How To Parent When You Are Angry

by John Hoffman

This might sound like a negative topic for a blog. But actually it’s pretty important. Raising children is an emotional experience. Positive emotions give us a good kind of energy that helps us connect with our kids and enjoy them. That helps us to be good parents.

But any dad (or mom) quickly learns anger is part of raising children too. Unfortunately, anger and other negative emotions suck the energy out of us. That makes it harder to be a good parent. So knowing how to parent reasonably well when you’re angry is an important dad skill.

I’m not going to pretend that this is a simple skill that can be learned easily from a blog. But here are few ideas that might help.

Accept that negative emotions are inevitable. Don’t kick yourself for getting angry with your kids sometimes. It happens to all parents. Just try to deal with it as well as you can and move on. If you do a good job of managing your own anger, your children will learn important lessons about how to handle their own emotions.

Avoid making important decisions and choices when you are angry. There’s a very old saying. “When angry, count to ten before you speak. If you’re very angry, count to 100.” There’s a good reason for that. When we’re upset we are all in danger of saying and doing things we will regret later. So resist the urge to deliver lesson-giving lectures or make important discipline decisions when you’re very angry. Usually there is no need to respond right away (unless there is a safety issue). Wait until you have calmed down. Whatever you have to say, it can wait. And you’ll say it better (and your kids will hear it better) if you say it later, when you’ve had some time to settle down and think about what you need to say.

Take a time-out. If you’re extremely upset it is often wiser to leave your child alone for a few minutes, than to do something you might regret later. If another adult is available, get them to take over.

Apologize for your overly angry words and deeds. All parents make angry mistakes sometimes. If you’ve done something you shouldn’t have done, you can’t take it back. But you can lessen the damage by saying you’re sorry. “I was really angry when I called you an idiot and I didn’t really mean it. I’m sorry.” Apologizing doesn’t make you seem weak to your children. It shows them that you care and that you are fair minded. It also sets a good example for them. Children need to learn how to repair their own angry mistakes. They can learn a lot from your example.

Ask for help. If you are angry a lot of the time, that’s not good. Not good for you, your kids or your partner. Chronic anger means something. Maybe your child’s behaviour is particularly challenging and your family needs expert help. Maybe you need more support from your family and friends. Anger can be a symptom of high stress levels*. It can even be a symptom of depression. So, if you are angry a lot of the time, seek help. Asking for help is not the sign of a bad dad. It’s the sign of a good man who wants to be the best parent he can be.

*The Psychology Foundation of Canada recently launched an online self-help management tool called Stress Strategies (www.StressStrategies.ca). The tool guides you through a problem-solving process designed to: help you understand your stress, choose a stress management strategy that makes sense for you and find resources that can help people solve problems that cause stress.

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