The most common thing that parents would like to change about themselves is the way they shout at (or occasionally smack) their child. It is normal and natural to experience anger –it is there as a warning that something is wrong and needs to change. But in the short-term what can you do when your little one is pushing all your buttons and you want to keep your cool?
In the heat of the moment
Look at the list below and find something that could work for you:
- Stop and think before you act. If it helps pretend you have a pause button on a remote control and physically press the button.
- Try to act calm, even if you don’t feel it
- Take a few deep breaths, say the alphabet backwards or count to ten in your head
- Say a mantra in your head ‘I can be the adult here’, ‘I can handle it’. ‘He’s/she’s only a child’ or ‘Keep calm’.
- Ask yourself ‘What exactly am I angry about?’
- Walk away if your child is safe. Say ‘I need some time to calm down’
- Find something else to do for a minute or two –make a cup of tea, put some music on loud (Abba is great!) or look out of the window.
- Pretend that it is a friend’s child and act how you would if that was true
- Pretend someone you admire is in the room with you, such as a good friend. Even imagining your mother-in-law on the sofa can help!
- Visualise yourself picking up your emotions and putting them down next to you. You can pick them up later and deal with them when you are calm
- Say ‘we can talk about this later, but right now I am feeling too wound up’
Practice whatever technique you choose at least fifteen times so you can access it easily when the red mist descends!
When it is safe, later on
- If you need to go to a private place and scream, but not where your child can hear you.
- Do something physical such as punching a pillow, vigorous exercise or running on the spot
- Go to a mirror and say all the angry things you would like, pretending that you are talking to your child.
Longer-term anger management
In the long-term you may need to think about some ways to help reduce your anger erupting.
- Work out what rules you want to have in place, and plan any consequences if the rules are broken. This way you will have a plan of action and both you and your child will know what will happen. It helps you to stay calm and in control.
- Plan to have some time to yourself occasionally or time to enjoy yourself- it will help re-charge your batteries and help you feel better when you feel stressed. Plan to swap babysitting with a friend if you need to.
- Give your child plenty of attention (and descriptive praise) for being good. Plan to spend regular, positive one-to-one time when you can. It will stop your child feeling they need to be naughty to get your attention
- Think whether your behaviour is helping your relationship with your child in the long-term. Sometimes this can help change your perspective and concentrate on what is really important.
- Think about what caused you to get angry. Sometimes we need to change the way we think. Ask yourself
- What evidence do I have that this is accurate?
- Is there another possible explanation for what is going on here?
- What can I do to have some control over the situation? o
- If my best friend was in the same situation, what would I say to them?
- Very often our children are not being naughty, but are experimenting with behaviour or being curious. It is important to be aware of their stage of development and re-frame what we are saying in our heads about why they behave in a certain way.
- If we have allowed our child to behave in a certain way it is up to us to tackle the behaviour, by setting up a routine, or having a new rule with rewards and consequences.
- Learn how to say things in an assertive way. Use phrases such as ‘I feel…..When…. Because…..And I want…….’
- Practice giving instructions in a calm, polite manner. Give clear, brief commands in a firm tone.
- It may be good to start an exercise programme, non-contact competitive sport or take up a martial art. Exercise can help get some of that physical energy out of our system in a controlled way.
- Plan some regular relaxation or meditation. At least once a week, but every day if you can.
- Sit down and take a long honest look at why you are getting angry. You may be able to identify what is causing you to feel frustrated, and what you can change to make things easier for yourself.
- Remember that your children will learn how to manage their own anger and frustrations from watching you.
You can really help your child by learning how to keep your anger under control, express yourself assertively and show them appropriate ways of dealing constructively with anger.
Please let me know if this blog was useful or if there is anything you would add. I would love to know what you think.