What Triggers your Anger?

“There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.”- Plato

ME (pregnant with my first child, talking to my wise, elderly Aunt Louise): “When my child is born he will be a good sleeper because my husband and I love to sleep.”

WISE, ELDERLY AUNT LOUISE: “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”

Oh, Aunt Louise, what a sage you were! You knew my love of sleep had little to do with the way my son would sleep.

But really, folks, I. Love. To. Sleep. So, when my kids were young, I was frequently sleep-deprived and very frequently cranky. I had to find ways to get some rest because, if I didn’t, I easily turned into the kind of parent I did not want to be – an angry one.

Our parental anger sometimes materializes because of an underlying issue within us that is simmering; not necessarily as a result of the actual behavior of the child. Lack of sleep was one of my main anger triggers. When I had a sleepless night, an innocuous act like my child spilling his juice at breakfast could turn me into a screaming shrew.

What are your anger triggers? Recognizing what makes you angry may help relieve some pent-up steam before an explosion erupts. Sleep-deprivation was just one of the underlying issues that made me angry; for you, it might be that you feel pulled in too many directions, have unrealistic expectations of yourself or your children, are under the weather, feel unappreciated, have been the target of someone else’s anger, etc.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate your anger:

  • take a time out so that you can calm down and gain perspective on the situation. Recent research suggests that often 20 seconds is all you need to engage the thinking part of your brain
  • learn about child development and what’s normal for what age so you can keep your expectations realistic
  • find ways to get some “you” time
  • consider which responsibilities you can let go of or how you can get help
  • attend parenting workshops or consider professional help such as talk therapy

While not always easy, exploring the underlying issues stewing beneath your anger can turn down the heat in your household. This awareness may not take the anger away, but it can dilute it, redirect it, and guide you to manage it. Aunt Louise would be proud!

By Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator


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