Few relationships can produce more challenges and frustrations than the parent-child relationship. What can we do when love and anger collide in the family? Here are some parenting tips.
Even the most loving parents will experience anger every now and then toward their children. However, uncontrolled anger can affect your ability to make good decisions as well as maintain a positive relationship with your son or daughter.
Allowing yourself to "blow up" at your child can be very harmful if it occurs repeatedly. In your anger, you may say things that frighten your child or affect his or her self-esteem, or you could even physically harm him or her. Uncontrolled anger also provides an inappropriate role model for your child by teaching him or her that anger outbursts are acceptable.
It can be difficult to control yourself when you become angry. However, the Bible tells us that a wise person maintains self-control. Proverbs 29:11 states, "A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back." Also, Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, "Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools."
What can we do when we get mad at our kids? Below are several parenting tips that will assist us in managing our anger.
Pause for a moment.
When you feel yourself becoming angry, it is wise to pause before you say or do anything. This pause could consist of merely taking a deep breath or slowly counting to 10. Pausing can help you to address the situation calmly instead of in a fit of anger.
During this pause quickly think about the circumstances and try to determine what is really happening. Is your anger a reaction to your child's behavior? Or is something else bothering you such as work stress, tiredness or other problems? Has your son or daughter intentionally tried to hurt or disobey you, or is his or her behavior typical for a child of that age? Is this your problem, your child's problem or both?
Take a parental or child time-out.
In situations where you are very angry, realize that it will take some time to cool off. Time-outs model an appropriate way to handle anger. It can be good for your child to see you get angry and demonstrate a socially acceptable way to deal with these feelings.
You may even tell your child that "Mother is angry and needs a time-out." Don't tell your child that you are angry because he or she is stupid or bad, for such labeling is not healthy for your child's self-esteem. Your time-out could even involve stress-reducing activities such as walking, punching a pillow in private, taking a bath or talking to your spouse or a friend about the situation.
Instead of a parental time-out, you may also opt for a time-out for your child as part of his or her punishment. While your son or daughter is sitting in the corner, you will also have time to cool off and decide the best course of action.
Resolve to never strike your child in anger.
Never discipline your kids when you are angry and unable to control your feelings. While spanking in an appropriate manner is supported in Scripture, it is unwise to spank your child while you are angry. You could accidentally bruise him or her by spanking too hard. This could lead to your child being taken from your home by social services.
If at any time you feel the urge to strike your child, get out of the room as soon as possible. If your child is too young to leave alone for a few minutes, be sure to put him or her in the crib or a playpen or have someone else watch your child. Older children should just be told that you are angry and need a time-out. Stay away until you have calmed down. Pray for God to help you to control your anger and respond in a godly manner.
Form plans for how you will react.
Determine how you want to respond to your child or the problem. Your plan should take into account what you want him or her to learn from this, as well as how to prevent this misbehavior from happening again.
If your child has been told that he or she would be punished for this misbehavior, it is important that you follow through with your word. Children need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. If you have not set formal rules for this misbehavior, plan how you will do it now. Put together a list of family rules, and state the consequences for not following the rules. You may want to consult various parenting books for ideas about methods of discipline that may prove to be effective for your child.
Act and don't react to the situation.
After you have cooled off, analyzed the situation and determined the best plan of action, it is time to act. Your actions must be calm and loving. If you punish your child, be sure that you also explain exactly why he or she is receiving a punishment. As always, tell your child that the discipline is to help him or her and is a consequence of his or her misbehavior.
To raise an emotionally well-developed child, it is important to show unconditional love. For example, tell your son or daughter, "I still love you, even though I am now angry about your misbehavior." It is also important to hug your child and reassure him or her after you have punished him or her for misbehaving.
Anger is a God-given emotion. It can even be used to correct wrong or evil and set things right, as in the case where Christ was angry (Matthew 21:12-14). But God also tells us, "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly" (Proverbs 14:17).
The relationship that you have with your children can be one of life's greatest blessings. If you want to be wise in your responsibility of caring for them, learn to manage your anger. You both will be happier when you are in control of your emotions.
Linda LaBissoniere, M.Ed., licensed counselor