Anger is considered to be one of the most demonizing and negative emotions out there. But, it doesn’t always have to be something horrible. If anger is utilized productively, it can help us protect our values, make us more assertive and define our boundaries with others.
I can clearly remember the time when I was expecting my first child. I had high expectations for myself of what kind of parent I would be. Caring, compassionate, empathetic, involved, loving and the list went on to what I thought were all qualities and feelings you acquired as soon as you gave birth.
Then I became a mother and reality set in. As my child grew, so did my feelings of anger and frustration because somehow things weren’t how I had imagined them to be. I wanted a cleaner house, a well-mannered child and time to myself but I wasn’t able to get any of those. And all those amazing feelings that I felt and wanted to express initially showed up as me yelling, nagging and as someone who’s always mad instead.
I realized the more I yelled, the more agitated my child would become. She would talk back, scream and disrespect me even more. Then I would get even angrier until we both stopped talking to each other. I would feel guilty and vow to control my anger the next day but something else would trigger me to start yelling at her again. And the cycle would keep repeating itself.
I knew things needed to change so I decided to dig a little deeper into where my anger was coming from, what triggers it and how I can transform it into something productive for my own and my child’s sake.
Why do we get angry at our kids?
Anger can be a form of protection. It can help notify us when our boundaries are being violated. So, when our child doesn’t listen or talks back, it makes us feel disrespected, or in other words, that a boundary has been broken and that is why we lash out with anger.
What triggers our anger towards our kids?
- Sensory issues (I can’t take the noise)
- Depletion (This is exhausting)
- Feeling disconnected (I need to be alone)
- Need for release (I could just scream)
- Different parenting styles ( I am doing this by myself)
All these can be common triggers to our anger but it can go much deeper than this. When our child doesn’t behave or listen, we start perceiving ourselves as failures. We think others will judge us on our poor parenting which makes us lash out with such strong emotions.
How can you transform your anger?
Changing yourself into a less angry person and not reacting as you always do will require lots of effort from your side. Although it may seem difficult, you will start seeing a change in your child’s demeanor as your own behavior transforms. Remember that to teach a child how to self-regulate those big feelings, it is important as a parent to co-regulate their own feelings. Instead of getting angry at your kids, here are some useful steps to use next time:
- Use a mantra. Remind yourself that your child is the one having a hard time.
- Pretend you’re speaking to your friend’s child. This will help you choose your words carefully rather than just blurting out something in anger.
- Imagine you’ve been tasked on a mission. Think that you have been the one sent there to help them. When you have that mentality, you’ll automatically assume the role as a helper
- Enter their flow. When kids are fully immersed in an activity, it’s very difficult for them to snap out of it and start doing what you ask of them. So if they are playing a video game and you want them to do their chores, you can start by asking about the game characters and how they play the game.
- Reverse roles. Put yourself in the child’s shoes. If they are frustrated or stressed and acting out, it’s important to find out the reason and put yourself into that situation to understand both sides.
(Source: Anger Transformation Workshop, Renee Jain, GoZen!)
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About the Founder
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.