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Uncontrollable Anger Problem


My 8-year-old son has an uncontrollable anger problem, from playing with friends to video games. If he doesn’t win, he hits the roof. If he isn’t chosen in school right off the bat, he gets mad. It’s to the point that he doesn’t have any friends at all. His dad and I will tell him not to play video games so he can calm down and try again later, and he screams at us. He is defiant in every meaning of the word. He always tells us no. I’m at my wit’s end, and I don’t know what else to do. I would be grateful for any suggestions. I don’t even know what is “normal” behavior for an 8-year-old boy and what isn’t. Thank you for your help.


It is great that you are reaching out for help for your son. It is important that he learns how to control his anger now, as this would cause many conflicts and make it difficult to build healthy relationships as he becomes a teen.

There are two sides to your son’s behavior. First, what happens after he gets angry or shows problem behavior? Then what happens to avoid it in the future?

What consequences does he earn when he gets angry or tells you “no”? Have those consequences helped him to try harder to make better choices next time? Try to remember what HAS helped, even if for a short time. Think of what he enjoys — such as video games, fishing or going to the park. Then have him earn those things by doing well and lose them by doing poorly. If he becomes angry at school, then take away the privilege of going to the park that day. If he stays calm at school, then take him fishing as a special reward.

Now, to avoid the behavior in the future, you should teach him what it is you would like him to do, not just that what he did was bad. Basically, replace “don’t do that” statements with “you should try” or “I want you to say” statements. This way, you are not just punishing him, but you are giving him the tools to become successful and happy.

Practice how to say “OK” when you ask him to turn off a video game. Make sure you practice when things are calm and he is not in the middle of a big battle. An example might be to ask him to practice right after dinner. Say something like, “Let’s pretend you are playing the game and you get angry. I am going to ask you to turn it off for 30 minutes because you raised your voice. I want you to say, “OK, Mom,” and put the controller down on the table without arguing.”

Actually have him sit in front of the game and pretend to be angry. This helps kids learn the expectations and creates a mental picture for them. After he practices, reward him for the practice; say he can stay up 10 extra minutes or whatever you choose. Then, if he does well playing the next time, let him stay up or reward him again for staying calm during the game. is a great website that not only can help you with parenting tips and resources, but it also can give you a clearer picture of what to expect as your son ages. You can find many resources at The Common Sense Parenting program teaches how to approach parenting in a positive manner as well as how to correct problem behavior. The book Teaching Social Skills to Youth uses a step-by-step process to help your son learn to follow instructions, accept decisions and learn self control.

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