How to handle anger positively with your kids
Everyone gets angry with their kids at some time or another. It’s normal, it’s healthy, it’s a fact of life. Kids know just what buttons to push and they push them! Parenting author and children's behaviour expert Sue Atkins gives her tips on how to positively channel that anger, so that you and your family come out unscathed
As a parent and as a professional parent coach, I think it helps to accept that anger is an honest emotion. It’s what you choose to do with your anger that’s important.
If you don’t express your anger and suppress it instead, this can lead to frustration, resentment, bitterness, a sense of hopelessness and depression - none of which are good things for you or your children long term.
Resentment builds walls between you and your children. So, how do you handle your anger and release your temper healthily?
Well, one way is to press your inner pause button and ask yourself “what exactly am I annoyed about?” This helps you step back from the situation that you find yourself in - immediately distancing you and getting you back in control and helping to calm you down.
You will probably discover that you get wound up by the same things over and over again, so this is a great opportunity to ask yourself another empowering question: “what would I like to see happen in a perfect world?” as this helps you to start focusing on a new solution to your frustration.
Relax and start to breathe slowly and deeply as this too takes the edge out of the anger. Think about what it is specifically you want to see happen. This gives you clarity and direction and helps you pass this on to your children who don’t often understand what exactly it is you want them to do.
Also ask yourself “is my attitude moving me closer to or further away from the relationship I want with my children long term?” This question takes you immediately out of the mundane and humdrum into the bigger picture to your parenting. It immediately changes your perspective, which is extremely powerful and helpful.
Another positive step is to talk openly and honestly to your child about how you are feeling and to release your pent up emotion - you can say something like:
“I’m tired telling you this over and over again because I feel...”
“I’m angry with you because...”
“I’m hurt because you did...”
This teaches your child about empathy and immediately takes the emotional charge out of your own energy and frustration.
If you feel like screaming and shouting at your kids, then your own anger has been building up for a long time.
A helpful strategy to explore is talking to a mirror. Get a mirror and imagine talking to the other person as if they were looking at you in that mirror. Imagine them sitting calmly, attentively and in a relaxed state listening to you properly.
Tell them exactly how you feel - pour out your heart, speak truthfully, explain all the frustration, anger, hurt or disappointment you're feeling. You can even imagine a rainbow going between you bridging the gap of misunderstanding.
The important aspect of these different techniques is to get all your feelings out in a safe and healthy way.
Some people hit pillows, bounce on the bed, hit golf balls in the garden or go for a long hard walk round the block - I have even been known to go into a cupboard and have a good swear to myself!
Do something physical to release your charged-up emotions. Don’t be reckless or dangerous to yourself or your child. Just step back, breathe deeply and slowly and find what suits you and experiment with it - you can even make yourself laugh after you look or sound ridiculous - which is great way to change your state too.
Don’t be afraid to let your anger take its natural course - there’s no need to feel guilt and shame because your thoughts are your feelings in action or motion. That’s why some people describe them as e-motion.
Your anger can be a really positive opportunity to serve a purpose to find out what’s really bothering you deep down. Just stop and ask yourself “what am I so angry about?” You will get clarity from asking that question which will help you identify what you’d like to change. It’s usually something small that can make a big difference in your life and help you move forward - not stay stuck.
Once you’ve expressed your anger about the behaviour that you don’t like in your child, never use a personal attack as it damages your child’s self esteem. Do your best to forgive your child and to forgive yourself. Have a hug, say sorry and move on to learn the lesson from the experience.
Maybe you’re a person who’s been angry for a long time or a major part of your life. I call this “habitual anger” because you’ve got used to behaving in this way so it’s become a habit.
Habitual anger is trying to tell you something - ask yourself some better questions - questions that empower you and give you an insight into yourself:
• Why am I choosing to be angry all the time?
• What am I doing to create these situations time and time again?
• What is it that’s making me angry?
• Who am I really angry at?
• What do I believe about my life that causes all these frustrations?
• Is this the only way I can react to life?
• What could I do differently?
• How could I feel more in control of my life?
Habitual anger is not good for your body as it creates stress, tension and illness. So it’s really a great relief when you start to understand what’s causing it and start to make some small changes to help you feel more in control of your life generally. It’s recognising that by asking yourself better questions you can start to find some new answers.
Many women, and particularly mums, have been taught that to be angry was something bad and unacceptable and that to lose your temper meant you were a “Bad Person” or a “Bad Parent.” So, many mums have learnt to feel guilty and to swallow their anger rather than express it healthily.
This is an unhealthy way to handle your anger as it can turn inwards and make you feel unhappy, helpless, stuck, depressed and generally out of control of your life. So acknowledge that it’s perfectly normal to lose your temper sometimes and find a strategy or technique that suits you to release it safely.
I also show the parents I work with a tapping technique based on Thought Field Therapy that knocks out the anger, helping you feel calmer and back in control.
The Tapping Technique
It’s important throughout the tapping sequence to focus on what’s making you really angry.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most angry 1 the least) rate how you feel.
Take the two fingers on your right hand and tap your little finger on your opposite hand firmly about 5 times just inside the tip of your finger.
Then tap about an inch to the left of your collar bone where you’d do up a tie, firmly about 5 times.
Now tap the back of your hand between your ring finger and your little finger in the fleshy part between them constantly as you focus on your anger.
Keep tapping this point while you:
• Open your eyes
• Close your eyes
• Open your eyes and keep your head still but look down to the left
• Open your eyes and keep your head still but look down to the right
• Whirl your eyes round in a circle in one direction
• Whirl your eyes round in a circle in the other direction
• Hum a few bars of “Happy Birthday” out loud
• Count out loud from 1-5
• Hum a few bars of “Happy Birthday” out loud again
• Tap your little finger spot 5 times again
• Tap your collarbone spot again
• And now rate your anger
Your anger may be gone completely or may feel like just a rating of 1. If that’s the case keep your head still and move your eyes from the floor to the ceiling and back down again and relax.
Thought Field Therapy or “tapping” is the new therapy for the 21st century as it’s fast. You may feel a bit weird doing it the first few times you try it but hey, if it works who cares! You can even teach it to your kids.
You are a role model for your children in everything that you do so teach them how to handle anger and frustration healthily and talk about it with them. What better gift can you give your children?
Find out more
Sue Atkins is a Parent Coach and Author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series. She is also trained by Paul McKenna. To find out more about her work and to receive her free monthly newsletter packed full of practical tips and helpful advice for bringing up happy, confident, well-balanced children visit her website.
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