Anger & Parenting

We all want to be the best parents we can be. We protect our children and try to always make sure they are safe. We don’t leave them alone. We tell them to always look both ways before they cross the street. We ask them not to speak with strangers. We require them to wear protective gear when they skate, skateboard, ride bicycles or scooters. Shouldn’t we make our home emotionally safe for them as well?

smiling young boy looking up at camera with big eyes

Results of our anger

If we are constantly irritated or angry, we create a space where our children must be careful of what they say and do. Our child may become anxious and develop defense strategies to deal with their home environment.

Our children may decide that lying is a better option than telling the truth and suffering the consequences of an overly angry parent. They know lying is wrong, but coping with the rage of a parent seems much worse.

Our child may also begin avoidance tactics to assess what mood we are in before engaging in any conversation or interaction. We have all been in situations where we feel like we are walking on egg shells so as not to disrupt anything. A child who perceives their home in this way isn’t spontaneous and becomes guarded with their actions and emotions. It’s hard to have a real conversation if a child is afraid they may say something offensive.

Our child might fight fire with fire and become angry themselves, shouting and copping an “attitude”. Or they may giggle or laugh when we are angry because they are nervous and want to hide their pain and humiliation.

Anger affects our children much more than it affects us. We may forget about how angry we were in a given situation, but children may feel unloved, humiliated and angry themselves. Of course, anger is a natural emotion and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t get angry. We just have to make sure that our anger isn’t unreasonable.

Inappropriate Anger

The only way to know if our anger is unreasonable is to ask why we are angry and try to identify what makes us angry. Sometimes we develop a bad habit of becoming angry at situations that are just inconvenient. Maybe we don’t like to change our schedule and are so inflexible that any development  that infringes upon that is viewed as unacceptable. Maybe we are just irritated at our child’s constant questioning or incessant whining. Maybe we were thinking about work and they interrupted our train of thought. These examples are inappropriate situations to get angry about.

Anger is a difficult emotion to control. The life of a modern parent is filled to the brim with daily tasks. Stress is our constant companion throughout the day and many times the chaos of children brings us to the breaking point. But we must remember that our children are just children. They shouldn’t be the recipients for all the disruptions and frustrations we have felt throughout the day and have bottled up inside. If we can’t adequately decipher why we feel a certain way, how will they ever learn to.

Coping with Anger

We tell our children to walk away from a situation until they can calmly discuss it. We send them to their room and then speak with them after the “time out”. Adults also need time to cool off and assess a situation before they can rationally address it. So give yourself a “time out”. Get away from the place of tension by walking into another room. Take a deep breath and count to ten.

If you can’t move away because you may be in the car tell your children that you are frustrated, “I’m beginning to lose my patience because you two keep on arguing (or yelling, fighting, teasing)”.

And say “yes” to a situation that may be angering you. “Yes” makes us feel positive, flexible and open minded. In this mind frame we can concentrate on finding a solution to the problem. By saying “yes” we accept the situation and immediately work on problem solving which may be as simple as distracting the children by changing the subject of conversation.

Also, certain times of the day may make us more prone to anger. In the early morning there is always a rush to get ourselves and our children ready for the day. There’s breakfast, clothes, backpacks, brief cases, lost slippers or shoes that seem to make or break our schedule for the rest of the day. Or late afternoons are infused with the day’s frustrations and irritations which have slowly affected us unknowingly. These may be the times where we have to be more attentive about how we feel and what is affecting us emotionally. If we can be aware of these difficult times, we can schedule our day accordingly by giving the family an extra 15 minutes in the morning if that is our  “difficult time”, or not helping our children with homework as soon as we get home from work in the afternoon.

As much as we try to prevent ourselves from becoming too angry at our children, it does happen. We fly off the handle. We’re only human. We must try not to say anything that will hurt their feelings like “you’re stupid” or “you never listen to me” which we know isn’t true. If we do act inappropriately, we can re-establish the security and comfort of home by giving them physical affection. Hugs and kisses can make anyone feel special and go a long way towards making a child feel good about themselves.

By reassuring them that home is emotionally safe for them, we can keep the lines of communication open, allowing us to speak freely with our children and vice versa. Telling our children why we became angry and acknowledging that we are angry will help them to function better within the family and also learn about their own emotions.