Megan stopped yelling in mid-sentence. Her 4-year-old child, Taylor, had placed his hands in front of his little face and his wide eyes showed sheer terror. Megan looked at her own face in the mirror that hung over the sofa and was shocked at what she saw. Her eyebrows were knit together and her teeth were showing from her open mouth. Her arms were held up, almost as if she were going to hit her son.
How could it have come to this? Why was she so angry with Taylor again? She loved him dearly and would never strike him in anger—yet he was terrified of her at that moment.
Have you ever felt as Megan did? Do you find yourself getting angry with your children much too often?
We may even feel that we are bad parents because of our angry feelings toward our children. We may wonder why some parents are able to keep their cool when their children misbehave.
In reality, every parent gets angry at times, and children can try even the best of parents. It even seems that they instinctively know how to “push our buttons.” But how can we minimize the times we get angry? Below are a few tips to help us accomplish this.
Understand Why You Get Angry
There are many possible reasons for anger. We may feel angry when our goals are blocked or when we feel inconvenienced and disrespected. Anger can often be caused by a mixture of feelings. These include feeling frustrated, disappointed, depressed, powerless, useless or stressed. After we become angry, it’s important to take some time to analyze just why. Doing so can help us develop solutions to avoid becoming angry in the future.
In some cases anger is caused by what we say to ourselves about the actions of our children, not the actual actions. Perhaps it’s time to think about whether we are really angry about our children’s behavior or if it is our view of their behavior that causes us to feel angry. If we are able to change our view, we will be able to change our reactions.
For example, Megan is planning a dinner party and asks Taylor to pick up his toys in the living room. He begins the task, and Megan goes back to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Five minutes before her guests are to arrive she finds that Taylor has not picked up his toys, and has actually created an even bigger mess. She gets angry and yells at her son.
Part of the reason she got angry is that her child’s behavior blocked her goal of having a clean house. She also became frustrated and emotionally began thinking that her son did this to hurt her. Logically, she knows that her child does not intentionally plan to hurt her.
At age 4, Taylor is simply forgetful and easily distracted. In the past Megan has had to remind him to stay focused on picking up his toys. So in reality, it was her emotionally charged view of her child’s actions that caused her to feel anger, not his actual actions. (For information on how to apply loving discipline, see the chapter “Bringing Up a Moral Child” and the sidebars “Discipline With Encouragement” and “The Value of Consequences” in the booklet Marriage and Family: The Missing Dimension.)
In some cases, our anger issues may be much larger than the situation described above. We may be angry with someone else and then transfer it to our children. Perhaps we are depressed or are battling issues that have caused much anger inside us. In these cases we may need to seek professional help in order to deal with the underlying reasons. We may also want to consider getting a medical checkup since certain physical conditions can contribute to feelings of anger.
Take Responsibility for Your Emotions
It is important to realize how destructive it is for a child to live in a home where outbursts of anger are common. Numerous studies have demonstrated these ill effects. Even the Bible describes the effects of anger. Psalms 37:8 Psalms 37:8Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not yourself in any wise to do evil.
American King James Version×states, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Not only does anger cause harm, it also gives your children a poor example. Our children are learning from us all the time. How we deal with frustrating circumstances teaches our children how to handle similar events. If we learn to be slow to anger and to express our anger in appropriate ways, our children will in time learn to do the same.
First and foremost, realize that it is our responsibility to gain control over our emotions. Some parents erroneously blame their angry outbursts solely on the actions of their children. In a sense they look at themselves as victims.
Instead they should be focusing on minimizing the times that they actually become angry by discovering their anger “triggers” and learning what actions to take to avoid an “explosion” of anger. These actions could involve correcting underlying reasons for anger, a parental or child “time-out” or stress-reducing activities such as walking or breathing deeply. It may also be helpful to anticipate situations that could cause us to become angry so we can work out in advance how we are going to react.
Understand What to Expect From Your Child’s Age
Parents can feel anger toward their children because they have unrealistic expectations regarding their behavior. For example, one may take it personally when one’s baby cries too much. But babies cry. We must understand that they do not do it to upset us, but it is their way of communicating.
Toddlers find it very difficult to sit still or focus very long. Are we expecting them to sit quietly by our side as we watch a sporting event or movie? At times, they will say “no” or even throw a tantrum. While these actions must be addressed, we should not allow ourselves to become angry.
Five-year-olds are forgetful and sometimes don’t remember to do what we ask them to do (though loving discipline can help them learn to be obedient more often). But we must resist the impulse to feel disrespected. Most siblings will argue with each other. Instead of allowing this to anger us, we should focus on teaching them how to get along.
The best way to understand what to expect from a child your child’s age is to learn more about child development. There are many books written on this subject available at bookstores and libraries, as well as hundreds of Web sites such as www.parentcenter.com. When we learn the expected behaviors for our children, we are less likely to get angry and overreact to their behavior.
Ask God to Help You With Your Feelings of Anger
We may find it difficult to change how we feel. Changing our way of thinking and acting is very hard to do on our own. It requires going to God in prayer and asking Him to help us make any needed changes. Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
God tells us the importance of controlling our emotions. Proverbs 16:32 Proverbs 16:32He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city.
American King James Version×states, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” To be effective parents, we must learn to control our emotions. Following the above steps will help us to achieve this goal.
Related Online Sources
Even the most loving parents will experience anger every now and then toward their children. However, uncontrolled anger can affect our ability to make good decisions as well as maintain a positive relationship with our sons or daughters. Here are some resources that can help us to manage our anger:
How can I control my anger when I get frustrated and stressed by my kids?
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.
How can I manage my anger? What can I do to overcome a temper problem?
Being angry to the point of sin comes naturally to us, but God offers help in our anger management struggle.