My Daughter's Very Angry & I Don't Know Why
(Maple Grove, MN)
In 2006 I left my ex-husband because he abused me in front of our daughter. She had only just turned 2 at the time. She had little outbursts of anger at the start of our life alone.
It has been recently brought to my attention by her teacher that my daughter needs anger management classes. She has just turned 9 and her anger issues are now getting out of control.
The worst of this has come these last two days, we have been fighting and arguing after I pick her up from school. Nothing I am doing is helping. In the end I just let her get angry until she starts to cry. After a little time of this, I have her come cuddle on the couch with me and try to tell me why.
She refuses to tell me what is really going on. She just says that her behavior makes the other kids not want to play with her and they tease her. She told me she knows her behavior is wrong but the other kids don't leave her alone and they constantly disturb her to the point that she lashes out.
I tell her to tell the teacher before she gets that angry and she says there is nothing that can be done. By the time she is able to tell the teacher the other students are sitting quiet.
Even though I have told her she could talk to me and I wouldn't get upset, or judge her, she keeps hold of her anger and the outbursts are getting worse. She has even said during these episodes that she hates me and wishes she was never born. I love my daughter very much and I don't know what else to do!
I am at my wits end. She is a good girl, I just don't know what is causing her to behave like this.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Heather, and thanks for telling your story here. I can tell that you're a good mother, and that you definitely want to do the best you can for your daughter. I will try to help.
First of all, I think your strategy of letting her go from anger to tears, and then cuddling with her is a good one. You're not punishing the anger, and you're offering comfort and connection when she moves into her pain.
You didn't describe the nature of the abuse (of you by your ex-husband) that your daughter witnessed in the first two years of her life. This may well be the underlying cause of her anger, but of course I can't be totally sure about that.
If you think it may be, then it's possible that your daughter would respond well to you recounting the details of what she witnessed...which you can only do successfully if you have had therapy yourself, and healed emotionally from the abuse that was perpetrated on you. If you have not dealt with your own emotional wounds, then that needs to come first. Your daughter could actually be acting out your anger, if it is unexpressed within you.
If you are emotionally healed from the abuse, you can tell your daughter what was going on in your life, and what happened in front of her when she was very young. Do not blame or criticize your ex-husband in the process, just be factual about what happened and what she witnessed. Tell her you're sorry she had to witness that, and that you imagine that it was very frightening to her.
If this doesn't seem appropriate or doable for you, you might want to seek counseling for yourself and your daughter. I really don't think anger management classes for your daughter are going to help. Her anger is there for a reason, and you need to find out what it is.
Regardless of what you do, be sure and read about parenting skills for the angry child, and follow any guidelines there that seem to fit your situation.
Believe in yourself, Heather, and believe in your daughter. There is nothing wrong with her. Her anger is simply a red flag indicating that there is something wrong, and when she works through whatever that is, the anger will subside.
Make up your mind to seek a positive outcome to this, and you will do exactly that.
My very best to you,
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