Kids Driving You Crazy? Try These Science-Backed Anger Management Tips for Parents

An upset woman.

It’s OK for children to see parents experience and manage different emotions. (Image: Engin_Akyurt via Pixabay)

What makes your anger boil over? You’re running late for work, your 8-year-old can’t find the homework they were supposed to have put in their school bag last night, your 4-year-old objects to the blue t-shirt you’d prepared and wants the other shade of blue, and then you step on a Lego piece that didn’t get packed away when you asked.

Even if you haven’t encountered this exact situation, just thinking about it might raise your hackles. Parenting comes with many emotions. Anger and frustration are not uncommon and may have been exacerbated by the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s OK for children to see parents experience and manage different emotions. But when getting angry, yelling, and shouting are a default response, this can have negative consequences for children (and parents).

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

Here’s what you can do instead.

When anger arises, yelling and shouting are a default response, it’s a problem.
When anger arises, and yelling and shouting are a default response, it’s a problem. (Photo by David Garrison via Pexels)

When is anger a problem and what’s at stake?

Anger is a problem when it is too frequent, too intense, or when it disrupts your relationships.

Parental hostility has been associated with:

One study found children who received harsh verbal discipline were likely to experience more symptoms of depression and behavioral problems as adolescents. A parent’s propensity to react emotionally can increase the likelihood that parents will react more harshly, punish their child excessively, or smack their child. Extensive research has shown smacking is harmful to children’s development.

Reducing the risk of conflict

Parenting isn’t easy and doesn’t come with a manual. Many everyday situations can contribute to parents experiencing irritation and anger. The best way to manage anger is to try to reduce the likelihood these situations will arise. Parenting programs that focus on positive parenting practices can improve the lives of children, parents, and families, decrease parent anger, and reduce the risk of maltreatment. Many evidence-based parenting programs are available.

Important strategies to reduce the likelihood of problems arising in the first place include:

  • focusing on the positive
  • building strong relationships with children
  • communicating effectively
  • praising children
  • teaching children independence skills
  • putting in place effective family routines
  • having clear rules and boundaries, and backing them up with appropriate consequences.
Building strong relationships with children reduced the risk of problems arising in the first place.
Building strong relationships with children reduces the risk of problems arising in the first place. (Image: rudyanderson via Pixabay)

Looking after yourself

It is much harder to be calm, patient, and persistent when parents’ own needs are not met and when parents are stressed or under pressure. An important aspect of managing emotional reactivity is to look after your own wellbeing. Take time out for yourself, balance your work and family responsibilities, and talk to your partner or other carers and support people about how you can get some time to yourself. Strategies based on cognitive behavioral approaches — such as relaxation and breathing exercises — can also be helpful ways to reduce anger.

It’s important for parents to take time out for themselves, where possible.
It’s important for parents to take time out for themselves, where possible. (Image: photosforyou via Pixabay)

OK, but I still need help managing my anger at the moment. What now?

So you’ve done the parenting program, you’re looking after yourself, and you still find yourself struggling to tame your anger. That Lego piece really hurt and how many times do you have to ask for things to be packed up anyway?

Sometimes, even the best preparation and prevention strategies may not avoid a particular problem, so having a plan for what you can do at that moment is important. When fury rages inside you, start by taking a few deep breaths. Focusing on relaxing muscles or counting to 10 — anything to slow down your emotional reaction — can be helpful. Remind yourself your child hasn’t done this on purpose and that while it’s frustrating, you can stay calm. What we say to ourselves about a situation and why it happened can also increase our feelings of anger.

Research shows the attributions we make — meaning the explanations or reasons we have for situations or for our child’s behavior — can play an important role in the way we react emotionally. For example, if you think your child is deliberately trying to make your life miserable with their T-shirt choices, you are more likely to feel angry. If, on the other hand, you say to yourself: “This is important to them and they’re only four,” you are much more likely to stay calm. Try to catch the negative thoughts that come into your head in those situations that make you feel angry. Replace them with more helpful ones.

For example, rather than saying: “This is just not fair,” you could say: “This is upsetting, but I can deal with it.” It might feel awkward at first, but give it a try. Anger is a human emotion. It can motivate you to persist in the face of difficulties, can be a way of reducing tension, and can act as a signal to deal with a stressor you’re facing. It can also cause harm to yourself, your children, and your relationships if it is not managed well. Finding effective ways to positively manage those feelings of annoyance and irritation is important to ensuring positive family relationships.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Alina Morawska, Deputy Director (Research), Parenting and Family Support Centre, The University of Queensland

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

Emotional Asian woman covering ears with hands.

Are Intrusive Thoughts Normal?

Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that seem to become stuck in your mind. The nature of ...

The Champs Elysées, a 2-km-long road in Paris, France, stretching from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre.

The Champs Elysées: The Most Famous Street in Paris with 300 Years of History

Why is the Champs Elysées so famous? It was built on the order of the ...

Publicity photo of American actress Anna May Wong likely commissioned to promote the movie 'Daughter of Shanghai.'

Anna May Wong: A Pioneering Hollywood Star of Asian Descent

On October 24, 2022, the U.S. Mint released a 25-cent coin with President Washington on ...

Destroyed buildings and rubble from an earthquake.

Nature’s Warning Signs: Bizarre Happenings Before the Tangshan Earthquake

On July 28, 1976, at 3:42 a.m. Beijing time, an earthquake 16 kilometers below the ...

The Longgong Waterfall.

Exploring the Enchanting Zhukeng River Trail in Chiayi, Taiwan 

Nestled in the picturesque Ruifong Scenic Area in central Taiwan’s Chiayi County, the Zhukeng River ...

A boy using a smartphone.

Excessive Screen Time Can Affect Young People’s Emotional Development

A recent Beyond Blue survey of more than 2,000 teachers identified mental ill-health and excessive ...

An example of kintsugi.

Embracing Imperfection: The Art of Kintsugi

In Japanese culture, there is a unique tradition of not concealing the flaws of broken ...

Thomas Dambo on one of his trolls.

Thomas Dambo: Meet the Danish Artist With Whimsical Sculpture Trolls Across the World

Thomas Dambo, or “The Troll Whisperer,” is a Danish visionary artist and storyteller known for ...

A sad young woman.

Overcoming Depression: A Holistic Approach

Depression, often referred to as the “common cold of the mind,” can be a challenging ...

Send this to a friend