1. Heal your angry past
Parenting can be therapeutic. It can show you where your problems are and motivate you to fix them. If your
past is loaded with unresolved anger, take steps to heal yourself before you
wind up harming your child. Studies have shown that children whose mothers often
express anger are more likely to be difficult to discipline. Identify problems
in your past that could contribute to present anger. Were you abused or harshly
punished as a child? Do you have difficulty controlling your temper? Do you
sense a lack of inner peace? Identify present situations that are making you
angry, such as dissatisfaction with job, spouse, self, child. Remember, you
mirror your emotions. If your child sees a chronically angry face and hears an
angry voice, that's the person he is more likely to become.
2. Keep your perspective
Every person has an anger button. Some
so anger prone that when they explode the family dog hides. Try this exercise.
First, divide your children's "misbehaviors" into smallies (nuisances and annoyances) which are not worth the wear and tear
of getting angry about, and biggies (hurting self, others, and property) which
demand a response, for your own sake and your child's.
Next, condition yourself so that you don't let the smallies bother you. Here
are some "tapes" to play in your mind the next time you or your child spills
something: "I'm angry, but I can control myself." "Accidents happen."
"I'm the adult here." "I'm mad at the mess, not the child." "I'll
keep calm, and we'll all learn something."
Rehearse this exercise over and over by play acting. Add in some lines for
you to deliver: "oops! I made a mess." "I'll grab a towel." "It's
ok! I'll help you clean it up." You may notice a big contrast between this and
what you heard as a child. You may also notice it won't be as easy as it sounds.
When a real-life smallie occurs, you're more conditioned to control yourself.
You can take a deep breath, walk away, keep cool, plan your strategy and return
to the scene. For example, a child smears paint on the wall. You have
conditioned yourself not to explode You're naturally angry and it's helpful for
your child to see your displeasure. You go through your brief "no" lecture
firmly, but without yelling. Then you call for a time-out. Once you have calmed
down, insist the child (if old enough) help you clean up the mess. Being in
control of your anger gives your child the message, "Mommy's angry, and she has
a right to be this way. She doesn't like what I did, but she still likes me and
thinks I'm capable enough to help clean up after myself."
We find going into a rage is often harder on us than the child. It leaves us
feeling drained. Oftentimes, it's our after-anger feeling that bothers us more
than the shoe thrown into the toilet. Once we realized that we could control our
feelings more easily than our children can control their behavior, we were able
to endure these annoying stages of childhood, and life with our kids became much
easier. And when we do get mad at a child, we don't let the anger escalate until
we become furious at ourselves for losing control.
- Mad at child
- Mad at self
- More mad at child for causing you to get mad at yourself
- Mad at being mad
You can break this cycle at any point to protect yourself and your child.
3. Make anger your ally Emotions serve a purpose. Healthy anger
to fix the problem, first because you're not going to let your child's behavior
go uncorrected, and second because you don't like how the child's misbehavior
bothers you. This is helpful anger. I have always had a low tolerance for
babies' screams. At around age fifteen months our eighth
child, Lauren, developed an ear-piercing shriek that sent my blood pressure
skyrocketing. Either my tolerance was decreasing or my ears were getting more
tender with age, but Lauren's cry pushed my anger button. I didn't like her for
it. I didn't like myself for not liking her. It might have been easier to deal
with the problem if I had not been feeling angry. But because I was angry and
realized it affected my attitude toward Lauren, I was impelled to do something
about her cry, which I believed was an unbecoming behavior that didn't fit into
this otherwise delightful little person. So instead of focusing on how much I
hated those sounds, I focused on what situations triggered the shrieks. I tried
to anticipate those triggers. I discovered that when Lauren was bored, tired,
hungry, or ignored, she shrieked. She is a little person who needs a quick
response and the shriek got it for her. My anger motivated me to learn creative
shriek-stoppers. I've become a wiser parent. Lauren has become nicer to be
around. That's helpful anger.
Anger becomes harmful when you don't regard it as a signal to fix the cause.
You let it fester until you dislike your feelings, yourself, and the person who
caused you to feel this way. You spend your life in a tiff over smallies that
you could have ignored or biggies that you could have fixed. That's harmful
4. Quit beating yourself up Often anger flares inwardly, as well as
outwardly, over something that you don't like; but upon reflection, after a lot
of energy is spent emoting, you actually realize that the situation as it stands
now is actually better for everyone concerned. This "hindsight" keeps us humble
and helps us diffuse future flare-ups. Our motto concerning irritating mistakes
has become: "Nobody's perfect. Human nature strikes again."
5. Beware of high-risk situations that trigger anger Are you in a life
situation that makes you angry? If so, you are at risk for venting your anger on
your child. Losing a job or experiencing a similar self-esteem-breaking event
can make you justifiably angry. But realize that this makes it easier for
otherwise tolerable childish behaviors (smallies) to push you over the edge.
When you're already angry, smallies easily become biggies. If you are suddenly
the victim of an anger-producing situation, it helps to prepare your family: "I
want you all to understand that daddy may be upset from to time during the next
couple of months. I've just lost my job and
I feel very anxious about it. I will find another job, and we'll all be okay,
but if I have a short fuse and get angry at you sometimes, it's not because I
don't love you, it's because I'm having trouble liking myself..." If you do blow
your top, it's wise to apologize to your children (and expect similar apologies
from them when they lose their tempers): "Pardon me, but
I'm angry, and if I don't appear rational or appreciative, it's because I'm
struggling—it's not your fault. I'm not mad at you." It also helps to be honest
with yourself, recognize your vulnerability and keep your guard up until the
anger-causing problem is resolved. There will always be problems in your life
that you cannot control. As you become a more experienced parent—and person—you
will come to realize that the only thing in your life that you can control are
your own actions. How you handle anger can work for you or against you—and your