Everyone gets angry with their kids at some time or another – it’s normal – it’s healthy. Kids know just what buttons to push and they push them! It helps to accept that anger is an honest emotion, but it’s what you choose to do with your anger that’s important.
Don’t be afraid to let your anger take its natural course because if you suppress your anger, it can lead to frustration, resentment, bitterness, a sense of hopelessness and depression which is not a good thing for you or your children long term.
How do you release your feelings safely?
One way is to press an imaginary internal ‘pause button’ (like the one on your DVD player) and ask yourself ‘What exactly am I annoyed or angry about?’ This helps you step back from the situation – getting you back in control and helping to calm yourself down. Really imagine the DVD player in your hand as it’s a great way to remember to get back in control.
You will probably discover that you get wound up by the same things over and over again. So start to keep an anger diary so you start to notice your anger triggers. Is it just when you are hungry and tired and running on empty just before dinner? Is it when you go into your daughter’s bedroom for the ninth time to tell her to turn the music down?
What physical signs do you get to warn you that you are about to “lose it”? Do you start to breathe faster, go red, feel like a volcano is about to erupt as it rises up your body from your tummy? By starting to notice your physical signs you are again getting back in control and stepping back from the situation which is much better. You are becoming aware of your triggers.
Ask yourself a more empowering and useful question: ‘What would I like to see happen in a perfect world?’ as this helps you start focusing on a new solution to your frustration. Relax and start to breathe slowly and deeply – this takes the edge out of the anger. You need to focus very specifically on what it is you want to see happen. This gives you clarity and direction and helps you pass this on to your children who often don’t understand what exactly it is you want them to do.
Also ask yourself, ‘Is my attitude moving me closer to or further away from the relationship I want with my children long term?’ This question takes you immediately out of the mundane and humdrum into the bigger picture of your parenting. It immediately changes your perspective.
Another positive step to take is to talk openly and honestly to your child about how you are feeling, in ways such as:
‘I’m tired of telling you this over and over again because I feel …’
‘I’m angry with you because …’
‘I’m hurt because you did …’
This teaches your child about empathy and immediately takes the emotional charge out of your frustration.
Anger management strategies
If you feel like screaming and shouting at your kids then your own anger has probably been building up for a long time. A helpful strategy is to look in a mirror and imagine talking to your child as if they were looking at you in that mirror. Tell them exactly how you feel – speak truthfully – explain all the frustration, anger, hurt or disappointment.
Some people hit pillows, bounce on the bed, hit golf balls in the garden or go for a long, hard walk round the block – I have even been known to go into a cupboard and have a good swear to myself! Do something physical to release your charged -up emotions. Don’t be reckless or dangerous to yourself or your child. Just step back, breathe deeply and slowly and find what suits you and experiment with it. Sometimes you may even make yourself laugh because you look or sound ridiculous – a great way to change your mood.
Your anger can serve a positive purpose and help you to find out what’s really bothering you deep down. Just asking yourself ‘What am I so angry about?’ will help you identify what you’d like to change. It’s usually something small that can make a big difference in your life and help you move forward – not stay stuck.
Once you’ve expressed your anger about the behaviour that you don’t like in your child, don’t criticise them personally. Do your best to forgive your child – and yourself – have a hug, say sorry and move on to learn the lesson from the experience.
Maybe you’re a person who’s been angry for a long time or a major part of your life? I call this ‘habitual anger’ because you’ve got used to behaving in this way so it’s become a habit. Habitual anger is trying to tell you something – ask yourself some deeper questions.
- Why am I choosing to be angry all the time?
- What am I doing to create these situations time and time again?
- What is it that’s making me angry?
- Who am I really angry at?
- What do I believe about my life that causes all these frustrations?
- Is this the only way I can react to life?
- What could I do differently?
- How could I feel more in control of my life?
Habitual anger is not good for your body as it creates stress, tension and illness. So it’s really a great relief when you start to understand what’s causing it and begin to make some small changes to help you feel more in control of your life generally.
Be a role model
Many women, particularly mums, have been taught that to be angry is bad and unacceptable and that to lose your temper means you are a Bad Person or a Bad Parent. However, swallowing your anger is an unhealthy response as it turns inwards and makes you feel unhappy, helpless, stuck, depressed and generally out of control of your life.
Smacking shows a lack of respect for your child and it can so easily get out of control and escalate. Also where do you go from there in your discipline if it doesn’t work?
You are a role model for your child – no matter how old they are and is hitting out and hurting another really what you want to teach your kids long term as a way to handle their anger?
Many people argue that they were smacked as a child and it “never did me any harm” but studies have shown that children who are consistently smacked and hit suffer low self esteem and often turn to violence later in life to solve issues.
I’ve got two teenage kids myself so I know first hand about having a parent tantrum but it’s all about setting firm, fair, reasonable boundaries throughout their lives and being a figure of authority in my own home and I can make them conform by just a withering look …. but maybe that was my years as a teacher !!
Kids need boundaries – society needs them to have boundaries and it’s not about me judging or criticising families. The work I do with parents is to help them look at their current styles of discipline and to fine tune or change things if they are not working and to show them new strategies and techniques that do.
Acknowledge that it’s normal to lose your temper sometimes and find a strategy or technique that suits you to release it safely. You are a role model for your children in everything that you do, so teach them how to handle anger and frustration healthily and talk about it with them.
What better gift can you give your children?
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
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