People respond with anger when they feel hurt, upset, frustrated, afraid or threatened in some way. As one of the most powerful of emotions, anger activates every organ and muscle in the entire body, engaging the flight-or-fight response designed to protect you from perceived enemies. However, your kids are not your enemies. While it’s common to lose your cool with your kids, you also need to learn how to backpedal and make the situation right.
An Overview of Anger
Using anger to respond to kids is like using a bulldozer to clean a house — an extreme reaction. Anger can sometimes lead to an overreaction, which might indicate low feelings of self-worth or outside contributing factors in your life. For example, if you ask your child to take out the trash, you might overlook his failure to do so if you are in a good mood. However, if you had a rough day at work because your boss gave you a hard time, then you might take out your anger on your child, focusing on his failure to do his chores.
In other words, your response had zero to do with your child’s behavior and everything to do with your mood (Stosny, 2015). Try the following tips to better manage your emotions.
Explain Your Anger
Explaining your anger doesn’t mean that you justify your poor behavior. Instead, you are addressing the reasons behind your feelings. Children and teens need to know that people become angry and that anger is okay. However, how we handle anger needs to be properly managed. When you model an appropriate response, your child will learn from your example.
When you apologize, you should all tell your child that you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. Baby boomers — parents and grandparents of many who are parenting now — rarely apologized for what they said was the law. However, admitting your mistakes will help your child follow your example and learn to admit his or her mistakes with grace. (Calechman, 2017)
You are apologizing for your behavior, not for your feelings. Be sure to distinguish between the two. Your feelings are rarely wrong. How you deal with those feelings might be wrong, which lead to the situation in the first place.
You might word the apology as follows: “I’m really disappointed in your behavior (name the specific actions), but I should not have yelled at you. I was wrong for losing my temper like that, and I’m so sorry. Can you please forgive me?” (Jain, 2016)
Promise to Do Better
While you can’t promise to never overreact or blurt out an angry word again, you can promise to do better. Let your child call you out if you take out your frustrations on him or her in the future. Look for constructive ways to channel your anger instead. Give concrete ideas of how to fix the problem the next time. For example, if your child can’t find socks before school, suggest helping him or her match up socks ahead of time.
Being an Effective Role Model for Your Children
Again, children model the behavior — not the advice — of their parents. They have little capability of restraining themselves when it comes to knowing how to deal with their emotions although their self-control should improve with age. When you model self-control, you show your children that they can work out problems without resorting to acting out in anger.
Studies confirm that children with angry parents are not as empathetic. These kids don’t do as well in school, and they are more depressed and aggressive (Taylor, 2011),
Anger affects a child’s ability to adapt to society. A parent’s anger can shake a child to their core, and the younger the child, the more severe the damage. The study did not refer to infrequent outbursts but regular parental tirades that communicate shame and that the world is not safe.
Tips to Keep Yourself Calm
To avoid losing your cool, try the following tips:
- Remember your child as a baby. This will take you out of the moment, when he or she might not be quite so adorable, and into your memory of that sweet baby.
- Take a break. We hear about giving kids a timeout, but give yourself one. Leave the room even if you just need a few minutes. Regroup and calm yourself (Collingwood, 2017).
- Sundance Canyon Acaemy. (2015, June 18). 5 Ways To Stop Fighting With Your Troublesome Teen. Retrieved from: https://www.sundancecanyonacademy.com/5-ways-to-stop-fighting-with-your-troublesome-teen/
- Calechman, S. (2017, November 21). How to Change Your Mind Mid-Sentence When Talking to a Child. Retrieved from Fatherly: https://www.fatherly.com/parenting/how-to-change-mind-midsentence-with-your-child
- Collingwood, J. (2017, December 14). Tips to Reduce Family Stress. Retrieved from Psych Central: https://psychcentral.com/lib/tips-to-reduce-family-stress
- Jain, R. (2016, September 1). 50 Calm-Down Techniques to Try with Kids. Retrieved from Pysch Central: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/stress-better/2016/09/50-calm-down-techniques-to-try-with-kids keeping calm
- Stosny, S. (2015, August 7). Psychology Today. Retrieved from Why Parents Get Really Angry at Their Kids : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201508/why-parents-really-get-angry-their-kids
- Taylor, J. (2011, April 22). Be a Calm(er) Mom. Retrieved from Good Housekeeping: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/tips/a13314/anger-management-parents