Controlling Parental Anger (page 2)
How to Keep Your Cool
Mike works all day ... long, hard hours. He has a successful business and works hard to keep a good relationship with his clients and employees. But 10 minutes with Annie, his four-year-old, and he becomes a rage-a-holic.
Every night when he comes home, he just wants to relax and read the newspaper, but Annie wants to play. He tells her nicely to watch TV, and she refuses.
Suddenly lightening hits, and he's screaming at her and stomping around the house. He's in a rage … slamming doors, you name it … He can’t control himself."
Anyone can be angry … even the most able and mild-mannered parent. Parents like Mike worry about the frequency and intensity of anger they feel toward their children. A lot of this anger comes from utter frustration -- not knowing how to manage children's behavior. Anger also occurs when a child falls short of a parent's expectations, when kids embarrass their parents in public, and when they show disrespect.
Unresolved frustration leads to distress, and frequent angry outbursts ensue.
Anger Doesn't Work
Parents’ uncontrollable outbursts rarely improve children's behavior. Don't you secretly wish they would? Wouldn't parenting be easier if you could yell at your child, "Get dressed right now, young lady. Stop playing around and wasting time. You're going to make me late for work and I’ll lose my job," and your daughter would jump into her clothes and then climb into the car, waiting patiently while you put on your makeup and make one quick phone call?
You might think a child would comply with angry demands to avoid the unpleasantness of these scenes, but that usually isn't the case. Some children become immune to your anger; they ignore it, while for others, anger has a contagious effect; children fight back with an angry defensive response of their own.
Parents need to find effective, realistic ways to deal with anger. Children are gifts … treasures … jewels. As angry as you may be, remember how much you love them. Never let yourself forget that – first and foremost.
If you were treated with anger when you were a child, remember it and feel it. Remember how bad it felt? So why would you want to inflict the same hurt on your children?
Find The Balance
Even though anger is not the emotion you want pervading your household, it's unrealistic to think that you will always be a calm "Brady Bunch" kind of mom or dad. If you suppress your anger so much that you're like a smoldering volcano, eventually you’ll blow , but on the other hand you can't allow your fury to run unchecked.
How Do You Strike A Balance?
Understand that you'll always respond more effectively if you notice when those feelings of anger are starting to well up, while they're still at a low level of intensity.
- When your anger starts to build, stop, count to 10, and take some deep breaths.
- Move slowly toward your child and get on his or her level; sit on the floor near your toddler or preschooler; sit on the sofa next to your older child.
- If you are truly ready to explode, call a neighbor and ask them to stay with the kids while you out for a walk.
- Leave the house as soon as you can find someone to stay with the kids.
Now, What Do You Say?
Tell your child that you are starting to get angry. Describe the exact situation that's provoking your anger: "Your toys are scattered all over the floor."
Explain what you want done about it, and put a time limit on it: "Dinner will be in 10 minutes. I expect them to be cleaned up and put away before we eat. I'll set the timer."
Progress, Not Perfection
It’s a given that children's naughty behavior provokes anger in their parents. Learning new responses takes a lot of effort, and change comes slowly. If you succeed once a week in using your anger productively to improve children's behavior, give yourself credit for small successes. It takes time and it takes patience.
Know When To Get Help
If you feel that your children have taken away your freedom, are depleting your finances and are draining your energy, and you’re unleashing anger at them because of that – it’s not fair! Now is the time to seek professional assistance to manage your own internal struggles.
Working Through The Problem
In the case of Mike and his daughter Annie, Mike had to decide what he wanted to occur every night and then find a constructive way to make it happen. With the help of a counselor, he worked through the problem. He identified his need for some peace and quiet when he arrived home from work, but realized that Annie needed him, too.
He was determined to give Annie his first five minutes once he got home, watching TV with her. He couldn’t believe how this little bit of attention worked, and it freed Mike to read the newspaper in quiet.
Anger shrinks intimacy and keeps children at an emotional distance. It can take over your home and destroy the parent-child relationship. If you learn how to manage anger, your children will learn to express anger as you do.
Establish Your Equilibrium
When your anger gets the best of you, do something to bring yourself back to your emotional equilibrium – turn on some music, take a nap, go for a walk, call a friend. After, try to secure your relationship with your child, spend some time together in a mutually enjoyable activity.
Love, nurturing and joy should be the overriding feelings expressed in your home. And when those overwhelming feelings of anger do well up, if you can't think of anything else to do or say, take a deep breath, shift into low gear and focus away from your child. You'll like yourself better in the morning.
Tried and tested strategies to smooth out turbulent parenting waters for every parent:
Offer A Choice
Your child’s friend came over to play. You hear name-calling. "You're stupid." "You're a geek." "Well, you're a nerd." Instead of getting angry and yelling "Just stop that right now!" offer a choice: "I hear name-calling. You have a choice. Either the name-calling must stop, or your friend must go home." If you hear name-calling again, send the friend home with an apology and the hope of a better playtime together tomorrow.
Express Your Feelings
You’re exhausted from a long day at work, you walk in the door to the annoying sounds of your kids screaming "She ruined my game." "I didn't mean to; it's just a stupid old game anyway." "It's my favorite game. I hate having a little sister." Instead of blaming them by saying "You kids are making me so mad! I work hard all day and don’t need to come home to this fighting." Instead, express your feelings: "I'm crabby. I've had a terrible day. When I hear fighting, it makes me crabbier. Get a snack. I'm taking a bath."
Accept Your Child's Feelings
Your daughter is insulting her stepsister who is visiting for the weekend. Instead of saying “You're being rude and jealous" in an angry voice, accept your child's feelings by saying "I understand it's difficult to share your dad when your stepsister comes for the weekend, but I will not allow you to be rude." If the rudeness continues, send her to her bedroom for some quiet time.
State A Rule
The children's disagreement have come to blows. Rather than scream an angry threat like "That hitting must stop instantly or we’re not going to the movie!" state a rule by saying "Hitting is not allowed. Suzie, you empty the dishwasher and Michael, make your bed. We'll discuss the movie when your chores are done and you've calmed down."
Assert Your Values
Your child is attempting homework in front of the TV. Instead of nagging "Do your homework," "Do your homework or you won't get good grades," "You'd better do your homework or you won't get into college” assert your values: "Homework is more important than TV. The TV goes off until homework is done."
Cope With Your Child’s Feelings
Children's feelings of anger, jealousy, and even hatred need to be acknowledged and allowed appropriate expression. By accepting children's strong feelings, you can show them their feelings are part of normal human experience. It’s actually helpful for you to tell a child that all people feel these ways at times.
Help children learn acceptable ways to express strong feelings. When their expressions are hurtful or demeaning, redirect them. Ask your child to rephrase anger in a more acceptable manner, but allow your child the right to feel angry.
Often you must tell your child what a better or more appropriate way might be. You could say, "When you're mad at me, this is how I'd like you to tell me: 'What you said made me so angry.' Then I can listen better to your feelings and be more willing to try and work things out."
State angry feelings without accusing anyone. Parental anger is a useful tool when it is expressed in nonjudgmental language.
When you firmly state your anger, you emphasize the rules and let children know clearly and strongly how you feel.
Match Words To Feelings
Match your expressions of anger to the way you really feel. If you are only mildly annoyed say, "I'm a bit annoyed" or "This is irritating me." If you are very angry, it is more appropriate to say, "I'm very mad about this" or "This has made me very angry."
Avoid yelling and shouting; instead express your anger in a firm voice. Never expose children to hurtful anger.
It is normal for parents to feel frustrated by children. Unfortunately, though, when some parents feel this way they frequently vent their anger by saying to their children, "I could kill you for that!" or "I'll wring your neck!"
For that parent, these are empty words, spoken without forethought. But expressions such as these are damaging to a child. Even though you don't mean these statements and have absolutely no intention of carrying them out, your child, however, does not know this.
These expressions of hurtful anger should never be said by parents to children of any age.
Find other ways to vent your anger. Give safe expression to your feelings. All parents do get intensely angry at their children at times.
How can you get relief? First, make sure your child is safe and then give yourself a moment alone to allow these feelings silent expression. After thinking through the feelings or even saying them out loud to yourself or a friend privately, you will feel better. Take a deep breath and return to your child, ready to state your anger in a helpful way.
Never humiliate or degrade your child. Aim your disapproval at your child's behavior, not character. Instead of saying, "You're a rotten kid," you can say, "I don't like what you're doing right now."
Timing is important. Sometimes we plunge in too quickly to handle a situation and end up saying or doing something we wish we hadn't. Take some time before rushing into a situation. Except in a true emergency, there are always a few seconds, even minutes, to spare. Leave the room if you need to, take a deep breath and ask yourself, "What do I really want to accomplish here?" After finding a positive response, go in and handle the situation.
Sometimes we don't intervene soon enough. Don't wait until your anger and the child's behavior are out of control. Go in and set the limit before the situation goes too far.
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