The news only reports a small percentage of what happens in our schools. Only the stories that are “news worthy” make it to public television. But, everyday across the country our schools experience angry children. Whether it be through the use of profanity, physical violence, intolerance of others, or hurting themselves teachers see more anger in young people then ever before. Where is all this anger coming from?
Today, unlike any other time in our history, we have a very high divorce rate (about 60%). Many more children are experiencing chaotic or broken family lives. They are confused by the inconsistency between the words and the actions of their parents. These children often become despondent or angry. They show signs of low self-esteem, have increasing health problems, feel a sense of not belonging, hopelessness, despair, anger and a lack of vision for their future. Children should experience feelings of happiness not sadness. They should not be turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, aggression toward others or other dangerous addictions to gain attention or the affections of others.
As a classroom teacher trying to find answers to why some of my students were so angry, I have read and researched many issues dealing with young people. What I have found alarms me. What I witnessed with my own students, simply confirmed the information I found through my research. It is difficult to work with students who have so much anger. Many of these students may be very intelligent, but because of their anger they are failing school.
In 1999, I attended a conference on “Violence in American Schools” at USF. Delbert S. Elliott, PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder and his associates presented information they had compiled over a number of years regarding the violence being documented in our schools. It was shocking to listen to what they found. According to their research youth crime has become an epidemic over the past decade. In the 1990s homicide became the second leading cause of death among adolescents (Fingerhut, 1993; Snyder & Sickmund, 1995). According to their findings and a 1995 Gallup poll, nearly half of adolescents reported that their schools are becoming more violent. The purpose of their study and resulting book is to wake up Americans. It’s a good read and certainly an eye opener, as was the conference.
How do we fix this problem? First of all, there is no easy fix. It is important as a parent to give your children a reasonably safe environment to grow and explore in. Be aware of their feelings, how stress may affect them and what to do for them. Sometimes, all you need is to have an open line of communication with your child. If your child’s anger becomes overwhelming for you, consult your physician or talk to a counselor.
Most children will not want to speak with a counselor (especially older children). They will try and deal with their problems alone. Don’t let that happen. Life is tough enough. No one should think that they have to go it alone. Children are exposed to too many issues today and more than ever they need our help and guidance. Be supportive. Find help, if needed.
Not all angry children come from broken homes. Some may actually have physical problems that causes them to have issues with controlling their feelings. If you think your child may have something physically wrong, please consult with a physician and get help. The earlier you seek help for your child, the better the changes are that he or she will be able to cope with whatever is causing their anger issues. A parents job is to protect their child from harm. That includes protecting the child from harming themselves. Seek help, advice, support for your child’s anger problems.