Anger Management Tips for Parents: How to Handle Anger in Parenting
Do you ever get angry at your kids? Good! I’m not alone. A reader named Melanie has also experienced it, and she wrote to me:
Thank you so much for all that you do. Your work has changed our family life forever. I’m wondering about feeling angry. I know that we’re not supposed to yell at our kids, but do you think it’s okay to say, “You’re making me so mad.” or “I’m so mad at you.” ? If not, why not?
I think authenticity is incredibly important and I think NOT saying I’m mad when I am or pretending I’m not is like silencing myself and suppressing my feelings. That can’t be a good model for my kids can it? Isn’t feeling angry just a human emotion that children need to witness as well?
Looking forward to hearing your perspective on this,
Firstly, I invite you to watch my video all about anger.
Anger is a natural thing that all of us are going to feel from time to time. Depending on your temperament, and how you were raised, your body and your words are going to come out differently when you’re angry. It might be something that you really struggle with, like I do.
Anger is a natural feeling. You DO have a right to feel your feelings. Your feelings are justified. It’s OK for you to feel angry. So beating yourself up about this or feeling guilty, certainly won’t help. However, let’s differentiate between how you feel, and how you behave. Feeling angry – that’s OK. Unleashing your anger on someone and acting it out, vomiting whatever we have inside of us onto our children – not OK. The same goes for our children! We want to teach them that it’s OK to be mad or sad, jealous, but it’s not OK for hem to hit, grab, or yell at someone. The other thing to know about feelings is that WE have to take responsibility for them.
Other people don’t MAKE us angry. We don’t get mad AT other people. We get mad within ourselves. There was an external trigger for it. Something stimulated our anger. It’s our own interpretation of that specific situation though, that ‘made’ us angry. And here’s the clincher: The fact that we get angry doesn’t give us license to blame or shame someone else’s behavior.
- You can disagree with your children’s behavior.
- You can think that they need guidance, or consequences.
- They may need a lot of teaching around what they’ve done to understand that it wasn’t OK.
You are still not responsible for your emotional reaction. Saying “I’m feeling very angry right now,” is very different from saying “You’re making me angry.” This may sound like only a semantical difference but I think there’s actually an essential difference in how we’re treating the other person, what we’re putting on them, and what we’re putting on ourselves. So we want to shy away from telling children, “You made me mad!”
Anger is a growth opportunity. Anger is a growth opportunity. Anger is the moment that we can step into the peaceful person that we want to be. It’s very easy on the yoga mat, in meditation, or when your at at retreat. It’s very hard and very meaningful when we can rise above and become peaceful in moment of being triggered. It’s when the prefrontal cortex is actually offline and the body is being driven by the reptilian brain, by a reactive brain. It’s a glorious opportunity to rise above and become peaceful. The moment the anger wants us to get really really loud, is the moment that we get really quiet. It’s in the resistance to the tyranny of anger, that we can grow into the peaceful people that we want to be. It’s in distancing yourself from the anger – and realizing that it’s not TRUE to say “I am angry” because you are not an adjective, nor an emotion itself. Instead we differentiate ourselves and think “Oh! This is anger trying to control me.”
We allow anger to speak TO us, but not FOR us. We are not its messenger, but we listen to it!
- Hmm. Why did anger come to visit at that moment?
- What is anger telling me?
- Which boundary been crossed?
- What story was I telling myself?
- How was I allowing myself to be treated in away that I don’t want to be treated?
- How was I disrespecting myself?
- How am I trespassing over my own boundaries and limits?
That’s listening to anger, understanding, and drawing important conclusions for the future. So when you’re in that moment where you want to unleash, cause pain, shame, blame, and YELL here are 3 things you can do to stop yourself from releasing that venom.
- Stop Yourself – Dr. Laura Markham recognizes this as the first step in her sequence of Stop, drop, and breathe. Pull yourself back and say you need a break. Do something crazy to express energy, like wiggling your whole body. Excuse yourself if you can and ask another adult or even another child if you can, explaining that this isn’t their fault, but you really need a break to go and calm down. Inhibit yourself as if you were on camera or being watched. This is not about suppression of your feelings, but not acting on your anger.
- Wait until The Feelings Pass – This is very hard if you’re a hurricane, who blows when they’re angry and sweeps everyone up around them. Turtles retreat, stonewall, and go into their shells (Harville Hendrix refers to Hurricanes and Turtles). This is the place we DON’T act. Instead we wait. Express your anger through art, journaling, dance. Let it out -just not on someone else. Talk to a therapist or friend. If you’re stuck with your children, then change up the atmosphere. Watch a movie. Go on a walk, or go upside down. This will really help to let your emotions move through you. All emotions pass.
- Express Yourself in a Mindful Way – You can’t wait until later to say to your dog “Hey I really didn’t like that when you peed on the couch, ” but you can do that with your kids. For example, “I got really upset when this happened and here’s why…Here’s what I feel about it.” This is about getting close, feeling cuddly, and getting calm. Having a bit of a laugh is great! Hold your child’s goodness to light and say, “I know that you’re such a good kid, and that you don’t mean any harm by this, but it didn’t feel quite right to me. Can we have a conversation about it?” Understand that it’s about listening to their side and the fact that we may have missed an entire perspective! Use non-violent communication and connection at a time and in a place that feels good. This would also be the time to apologize!
The sense of pride you feel when you manage to stay calm in a situation that used to trigger you, is no small feat. That sense of pride is growth. Our children deserve to see leadership that takes responsibility and takes action! So if we bring in remorse and reform to show that we’re taking that two-pronged approach to tackling our anger problem, then I think we’re doing the very best we can.
Have you ever found yourself in the throws of anger? Do you find managing your temper to be difficult sometimes? I want to hear about it in the comments. What’s the role of anger in parenting, and what does it feel like for you? Let me know in the comments below.