The other day, my toddler woke up grumpy. And when I say grumpy, I mean scream-the-house-down-for-30-nerve-wracking-minutes grumpy!
And absolutely, nothing would please him or calm him down.
In essence, by the end of the morning, I was left with a smashed iPad screen (hurrying, I dropped it, causing it to hit the corner of the bench), a smashed plate (toddler’s way of letting me know he did not approve of my breakfast choice that morning) and absolutely shattered nerves.
And so, I did what seemed to be the only option left to me – I yelled right back at my toddler.
That’s right, I lost it!
It went something like this, “Stop it! Stop yelling! I don’t know what you want! Tell me want you want?! You have to stop being such a naughty boy! Mum’s had enough of you!” and then I promptly burst into tears.
The result was one very bemused toddler. He’d never in his short life seen anyone chuck a ‘tanty’ other than himself, and quite frankly, it had him gobsmacked.
The upside? It distracted him enough from his own tantrum that he calmed down.
The downside? I’d lost my temper and raised my voice for the first time with my little man. Oh boy, the guilt was horrendous.
And so it occurred to me to investigate the subject of parental anger, its causes and how to best manage ourselves when we’re really pushed – as we so frequently can be.
1. Great Expectations
Often, parents can be guilty of expecting their children to have the same level of reasoning and comprehension as they do – as an adult. This is both unrealistic and unfair, leading to a lot of frustration and anger felt by all.
We need to remember that while we aim to guide our children into exhibiting certain appropriate behaviours and manners. This is a long process that can only be perfected with maturity.
2. Allow Them to Make Mistakes
It’s important to allow kids to have the freedom to make mistakes. If your children get the message that you’ll be angry at them if they stuff something up, they’ll be less willing to use trial and error to get better at doing new tasks. Unbridled parental anger will cause them to simply be too afraid to try.
So next time your child accidentally drops their bowl and makes a big mess while trying to scoop some porridge, don’t get angry at the mess. Yes, it’s frustrating having to clean up, but focus on the fact that they were trying to perfect feeding themselves. Now, if they threw it in a fit of rage, that’s another story!
3. Monkey See, Monkey Do
From infancy, your children are learning their social queues and behaviours from the people they have the most contact with – usually their parents. So if you want calm, happy and well-behaved children, make sure that you’re calm, happy and well-behaved adults!
It makes sense that if you go through life complaining, feeling disgruntled and generally exhibiting an angry persona, your kids are going to conclude that they should also behave that way to get what they want.
4. Stay Calm No Matter What
Having said that, even if you’re Mother Theresa, your kids naturally are going to still get grumpy and push your buttons from time to time. When this occurs, the quickest way to hit the defuse switch is to stay calm no matter what! Your child’s tantrum will fizzle out a lot quicker if it fails to elicit an angry reaction from you. So stay calm.
This issue certainly rang home for me as I realised due to sleep deprivation and generally having the stock standard crazy – busy life that every parent juggles – I had indeed become a very grumpy person. So it was no wonder then that my toddler was starting to throw regular tantrums. He had learnt that behaviour from me. Ironically, I was actually the source of why my toddler was testing my anger!
5. Recognise If You’re at Your Boiling Point and Avoid It as Much as You Can
No matter what kind of person you are – given to mounds of patience or trending towards more impatient tendencies – we all have our boiling point.
For parents, it’s often a culmination of things that have led to feeling like they need to blow their stack. They didn’t get enough sleep the night before, their work was a nightmare, the traffic was a killer, everyone’s starving and you haven’t even started dinner yet, AND the kids are fighting. I mean, there’s only so much that any one person can take and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes.
The crucial thing in handling these kinds of situations and avoiding an angry outburst, though, is to recognise when an internal meltdown is on its way and try to extinguish the flames before they take hold.
The best way you can achieve that is by removing yourself from the situation so that you can calm down. Go out into the backyard for five minutes, lock yourself in the dunny – anything that means you get to have a few minutes to take some deep breaths and recover. Once you’ve had a chance to begin feeling calmer, you can go back out into the ‘crazy’ and steer the rest of the family back towards smoother waters!
What techniques do you use to deal with parental anger?