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What is Anger

Understanding Anger

Anger is a strong emotion that many people try to avoid. In the course of your life, you may have been given many negative messages about your anger.


  • Perhaps you were told that it was inappropriate to be mad or that you shouldn’t expect better treatment from those around you.

  • Or that anger only serves to damage relationships and leaves you feeling alone or abandoned.

  • Maybe you have been on the receiving end of someone else’s anger and it has been unpleasant or even frightening.


Through experience, you may have seen that your anger only adds fuel to the fire with your children. Expressing anger may have had only served to hurt you and others around you.


However, by understanding anger you can develop a more positive view of this emotion. When anger is expressed properly, it can actually improve a situation and a relationship.

A feeling

Anger is a feeling like joy, boredom, or excitement. It gives you a clue to your emotional state and tells you what you are experiencing.


N ot good or bad

In and of itself, anger is not good or bad. It just is. What makes the difference is what you do with the feeling and how you handle it.


G ain insight

Often people say, “I am angry.” And they can feel quite justified in their anger. But it is more useful if you scratch beneath the surface. Many times what passes for anger is actually another emotion such as sadness, jealousy, hopelessness, the sense of being ignored, overworked, overlooked, disappointed, or exhausted.


E xpression

As mentioned earlier, it is how you express your anger that makes it good or bad, constructive or destructive. You need to be sure to communicate your feelings to the correct person in an accurate manner, not discounting your own feelings or blowing up out of control. The next section will discuss healthier ways to express anger.


R elease

It is important that you find ways to release your anger or it can build up. Then you may explode, often in unhealthy ways that hurts your relationship with those around you. If not done effectively, people have a tendency to retell the story (venting) and become angry all over again and sometimes with greater intensity. In this case, you are rehearsing your anger and not releasing it. To move on, you need to practice skills that will enable you to discharge your anger in ways that relieve the pressure in you and to communicate effectively to the people with whom you are angry.

Why Do You Feel Angry?

As a young person you’ll feel a variety of emotions, including anger. Problems at school or at home may make you feel angry. You might feel unhappy after falling out with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend and these emotions come out as anger.

You may feel misunderstood by your parents or carers, or be confused about your sexuality. You may even have experienced neglect or abuse.


How Anger Can Affect You

When we get angry, the hormone adrenalin makes us tense up and clench our teeth. Our hearts pump faster, our stomachs might churn, and we may clench our fists. These are useful early warning signs that we are getting wound up.


Issues with anger can lead to risky behaviour, refusing to go to school, isolation, eating problems, depression, and self harm.


Drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs might be seen as ways of coping with anger issues but they make you feel worse and are likely to create bigger problems later.

The Anger Tree: How Anger Grows

Like a tree, anger has:

  • roots (the underlying causes),

  • a trunk (your expression of anger),

  • and fruit (the results of your anger which has the potential to begin a new anger tree).


The Roots

The roots are all of the actions that cause you to react negatively. And raising children gives you plenty of cause. Even under the best of circumstances, parenting is hard and difficult work. Some of your children’s behavior that may make you angry may in fact be quite normal parts of child development, but challenging to deal with nevertheless. Examples include:


  • A toddler who says “no!” to every question – even “Do you want a treat?”

  • A 10-year old who is loud – he talks loudly, sings loudly, and especially complains loudly.

  • A once talkative teenager, who now barely answers your questions with a grunt before retreating in his bedroom behind a closed door.

  • An 18-month old who clings to you when you have dinner to cook and company coming over in 10 minutes.

  • A two-year old throwing a temper tantrum just as you are getting to the front of the checkout line.

  • A child who won’t stay in her bed because she is sure that there are “monsters” hiding under it.

  • A middle-schooler who remembers to check his email but continually forgets to bring in the mail on his way into the house.


Sometimes you may have more patience for your children than other times. When your needs are not being met, you may be more impatient, frustrated, and angry. As parents, you often go on autopilot and do not take the time to stop and check how you are feeling. When your resources are low, your children do not need to do much to trigger you.


At these times, or ideally before, you can ask yourself, “What do I need?”  If you:

  • are tired, you may need sleep.

  • feel isolated, you may need to connect with a friend.

  • are bored, you may need time to recharge by doing your favorite activities.


When you are running on empty, when your needs are not being met, or when your children are going through a particularly trying time, the roots may be in place for your anger to grow.


The Trunk

The trunk in this case represents all the ways you can express your anger. The fight or flight response is typically triggered. Flooded with strong emotions, you may

  • yell,

  • scream,

  • slam doors,

  • handle possessions or your children roughly,

  • give sarcastic answers,

  • blame or shame your children.


Equally damaging, you can distance yourself, stop interacting with your children and pull away from the relationship. Although you may need to give yourself a time-out to cool down, anything beyond a few minutes for a younger child to an hour or so for an older child is not helpful to the situation.


The Fruit


As you express your anger, those around you get the fruit of your discontent. Faced with your anger, your children may:

  • shut down,

  • become ornery,

  • yell back,

  • become aggressive toward others such as a younger sibling or a pet,

  • act out at school,

  • become depressed and withdrawn.


These actions may once again trigger your anger, which in turn, continues the cycle of anger. So your anger spawns reactions which create more misbehavior, which results in more anger……


In addition, your words and your body language may not match. If, while talking through clenched teeth, you tell your children, “It is fine; I’m not angry,” children won’t know if it is really fine or not. Can they trust your words or their own reaction to you? They will begin to doubt their own instincts and feelings and ability to ‘read’ other peoples’ emotions.



Often parents report feeling just awful about how they handle their anger.

  • If you explode, you can worry about the damage you may do to your children’s self-esteem. At the end of the day, you may lie down in bed feeling guilty and wondering why you lost it over something that in retrospect seems so minor.

  • When you don’t speak up, you can also feel badly, questioning if you are acting like a doormat or if you are creating spoiled children who aren’t being taught how to have a give-and-take relationship with others.


But your anger, when acknowledged and dealt with in constructive ways, can prevent the occurrence of these outcomes or “fruits of our anger” by informing you when something is bothering you. Sharing these insights can actually strengthen your relationship with others as you reveal what is important to you. The trick is to do so without blaming and shaming others.

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