintaining friendships, relationships with relatives, school performance, etc., it is time to address it as soon as possible.

Not knowing what to do with your child if it is out of control can be overwhelming and discouraging but finding professional help would be the best way to understand and address your child’s behaviour. The diagnoses are carried out by a mental health professional, which consist of using several sources of information such as interviews, family history, medical records, school history, research-based questionnaires, ect., to reach a diagnosis and propose the most appropriate intervention. 

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive

How can I help my 6-year-old with anger issues?

You can help your 6-year-old with anger issues by teaching problem-solving skills, a way they can communicate their emotions without resorting to aggression. You could also teach them how to breathe and calm down by taking a few minutes, removing themselves from the situation. Model appropriate behaviour, which they can learn from. For instance, if your child shouts at you and you yell back then you are sending the message that it is OK to do it because you do it.

How do you deal with an angry aggressive child?

To deal with an angry aggressive child, here are some recommendations:
– Let your child know that their behaviour is unacceptable.
– Don’t resort to hitting, smacking or raising your voice in response to their behaviour.
– Be a model of positive behaviour (keep your calm)
– Be consistent with the rules at home and when you are outside.
– Talk to your child about their feelings, how to recognize and name them. 
– Praise positive behaviours and be consistent when dealing with unwanted behaviour.

Why is my 6 years old so aggressive?

Your 6 years old could be so aggressive because that is what they have learned is a valid and normal way to behave. For instance, if your partner and you fight all the time, that is what your child is learning he/she should react. However, there could be other related situations in the family such as the death of a loved one, illness in the family, a sibling who teases relentlessly, bullying at school, among other factors.

Is it normal for six-year-olds to have temper tantrums?

It is normal for six-year-olds to have temper tantrums or meltdowns. They may lash out if they are frustrated or there is something they are trying to avoid but when they have temper tantrums most of the time, or they can manage their emotions, it may become a problem that needs to be addressed.

References 

Yalemedicine.org: “Anger, Irritability and Aggression in Kids”

Morin, A. (2020, May.) 5 Signs You’re Raising an Angry Child. Retrieved from verywellfamily.com.

Childmind.org: “Is My Child’s Anger Normal?”

Why is my 6 years old so angry and aggressive?

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.