From obedience and respect, to anger and tantrums. What is going on?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 2:43pm

My son is in secondary school and suffers from anger issues. Sometimes he gets in such a temper at home that he damages the furniture. Yet his teacher told me that he is an obedient student and is respectful to teachers in school. I am confused

Anger is generally an emotion that occurs when a person feels offended, wronged in some way or denied something. When someone loses their temper it can feel quite threatening.

There could be different reasons for your son's anger. It could be a person or an event that has led to him feeling so upset and angry - it might be an old issue or something that happened yesterday. Whatever it is, it's crucial to find out the underlying cause before you can solve the problem.

You have to choose the right time to talk to him about why he is feeling angry - so wait until he is in a calmer frame of mind, and then talk honestly and openly. Try to be a good listener and find out what he's struggling with. Good communication is conducive to finding a solution. Arguing with him is not constructive.

Some forms of anger can be suppressed. Your son is letting his anger out on the furniture at home, but not showing it at school. There could be several reasons for this. He might realise that to throw tantrums in the classroom would not be acceptable to his teacher or his classmates, whereas at home with family he is able to show his emotions more.

It could also be that school life is not the source of his anger. Even so, it is important to find out whether your son has any difficulties in concentrating at school. Sometimes suppressed anger can affect concentration and the ability to carry on with your daily life.

Suppressed anger can also be related to fear. Again, the critical point is to find out if your son is fearful of anything.

Being a loving parent goes a long way towards helping children open up and overcome their anger issues.

The vast majority of parents love their children but how that love is expressed is equally important. Among the ways experts suggest are:

1. Saying words of affirmation. Young people need encouragement. Positive affirmation is crucial as they need to hear from adults that they are going in the right direction.

2. Be tactile. Many parents, especially parents from a traditional Chinese culture, seldom hug or kiss their children. This makes it difficult for young people to feel that you love them.

3. Spend quality time with them. This means giving children your undivided attention. Focus on the here and now.

4. Do small acts of service to show that you care about them. It can be as simple as giving them a glass of water. The critical point is that through these small actions, young people can feel your love.

5. Buy or make them a gift. Gifts can symbolise love.

Dr Terry Lam teaches at a local secondary school