Before I became a mother, anger was an emotion I was familiar with, yet not overly burdened by. It appeared in my life and departed just as quickly, sometimes leaving scars yet often only gifting me with tiredness and a sense of indignation. I wasn’t an angry person, at least no more so than my neighbor or friend. I didn’t hide from it, but I didn’t really embrace it either. Anger just was, and I knew it would pass.
Then I had kids. Somehow that infrequent emotional visitor became a permanent house guest that disrupts my life, uses my makeup and sleeps in my bed. This new facet of my life is disturbing and unwelcome, an intruder that steals my peace and threatens to harm my most precious relationships if I let it. Yet anger has also become a gift, allowing me to come to terms with a deeper part of my soul while and offering me opportunities to control it.
Everyone gets angry…
Parental anger is very common and honestly – it is normal. Everyone gets angry, EVERYONE…. And for parents, that anger can become a very real, and very crippling monster. Our children are predisposed to push our buttons and to test every limit we set. It’s their job – and it’s our job to walk them through those tests and continue to set limits firmly and with compassion.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? After all, they are kids… and we are mature adults with the experience and knowledge to control our own anger and impulses….. right?? Yeah.. that’s what I tell myself after the 43rd “NO” in a single hour or when my youngest has flushed yet another toy down the toilet or when my eldest puts on her stubborn pants and refuses to get in the car because her socks don’t match her shirt, when we are already 15 minutes late, or when they try to push each other down the stairs or paint on the walls or…. You get it. The list goes on and on, and I am sure your list does too.
Knowing that we need to control and redirect our own anger for the sake of ourselves and our families is one thing, actually doing it is another. Luckily, the internet houses a wealth of information on how to do just that.
These are just a few of the many blogs and their posts I’ve run across that have helped me with my own parenting struggles:
Written by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., this fantastic post delves deep into parents ‘losing it’ with their children, and how to stop it. Exploring everything from stress to our own childhood experiences, this is an open and honest dialogue about something that affects each and every parent. While you’re here, check out the rest of the site – this educational resource has something for everyone.
Most mothers I talk to, share with on social media or follow, have heard of ahaparenting.com, and with good reason! I found this gem of a site when I was pregnant with my first and soon found myself falling into the rabbit hole of information this massive resource offers. Is your toddler grabbing from the baby? They’ve got a post about that. Want to raise a child with character? Dr. Laura has an article on that too. Interested in gentle discipline? There is a whole section devoted to just that! This site truly is a treasure trove of advice, articles, tips and resources, ranging from across every age and touching on almost every aspect of life. When it comes to anger and managing it, Dr. Laura offers up an in-depth, yet compassionate post with “How to handle your anger at your child.”
Ever gone from ‘zero to 60’ with your kids in just a few seconds? Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC has too and she writes about what to do about it in “Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry.” Looking beyond the typical and unhelpful advice to just ‘calm down’, this article talks about HOW to do just that. Honestly, whenever anger strikes we ALL already know that the best course of action is to calm down, yet the steps or tricks to get to calm can be elusive, especially when the red threads of unrest course through you. This article breaks it down with advice and methods you can actually use, with a strong emphasis on the prep work you need to indulge in before you inevitably hit ‘60’.
It’s a learning process…
These are just a few of the sites that have helped me along my own journey – and while I can’t claim that they have helped me ALL the time, they HAVE helped me be a calmer parent most of the time…. Ok, SOME of the time. I am still working on being the parent I want to be, the one I believe my children deserve. I believe parenting, like most things in life, is a process. No one (at least no one that I have met yet) is born a perfect parent… yet we all love our children, and isn’t that the most important part?
Use every trick you can to help you
One other thing before I sign off. Years ago, I read a post that floored me, one that still resonates with me today. I wish I could remember who wrote it so that I could offer attribution and gratitude to the author, yet my mind has lost those details and Google has failed me in my search. That post gave me the most controversial, yet helpful, tool to add to my growing tackle box of tricks. Pretend your kids aren’t yours.
Let me explain. Have you ever babysat another child? Did that child ever try to push your buttons? How did you react? If you are like most people, you reacted a bit calmer and with a more measured response than you would have if they were your own kid(s). Why? Because that child will remember, and not only that, that child will go back to their primary caregiver and regale them with stories about you…. Both positive and negative.
It’s the judgment clause condensed in the form of a 5-year-old. You feel like you have less of a right to lose your temper with someone else’s child that you do with your own, and that matters. Pretending, at least for a moment, that your own child is NOT yours, but a guest in your house and home insulates your temper and gives you a buffer against the anger that would otherwise engulf you. I am not ashamed to admit that I have pretended to myself that my daughters throwing water out of the tub were NOT really MY daughters, but daughters of friends that had come to visit… and I responded accordingly. Try it – at least once. You may be surprised with your results. I know I was.
If you know the author of the method I mentioned above, please leave a comment and let me know. I would love to give credit where credit is due. Also, if you have any other words of advice, please leave a comment. I am always… ALWAYS, on the hunt for new tricks to add to my toolbox. I and my children will thank you.