Do you lose your cool every time your child answers back or turns up the TV volume? While feeling angry is absolutely normal, reacting angrily to the slightest of triggers can have a lasting effect on your children. Studies show that parents who frequently lose their tempers raise children who are less empathetic, more depressed and more aggressive. Children of such parents could also end up having anger management issues when they grow up.
However, if you use a calm, controlled approach to manage your anger, you can turn common anger triggers into teaching moments for your child and ensure a happy, pleasant environment at home.
Controlling your Anger
A popular quote goes thus, “Children teach you many things. How much patience you have, for example.” As a parent, I fully appreciate this quote! Parenting is enjoyable but tough. And, even the most mild-mannered parents can lose their tempers at times with their children.
But, getting angry in response to a situation only exacerbates the problem. A valuable teaching moment then turns into an incident that ruins everyone’s day. As the old saying goes, “Anger is often more hurtful than the injury that caused it.”
What you, as a parent, need is a set of strategies to redirect your anger away from your children. This will make you focus on the problem and not the person. This may be difficult, especially if your own childhood was filled with experiences involving angry adults. Yet, you can always rewrite old scripts and make your parenting journey more effective and pleasant. Here are some easy ‘calm-down’ strategies for parents of children of all ages.
Basic Anger Management Strategies
1. Stop everything: Before taking another step or uttering another word, close your eyes and breathe. If necessary, distance yourself from the scene, perhaps by going into another room.
2. Have a ‘calm-down plan’: This can be anything – a short prayer, an affirmation or simply counting. Your head will then feel clearer and you’ll be in a better position to be objective about what happened. Tell yourself you’re the parent and in control, and that you can fix it without losing your cool.
3. Consider the situation: What really happened? Was it just something minor like a spilt drink? Or, was it something more serious like your teen staying out till midnight? As a parent, you have to pick your battles and let some things go.
4. Fix the problem: Fix any immediate problem, like cleaning up the spilt drink. How you react in such situations teaches your children valuable lessons in handling tough situations. Let them learn that you need to stay calm and keep your emotions aside when dealing with unexpected problems.
5. Discipline later: The best time to discipline your children is not when you’re angry. It’s wiser to wait till you’re calmer. Otherwise you’ll use hurtful words that you’ll regret later.
6. Keep an anger journal: If you feel that such incidents happen frequently, keep an anger journal to record the times you lose your temper. Include details of how you felt before they happened. You might identify some common triggers which you can take steps to avoid. It might also throw up a few underlying issues you weren’t aware of.
For Parents of Kids of 3–5 years
At these ages, children are still gaining mastery over their fine and gross motor skills and so are bound to frequently make a mess. Keep breakables out of reach. Establish firm boundaries about where they can and cannot go. Remember, angry words have a much greater impact on younger children and often create lasting damage.
For Parents of Kids of 6–9 years
Children of this age group are more articulate and better at understanding you when you explain your feelings. If you’ve had a hard day, tell them in advance that you’d like some peace and quiet. If you’ve prescribed certain consequences as part of disciplining them, ensure you follow through with them so they don’t test your boundaries too much.
For Parents of Kids of 9–12 years
While preteens are more empathetic towards adult problems, they’re also beginning to assert themselves. This can cause conflicts. Picking your battles is more important now. When your children know you will not compromise on issues of respect, health or safety, they are less likely to test your patience in those areas.
For Parents of Kids of 13–18 years
Teenagers can stretch any parent’s patience but your reactions now may determine the quality of your relationship with your child as an adult. When your sullen teenager answers back, it can be very hard to keep your cool, so try to visualise him as a baby. This should remind you he is still your child and needs your love and support.
In spite of your best intentions, there will be days when you end up snapping or yelling at your child. If you do get angry, apologise. This is also an important life lesson for your child – learning to accept that you’re wrong. Take some time out for self care. It helps keep general stress at bay. Practising mindfulness or meditation can keep you calm. Most importantly, remember you’re human and can slip up sometimes. Forgive yourself and move on – there is still a beautiful journey ahead!
Pratibha Pal is an avid blogger and writes regularly on her eco-parenting blog, www.pratsmusings.com, and her blog on social media, www.socialmediawired.com/blog
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