It’s not hiding in one of my closets or under the bed. It’s real and living among my family. For some reason, it seems to rear its ferocious self most frequently when my children start bickering with each other, when they won’t get ready for bed without endlessly arguing their need to stay up late, or when they ask for the fourth night in a row why we can’t order pizza instead of eating the “disgusting” dinner I just made for them!
I admit it. That sometimes unrecognizable angry monster happens to be me. I have come to realize that during the course of any given day or week, my children will inevitably say, do, or not do something that just sets me off. I think of it as the Jekyll and Hyde of parenting. Most parents probably experience this strange metamorphosis themselves.
Some days you feel so in control and able to handle the many challenges your children present to you, and other days… well, let’s just say you may not be so in control. And that is when the monster steps in to take your place. You may find yourself getting angry with your children – sometimes over the littlest things – and then feeling guiltyafterwards about how you handled the situation. It seems surprising because you may start the day being the most rational and calm person, thinking you should be able to handle almost anything, only to find yourself transformed into some unknown out-of-control monster.
WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?
There is a mistaken belief that most parents don’t yell, get mad or seethe with resentment. The reality is everyone gets angry to one degree or another; even the most loving, caring parents lose it sometimes. It almost seems to come with the territory of parenting: the long days (and nights), the all-too-frequent demands from your children, and all that bickering (which I know is really normal and sometimes even healthy). So what is a parent who is on the verge of becoming the Anger Monster to do?
HOW CAN WE GET RID OF THIS MONSTER?
The first step in managing your anger is to learn to accept your feelings as normal and to establish more realistic goals for handling them. That is, you can realize that anger is not so much a bad thing that you need to get rid of as it is a normal part of life – an emotion you can tame and express in ways that do not hurt, insult, demean, or inspire revenge in your children. This view is not an easy one to adopt, and, in fact, you may have to work on anger management throughout your life. You are not born knowing how to manage and express anger in constructive ways; however, you can learn these skills.
The next step is to look at the source of your anger. Often anger is a cover for some underlying issue or emotion. For example, if a young child runs into the street, his parent’s natural reaction might be to get angry and yell at the child for what he has done. But the emotion that triggered the parent’s angry outburst may really be fear – fear that the child may have been hit by a car. It is very common for parents to mask their primary feelings with anger. Unfortunately, children often become easy targets for that secondary emotion of anger. So the next time the Anger Monster shows up, it may be less scary to both you and your children if you take a step back, uncover what the underlying issues are, and then share those feelings with them.
Expressing anger in constructive and healthy ways can be one of the most challenging tasks parents have to master. But planning how you might respond the next time you find yourself transforming into a monster can help you to stay focused during an angry encounter. The following list of tips can be useful in helping you keep your anger monster in check.
- Take time for yourself. This is really important because when your needs are met, you are in a much better position to meet the needs of your children. If you are not over-worked and stressed-out, you will be less likely to be drawn into arguments and more likely to face challenges with greater energy and good humor.
- Choose your battles. Decide which rules and issues are really important and focus on those. Let less important issues go.
- Give yourself a time-out. You are much better off walking away from a situation to calm yourself down than jumping in and saying or doing something that you may later regret. Take the time to think clearly about how you can respond in a constructive – not destructive – way. A few moments may be all you need.
- Send “I” messages when you are angry. Focus on how you are feeling and not on attacking your children. “I get really angry when it is time to do homework and you are still watching TV!”
- Avoid physical force and threats. Both hurt and damage a child’s self-esteem – often leaving you feeling not so great either – and really chip away at a healthy relationship with your kids.
- Restore good feelings. It is inevitable that the monster is going to show up sometimes but that doesn’t mean it is the end of the world (or the relationship). Later on it is a good idea to apologize for losing your temper and then initiate a discussion about how you both could have handled the situation differently.
- Go easy on yourself. Parenting really is tough; some anger is inevitable; and it isn’t fair to you or your family if your expectations for yourself are unrealistic.
Learning to express anger in healthier ways is a gift you can give your family. And the double benefit is that as you learn to keep your own Anger Monster under control, you are also teaching your children to do the same for themselves when they feel angry.By Deanna Bosley, Certified Parenting Educator
For more information about managing anger, check out the following books. Purchasing from Amazon.com through our website supports the work we do to help parents do the best job they can to raise their children.
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