Everyone gets irritated every now and again. But for overwhelmed, overworked and tired parents, irritation can quickly turn into anger. It's only natural, moms and dads, to get unpleasant and hard-to-handle emotional reactions. What is important is we know how to respond when we feel them and what we do after when we mess up.
It can be near impossible to calm down when you’re in the height of all that intense feelings of anger. Experts will tell you that most important thing to remember at this moment is not to act upon your anger. You will have the urge to yell or scream at your child but remember, this is the anger telling you to do so. So how do you not give in?
1. Get to know the situations that can trigger your anger. Based on past experiences, get to know what often made you mad. For example, you’ve just come home from a long day at work, and you’re exhausted and cranky. You know already you can't tolerate too much noise from the kids; you're likely to yell and be angry when this happens. So anticipate and learn what you can do so things don’t get to that point. Sometimes all you need to do is sit down with the kids and explain what you want from them before it even happens.
2. Change your perspective. Understand what’s causing your child to be upset in the first place. Focus on your child, psychologist Matthew McKay, a professor at the Wright Institute and co-author of When Anger Hurts Your Kids, told Good Housekeeping. If he’s crying, don’t immediately shout at him to stop. If he’s crying, don’t immediately shout at him to stop. Is he having a tantrum at the mall because he’s tired and wants to go home? Maybe he’s hungry or wants your attention.
3. Step back and calm down. Be aware of your bubbling anger and acknowledge that it’s there (“I’m really angry right now”). “If you can instead breathe deeply and tolerate the angry feelings, you will probably notice that right under the anger is fear, sadness, disappointment. Let yourself feel those feelings and the anger will melt away,” says Dr. Laura Markham, psychologist and parenting expert, in an article for Psychology Today.
You can also try stepping away from your upset child and come back when you’re calmer and more ready to deal with the situation.
4. Think about the real reason for your anger. Ask yourself: “What problem is making me angry?” It will usually point to an area in your life that needs attention or solving. “Sometimes the answer is clearly related to our parenting: we need to enforce rules before things get out of hand, or start putting the children to bed half an hour earlier, or do some repair work on our relationship with our child so that she stops treating us rudely,” says Dr. Markham.
5. Let it go. Sometimes we get mad at things, which in hindsight, aren’t worth getting worked up about anyway. Your child takes off his school uniform and leaves it on the bed -- again -- instead of putting it in the laundry bin. It can drive you crazy, but Dr. Markham says situations like this are not worth jeopardizing you and your child’s relationship.
“Remember that the more positive and connected your relationship with your child is, the more likely he is to follow your direction.”
Some questions you can reflect on include: “How important is this? Why am I so upset about it?” and “Do I need to do something about this, or can I just let it go?”
If you find it increasingly difficult to manage your anger, and it’s affecting your relationships at home and outside, you may want to consider talking to your partner and a friend about it. Don't count out professional help as well. Sometimes talking to a stranger can help you see things clearly and give you the calm you need.