Anger management issues among children on the rise

Posed picture of a child. Anger management issues among children are on the rise, according to the Singapore Children's Society. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM  
Posed picture of a child. Anger management issues among children are on the rise, according to the Singapore Children's Society. -- ST FILE PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM  

Getting calls from teachers complaining about her 10-year-old son's behaviour is something that Madam Toh is used to.

The 48-year-old factory worker, who declined to give her full name, said her son has had problems relating to his classmates.

But the calls stopped after he attended an anger management programme run by the Singapore Children's Society in March.

The society aims to promote the well-being of children, mainly those from abusive and dysfunctional families.

It said there is a rising number of youngsters needing help to manage anger problems and in 2010, it set up a programme called Storm Riders to combat this.

Offering interactive activities and counselling, it has since helped 94 kids aged eight to 12 - mostly boys. "Because of the pace of our society and exposure to instant messaging, we expect more children to face such issues. The younger generation expects instant gratification," executive director Alfred Tan said.

"Many families are small now, so there will be higher expectations on the child in terms of performance. Children who don't meet expectations - that's where the stress levels go up and one outcome will be the issue of anger."

Ms Jenny Giam, a senior counsellor at the society, said that other reasons include family background, parenting style and exposure to violence from TV and computer games. A child may also express anger to seek attention.

Mr Tan noted: "Social workers have seen younger children exhibit such behaviour so we came up with the programme to address the issue early. We will need more early intervention programmes."

The Institute of Mental Health said it treated 74 children aged eight to 13 for anger management issues from 2007 to 2011. Dr Bernardine Woo, senior consultant at its Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said common signs of anger in children include physical violence, verbal abuse and being sullen or withdrawn.

Professionals said it is important to seek help early and parents should not dismiss the behaviour as a "growing-up phase".

Dr Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, said: "Childhood is an important phase of life where future values, behaviours and mindsets are being moulded."

Said Madam Toh, whose son was referred to the society by his school: "I was very frustrated, but now I see a change and it works."

limyihan@sph.com.sg