How to handle anger as a parent

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Child Development
Handeling Anger as a Parent

A Parent's Anger

Before parents can effectively deal with the anger of a child, they first need to be comfortable with their own feelings. Many of us grew up in homes where feelings were not allowed or where only one member of the family was allowed to be angry. We might have learned at a young age to hide our feelings or to feel guilty for them. If we are to break this dysfunctional pattern we need to rethink our reactions to the feelings expressed by others and train ourselves to deal with them differently, calmly and rationally.

If we grew up in a home where anger was accompanied by explosive or violent "actions" we might have difficulty separating "feelings" from "actions." We might find ourselves flinching at the anger of others or feeling threatened in confrontational situations. These conditioned reactions, (although once protective for us) are no longer logical or helpful. We need to realize that all feelings are OK, and that actions are the choice of individuals, to behave according to their feelings.

When our children are angry at us, it is not a threat, it is not a sin, it is just a normal part of being human. They need to learn that it is OK to feel anger, but it is not OK to act out inappropriately because of it.

Being Constantly Angry

Anger is not evil. Parents become angry as a result of frustration. Usually parents reach the boiling point before they know the heat is on. Then they try to put a lid on the anger to control it. This just increases the pressure to the exploding point. Outbursts give the offender no insight to the causes of the anger; instead they create defensiveness and perhaps even counter-anger. It is therefore more effective to dissipate your anger in frequent spurts, eliminating the chance of an explosion.

This is a lesson that should be taught to our children so that they will grow to feel comfortable venting their feelings in appropriate ways. If they have this skill they will have no need to act out in defensiveness or to explode when confronted.

Always raising your voice is an easy habit to fall into and a devastating one for the parent/child relationship. Parents often choose yelling to replace less desirable behaviors such as hitting. Still it can be as emotionally damaging for the child to be yelled at on a regular basis, especially if name-calling or character assassination is involved. This type of yelling falls into the category of abuse.

When Parents Are Upset

Remember to avoid:
  • Commanding
  • Domineering
  • Judging
  • Avoiding and Shrinking from Responsibility

The language of reproof should rarely include a loud voice. Instead of yelling share your feelings about the situation with the child.

I feel _________, About _________, Because __________.

How do I feel? What specifically was offensive? What are the ill effects?

An example might be: "I am irritated." "The counter is still sticky." "I can't cut out this dress on a dirty counter."

By letting our children know how their behavior effects others (us) we are teaching them to be thoughtful of others. By sharing how we feel about a situation we place the responsibility for improved behavior onto them (where it belongs) and takes it off the parent.

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