Anger is a perfectly normal human emotion, and all parents and carers will feel frustrated, stressed and angry with their children at some point. As we approach Anger Awareness Week (1-7 December) senior social worker and mentor Pam Rowe looks at ways to deal with our anger in a healthier way and set a better example to our kids on how to stay calm and not lose control…
It will come as no surprise that parents, being human after all, experience the same emotions as they did before parenthood –chief among these being sadness, anger, happiness, and great joy. It’s what makes us normal. The difference when you are a parent is that having children is a serious responsibility to fulfil. There is a little person around (a child), who is soaking up and learning from everything that you do. They are continually learning from what you say (or don’t say) but mostly from what you do and how you behave. They are learning about how they should react by watching how you react.
Parents can often become overwhelmed with the responsibility of parenting. They have worries and concerns about having enough money, over making sure their children have somewhere suitable to live and are safe, and how they are learning and getting on at school. These challenges, and then coping with any behaviour that is difficult to handle, can quite naturally sometimes tip you over the edge and result in feelings of anger. But when the red mist falls and we don’t give ourselves time to calm down, we might say or do unhelpful things that can never be taken back.
When you are angry, little people (children) know, whether you are angry with them or with someone else. Remember how you just knew when your mum and dad were angry with each other, or when there was tension in the home. Your child is the same. They know. The hint may be the fact that you are shouting, crying, or even whispering. Your body language is a giveaway as well. The bright sparks (our children) see it, hear it, and can even feel it.
How you handle your anger is teaching your little person how they should handle theirs. If they shout or hit out at others, take a minute to consider where or how they learnt that behaviour.
Developing a mind-set that will help to deal with anger healthily
Remember that you matter
It’s not selfish to want to do what makes you feel good about you. Pay attention to the things that make you feel bad about yourself. Take steps to talk about them, to avoid and stop them. Talk to a friend, your husband, wife or partner, a relative, just someone who will listen. Talking honestly about how you feel will stop you bottling things up and it spilling out when you least expect it –like the next time your child asks you for the fifth time whether they can have sweets before dinner or demands yet another new game for their iPad.
To look after your mental wellbeing consider using physical activities such as yoga, meditation, exercise, all of which can help reduce stress and get rid of anger and irritation. Never forget to value yourself and occasionally treat yourself to something nice just for you, even if it’s only your favourite coffee.
Stay connected with your memories about what it was like to be a child.
Remember how essential adults were to you when you were young. How much you relied upon them to guide you. Put yourself in the place of a child. You were one once.Being around a lot of conflict and yelling is frightening for children.
How to control anger and not let it control you
Step 1: Acknowledge how you are feeling – say it out loud, “I feel angry”. This causes a break in the emotional energy and gives you a chance of controlling it.
Step 2: Handle how you feel, your emotions. Yes, you can handle your feelings. Feelings don’t have to drive your actions blindly. You know how to do this. An example of the control you exercise every day when you weigh up whether it’s appropriate to comment on what a friend is wearing, or when you are driving and make a decision not to react to someone cutting into your lane or when you decide to wait for another time because you know it will have a more significant impact.
You can feel whatever emotion that has been triggered, but if you exercise restraint and take a minute to think before you act, it will pay off.
Step 3: Take diversionary action rather than vent your anger at a child. Step away for a minute. Take a break and go and do something else.
Step 4: Think about how you might divert your child from the action that is making you angry.
Step 5: Learn about child development and techniques to help children behave well. This will ensure there is less need for your anger triggers to be activated. Take preventive action.
Step 6: Consider whether you need long-term help to manage how you feel. Is the mismanagement of angry feelings a long-standing problem that you can trace back to childhood? If so, don’t hesitate to get therapy/counselling. A parent who is emotionally healthy is more likely to bring up children who are emotionally healthy. If you notice your emotional life, you are likely to be able to help them with theirs. It’s as important as feeding and sheltering children.
Step 7: Ask those around you to help you with your quest to handle your emotions better. Ask a friend, partner, or someone whom you trust to help you with this. You will find that it is helpful to others who may be struggling with how to prevent themselves venting their anger on a child too.
About the author
Pam Rowe has over thirty years of experience in social work. For the majority of her career she managed, led, inspected and project-managed improvements in Children’s Services. Pam also consults as a mentor and coach to a range of leaders and believes that dealing with ourselves and our self-limiting beliefs is the key to playing our part in contributing positively to mankind.
Clear Water by Pam Rowe is out now, priced £16.99. To find out more visit pamrowe.com