Keeping Cool: Managing Anger in Family Life

A woman and children doing yoga
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By Anna (Anatta) Zarchi

Have you ever picked your child up from school only for them to start yelling at you for no apparent reason? Or perhaps you have spoken to them normally, only to have them snap back at you? Maybe you have found yourself snapping at them simply because you didn’t know how to express how you felt in a healthier way?  


If any of these scenarios ring a bell, you are not alone! 


Anger is a normal and valid emotion that we all have to experience at times, and when you have a family, that anger tends to fall on them. This is to be expected—you live with them in close quarters, in a space where you are comfortable expressing emotions that you might not show elsewhere. While this may be common, that does not mean it is always healthy. 


Psychology suggests that there are often different emotions hiding behind anger, and that there are healthy ways to respond to and express anger. Developing emotional regulation tools is vital for our lives and relationships, especially in the intricate relationship between parent and child.

Parenting and anger

First, let’s address anger in parents. Counselor David from New Counseling Service (NCS) says:


The way parents express their anger often becomes the model that children will follow. If parents exhibit explosive anger outbursts, then children learn this is how anger should be expressed. If, instead, children get the message that it's never okay to show anger, they will learn to suppress and internalize it, which can then become quite self-destructive. Ideally, parents should model to children how to acknowledge and express their anger in healthy and appropriate ways.” 


So what are some appropriate ways to express anger as a parent? 

Healthy expression of anger

As the adult in the relationship, be firm but reasonable. Do not let your anger get in the way of reason as that could result in explosive outbursts that can be harmful to how your child perceives emotion or criticism in the future as well as cause them fear. Sit down with your child, explain to them why you are angry, and be firm but in control of yourself.


Do you think there should be consequences? What should your child do the next time they are in this situation? Describe the behavior that you wish to see, for example: “Next time you want to borrow a toy from your sister, ask nicely instead of hitting. If she does not give you the toy, take a breath and come talk to me so we can find a solution together.” Do not completely ignore the issue for fear of having an outburst, as this often results in passive-aggressiveness, which can cause children to tiptoe around you and others.

Be a role model

As David says, children learn from their parents, even if they say they are not going to. There is a line from one of my favorite musicals, Into the Woods, that says, “Children may not obey, but children will listen. Children will look to you for which way to turn, to learn what to be.” There is a fundamental truth to this—even if your children do not seem to listen to you, they will still unconsciously learn from you and model their behavior based on yours. Becoming aware of your own habits and behaviors can go a long way towards building a strong relationship with your children.

Dealing with anger in children

What about anger in children and adolescents? If you have a teenager at home, you might be thinking this applies especially to them! Teenagers can say hurtful things, which is normal to a certain extent. After all, adolescents are undergoing a lot of hormonal changes and emotional development. But sometimes there are other reasons too. Try to observe whether your child also snaps or says hurtful things even when they are not angry. As David explains, “If not, then it’s most likely the anger talking and probably doesn’t really represent how they think and feel at other times”. 

Look behind the anger

When your child is angry, it can be easy to immediately react with anger, but this will invalidate their emotions, which can have consequences for the development of their emotional world and relationships. Instead, listen to what they have to say and acknowledge their feelings, whether this is anger or any other emotion. For example, if a child is feeling hurt or scared due to something that happened at school, they might display anger at home because they feel powerless to confront those who hurt them. If you react to this by being angry instead of trying to understand why they are acting this way, that doesn’t solve anything and may even make the situation worse.


It can also sometimes be difficult for children to explain their emotions; this might be because they are young and still learning how to identify and express their feelings, or because they find talking to a parent uncomfortable. Try to put your frustration aside. You may not be able to truly understand their anger or its causes, but you can acknowledge it and help them find a way forward regardless. Allowing children to talk about their emotions without feeling judged or attacked can help them process their anger and learn healthier ways of coping.

Releasing anger healthily  

So, what are some healthy ways to release anger? Our counselors have some ideas that might work for you: 


  • Yell into a pillow
  • Yell into the jungle / empty parking lot
  • Take a boxing class 
  • Go to a rage room (safe place to channel anger)
  • Write a very angry letter (with all the “forbidden” swear words) and burn it or tear it up. If a child/teenager is writing this letter, the parent must not read it nor judge its contents! This activity is about giving space to anger and having a ritual to let it go. 
  • Have a good cry
  • Jump up and down or shake your hands vigorously to release any pent-up anger
  • Vent to a non-judgmental friend 
  • Loudly sing along to your favorite angry song
  • Meditate. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, and allow yourself to feel your anger and process it in your mind. 
  • Do some arts and crafts. There is no pressure for it to be “pretty”; it can be anything that helps you express yourself.
  • Exercise, work out, or do a sport that allows you to release that energy. 
  • See a therapist, whether just for one session or for several—sometimes a professional can really help. 
  • Make sure you’ve eaten enough—sometimes being hungry can make us more prone to anger! 


Lastly, as a parent, try not to take anything your child says to you in moments of anger too personally. Remember that your child is still young and learning how to manage their emotions. After all, even adults sometimes say things they don’t mean out of anger! Anger is neither pleasant to deal with nor pleasant to experience, so make sure to give your child and yourself some grace. With healthy methods of coping in place, you can acknowledge their anger, help them learn how to better manage their emotions, and make them feel a little less alone as they develop and grow. 


About the Author

Anna works for New Counseling Service (NCS), the first and only licensed mental health center in the heart of Bangkok. NCS has provided counseling services in Thailand and surrounding regions for over 20 years, with therapists specializing in a wide variety of issues such as anxiety, depression, work stress, relationships, and more. 

Email:; Phone: +66-2-114-7556;; FB/IG: @ncsbkk.