How can Play Therapy help children with angry and aggressive behaviour?

Children may exhibit angry and aggressive behaviours for a variety of reasons, often linked to underlying emotional, psychological, or environmental factors.

Understanding these reasons is crucial in addressing and managing such behaviours effectively.  Here’s a detailed look at why some children behave this way and how play therapy can help:

Reasons for Angry and Aggressive Behaviors in Children

1. Emotional Dysregulation:

Children may lack the skills to manage and express their emotions appropriately. This can result in outbursts of anger and aggression when they feel overwhelmed.

2. Trauma and Stress:
Experiences of trauma, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence, can lead to aggressive behaviours. These children often express their inner turmoil through externalising behaviour.

3. Environmental Factors:
Unstable home environments, parental conflict, or inconsistent discipline can contribute to a child’s aggressive behaviour. Children might mimic aggressive behaviour seen at home or use it as a coping mechanism.

angry & aggressive behaviours

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      1. Developmental Issues:
        Certain developmental disorders, such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorders, can be associated with difficulty in controlling impulses and emotions, leading to aggression.
      2. Social Learning:
        Children often learn behaviours by observing and imitating others, especially significant adults or peers. Children are likely to adopt similar behaviours if aggression is modelled as an acceptable way to handle conflict.
      3. Communication Difficulties:
        Children who struggle to communicate their needs and feelings verbally may resort to aggression as a way of expressing themselves.
      4. Mental Health Issues:
        Conditions such as anxiety, depression, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) can manifest as aggressive behaviour in children.

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      How Play Therapy Can Help

      Play therapy is a therapeutic approach that uses play to help children express and process their emotions, develop problem-solving skills, and improve their behaviour.

      Here’s how it can be beneficial:

      1. Safe Expression of Emotions:
      Play therapy provides a safe and controlled environment where children can express their feelings through play. This is particularly helpful for children who find it difficult to articulate their emotions verbally.

      2. Building Emotional Regulation Skills:
      Through guided play activities, therapists can help children learn to identify and manage their emotions. Techniques such as role-playing can teach children alternative ways to express anger and frustration.

      3. Understanding and Processing Trauma:
      For children who have experienced trauma, play therapy allows them to reenact and process traumatic events in a non-threatening way. This can reduce the intensity of their emotional reactions and aggressive behaviours.

      4. Improving Social Skills:
      Play therapy often involves interactive play with the therapist or peers, which can enhance a child’s social skills, including cooperation, turn-taking, and conflict resolution.

      play therapy

      5. Modelling Positive Behavior:
      Therapists can use play to model positive behaviour and coping strategies. Children can learn and practice these behaviours in a supportive setting.

      6. Enhancing Communication:
      Play therapy can help children develop better communication skills. As they become more adept at expressing themselves through play, they may also improve their verbal communication, reducing the need for aggressive behaviour to convey their needs.

      7. Strengthening Parent-Child Relationships:
      Therapists often involve parents in play therapy sessions, which can help strengthen the parent-child bond and improve parental understanding of their child’s needs and emotions.


      Angry and aggressive behaviours in children are often a manifestation of deeper emotional or environmental issues. Play therapy offers a child-centred approach to address these behaviours by providing a safe space for emotional expression, teaching emotional regulation skills, and improving social and communication skills. By engaging in therapeutic play, children can work through their difficulties and develop healthier ways of interacting with the world around them.

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