A Parent's Anger
Question: I find myself getting angry with my kids much too often. I can't seem to help myself - they really know how to push my buttons. When they purposely disobey me, or are outright disrespectful, I fly off the handle. How can I control my own anger when it's the kids' misbehavior that makes me so mad?
Think about it: Is it your children's misbehavior that makes you angry? Or is it your view of their behavior that creates angry feelings? There's a big difference. The first question suggests that you have no control over your emotions or actions. The second implies that by changing your view you can change your reaction.
Time Out is for big people too: Put some space between you and the child who's pushing your buttons. When you feel your anger rising, either put your child in time out, or put yourself there! A few minutes away from the source of your angry feelings can help you calm down enough to address the situation rationally. Nothing can be solved in a fit of anger. You'll be better off if you take the time to calm down and then approach your child from a position of strength.
What's normal? Learn more about child development by reading a book or taking a class. If you learn that your child's current behavior is age-appropriate and normal, you'll be less likely to overreact to the behavior. It's amazing how alike children are, and just knowing that your kid is responding in a typical way can help you handle the issue with a level head. A great series of books are those written by Dr. Louise Bates Ames – Your One-Year-Old, Your Two-Year-Old, etc.
Don't hit: If your anger causes you to strike out at your child, you'll need to learn ways to control your outburst. A creative solution is to channel your physical reaction into a burst of applause! Seriously, when you feel yourself about to strike, simply clap your hands, good and hard and fast, while you express your feelings of anger. Try it now! Pretend you're angry, clap your hands, and tell your imaginary child how you feel. You'll find that in addition to releasing your pent-up anger it sends a very clear message to your child.
Act – don't react: Take the time to think about the things that make you angry. Put together a list of family rules. Enumerate the consequences for breaking the rules. Communicate clear expectations to your children. Decide in advance what methods of discipline you will use. If you have a plan up front, you'll be less likely to lose control when your children misbehave.
Hug 'em: When you find yourself ready to put your hands around your kid and shake him, DO put your hands around him – and love him. Embrace him in a hug. If possible, do this in front of a mirror or reflective window. A few minutes of quiet, while you embrace your child, will often temper your angry feelings with the strong feeling of love between you.