How does an angry parent affect a child? (Tips)

In this article, we answer the following question: How does an angry parent affect a child? We talk about the consequences of a parent’s anger issues, the danger of having aggression as an example.

We also give the parent some recommendations on how to manage their anger in front of their child. 

How does an angry parent affect a child?

An angry parent most of the time not only reflects a lack of control over their own emotions; it also has a negative effect on the cognitive and emotional development of his children.

Although this behaviour is more common in men, it is equally harmful if carried out by mothers. And worse still if it appears in both.

Screaming, no matter the cause, because of its intrinsic ferosity has a very strong effect on children.

The euphoria manifested by screaming because a soccer team has just scored a goal can have the same effect as the screaming during a couple’s argument.

The little one looks more at the form of the behaviour than the cause or the end that it pursues. Additionally, anxiety-leading behaviours have similar effects on children.

Parental arguments and angry parents can often lead to insecurity, depression and mistrust among children, besides other emotional damages.

Couples discussions are inevitable in any family, but it is important to manage them correctly to avoid our children suffering the consequences. Well handled, fights become a teaching opportunity; otherwise, they can cause emotional and psychological damage that will affect their adult life. 

We are not aware of the harm we can do to the child. The first is the model that the child is learning: instead of resolving conflicts in an effective way and explaining things with education, the child learns an aggressive one where discussions and even disrespect prevail.

Children can normalize that behaviour and reproduce it not only at home but at school and throughout their future lives. 

Parents are their reference figures and their first defensive line; Seeing that they are not respected can lead to insecurity both in the family and personal spheres, low self-esteem and other problems such as lack of concentration, school failure, difficulty controlling their own emotions and ease of becoming frustrated when faced with any inconvenience.

On many occasions, children tend to have a mediating attitude so that the conflict disappears.

At first, this generates a braking effect on the parents and facilitates their reconciliation. But as the relationship deteriorates and the frequency of the arguments increases, there comes a point when the children are no longer able to stop them, and that can produce a feeling of guilt and helplessness. 

It is a subtle and silent process; They try to flee from that discomfort, but what happens is that it becomes more internal.

They may experience fear, demotivation, anxiety disorders and depression … 

Also, keep in mind that depression in children is associated with irritability and they become less expressive; They communicate less what they feel and that makes these depressions very often go unnoticed. 

Although discussions affect children equally, they can manifest themselves in different ways depending on their age, sex or the minor’s own personality.

Age is important. A child tries to be loyal to both his father and mother and wants them to be reconciled; in adolescence, the son forms his own opinion and sense of justice, which is why he is frequently on one side or the other. 

It is an extra stress factor for the child. The most inhibited children may be quieter and generate more insecurity; with others, on the other hand, there may be more behavioural problems, such as when they are younger: hitting, yelling, crying… And as they grow older, emotional problems can appear.

A similar conclusion is reached by an article by Professors Gordon Harold and Ruth Sellers, from the University of Sussex (United Kingdom), according to which boys usually manifest these adverse effects through behavioural problems, while girls become more involved emotionally. 

The study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, concludes that children exposed to conflict may experience sleep problems, a higher heart rate, and have imbalances in stress-related hormones from as young as six months.

Nor does the conflict need to be strong: if children experience less intense fights but for a continuous period, they can develop the same problems.

If children live this type of relationship from a young age, they may think that it is normal, which will make them trust less in couple relationships in the future.

When the child grows up, he realizes the situation in which he lives and the image he has of his parents may change. 

Sometimes, when this happens in adolescence, they can even react aggressively against parents, due to the emotions they experience and not understanding why their parents have to be arguing all day. 

Some parents or people claim I hate children but don’t know the reason why. They deal aggressively with them, may be because of the hate they have towards them.

How to protect children from the angry parent

To prevent children from becoming victims of these conflicts, our behaviour must always have a priority objective to safeguard their happiness and well-being. 

There are certain topics that are better to talk about without the children present.

They can see if the parents do not agree on small matters of daily life, but not on what affects their education or when they are more complex matters of couples.

Never discredit the other parent, because that gives the child a power that does not help him/her.

Disputes must be cleared up in private. If, for example, the child has thrown the milk on the table and the father, who was irritated, punishes him for a month without watching TV, the mother should not disallow him, but rather speak to him alone.

If despite everything, the parents argue in front of children, it is important that they explicitly reconcile in front of the children, that they have a gesture of affection and respect.

This way the child’s self-esteem is not damaged and the child learns that if his parents make mistakes, he can also do it, and above all learn from the mistake.

Do not generalize: talk about the specific fact and avoid falling into the error of “is like that always …”

Express the feelings and emotions that the other person’s behaviour has caused, or what they have done, without yelling or raising their voice.

Try to maintain a constructive point of view between the two. Not looking for the culprit, but trying to see how we can solve the conflict.

Avoid silence. Things don’t settle on their own, and keeping quiet is usually not a good solution because the discomfort doesn’t go away.

Of course, you have to choose the right time to speak. It is better not to do it when we are caught in a very intense emotion and believe that we could say something that we can regret.

Communicate assertively, recognizing that the other person may have a different point of view and emotions, and respect them. Use empathy, put yourself in the other’s place.

Establish a red line that we will not cross. For example: that of mutual respect, which must always be there.

A parent’s anger issues affect his children’s intellectual development

The most vulnerable stage of children against this aggressive behaviour is in the age range of zero to three years.

But, beware: this does not mean that if they are older they will not feel affected.

The bad mood of a father usually translates into a feeling of guilt in the children. This means that children may come to feel responsible for their parents’ lack of emotional control.

The effects of an angry parent

The children of an angry parent develop, over time, problems of insecurity, anguish and stress. This will also affect their cognitive, emotional, and linguistic evolution, as well as their socializing skills. Unfortunately, bad humour acts like an epidemic and soon spreads to the whole family. It becomes a “lifestyle” that repeats itself in the form of a vicious circle.

Anxiety is not a condition that facilitates learning. On the contrary. In that state, the attention is usually dispersed. There is a kind of “excess” in the emotions and this prevents the psychological energy from being focused on other aspects, and stress also constitutes an obstacle to the continuity of the activity.

Typically, those who suffer from it become unstable in the face of their responsibilities.

The parent’s bad mood creates additional tension in the child. Academic demands are also a source of pressure for the child, so he will have to deal with two strong demands simultaneously.

On the one hand, with the conflict of guilt and confusion that originates from the bad mood of his parents. On the other hand, with the need to respond to their obligations. It’s hard for me to get around all of this properly.

Aggression as an example

An angry and troubled parent sends aggressive and terrifying messages to his children.

For this reason, it is not uncommon to find so many failed teens and adults and in some cases victims of some type of addiction. They are souls as tormented as their parents and wander through life without hope.

Without realizing it, the child also learns to be out of control with his emotions. These simply assault him and he believes that his response should be to give free rein to what he feels.

Therefore, it is very likely that he will also end up experiencing conflicts at school.

The child becomes as uncontrolled as his parent and has excessive reactions when he receives some demand from the environment.

The school climate is fundamental in academic performance. So if the child turns relationships at school into a new source of distress, it will probably further undermine his ability to capitalize on it.

It is a chain that extends and that, in the worst case, leads to school failure, and this factor adds to his guilt, his doubts and his anguish.

In contrast, a parent who is positively involved in their child’s education creates the conditions for them to develop self-confidence.

This security is manifested through superior social skills and better academic results. Learning is seen as an interesting adventure and the goals are challenges that are enthusiastically taken on.

Some recommendations

Parental mental disturbances, such as anger, sadness, and stress, inhibit child development. Children of parents with these characteristics replicate this behaviour with long-term harmful effects.

They can cause depression and serious language and learning problems.

To avoid all this, if you are a parent, it is worth taking into account some recommendations:

Strengthen your relationship. Express your feelings to your child. Talk about what you like or dislike. Of your worries, longings, fears and dreams. This not only creates a climate of trust, but also promotes dialogue and has a therapeutic effect for you.

Work responsibilities and children are fundamental, but they are not the only thing. You must also separate a space and a time for yourself.

You also deserve attention. Do activities that you can enjoy. Get loose and learn to free your mind from pressure, through relaxation or playing sports.

Watch for any destabilizing signs of your mood, such as stress, depression, anguish, or anger. I

n any case, it is advisable to set limits and maintain self-control. It is better to act on time, not to let conflicts escalate.

So there will be nothing to regret later. If you can’t get it yourself, go to a professional to find support.

Parents want their children to be happy. Surely you want that too. Try to offer them quality time, get close to them and don’t forget to tell them how much you love them.

Also, do not be afraid to apologize if you “went out of your box”: it is very positive that they know that this is unacceptable behaviour and that anyone who does so should apologize and try not to repeat it.

FAQ on How does an angry parent affect a child

How does anger affect your child?

Anger affects your child sometimes in an irreversible way. The children of an angry parent develop, over time, problems of insecurity, anguish and stress.

This will also affect their cognitive, emotional, and linguistic evolution, as well as their socializing skills. 

How does parents fighting affect a child?

Couples discussions are inevitable in any family, but it is important to manage them correctly to avoid our children suffering the consequences. Well handled, fights become a teaching opportunity; otherwise, they can cause emotional and psychological damage that will affect their adult life. 

What is the most psychologically damaging thing you can say to a child?

The most psychologically damaging thing you can say to a child is: “I don’t love you”; “I never wanted you”; “You were a mistake”. 

Can yelling at a child be harmful?

Yes, yelling at a child can be as harmful as physically abusing him. By yelling you show your child that this is the “right” way of expressing your anger and frustration. Thus, the child will do the same with his friends, colleagues, teachers – and also later in his adult life.

Why is my child so angry and aggressive?

In some cases, your child can be angry and aggressive because it is normal and with the following of certain behaviour patterns, aggressiveness will be diminished, but on other occasions, aggressiveness masks another type of pathology or disorder. 

Further reading

Rage: A Step-by-step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger, by Ronald T. Potter-Efron MSW PhD 

Overcoming Anger and Irritability: A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (Overcoming Books), by Dr William Davies

Anger Management Workbook for Men, by Nathan R Hydes PhD 

Anger Management: Understanding. Healing. Freedom, by Mr John Crawford 

Anger Management For Dummies (UK Edition), by W. Doyle Gentry 

References – Seven Steps for Anger – A 7-step process to free clients from anger – 10 Tips To Help Your Child With Anger – Anger, Irritability and Aggression in Kids Children’s Anger Management Strategies That Work