“EAT....YOUR.....DINNER...... NOOOOWWWWW!” yelled a dad with protruding jaw and veins in his neck popping, to his six year old son.
It was an extraordinary act of anger, and one completely out of character.
Visibly sacred, his son ran and hid in his room.
Dad’s shoulders slumped. He looked at me in frustration and said: “What on earth do I do now?”
This dad was a colleague whom I’d been visiting around dinner-time. It was the wrong time of day I know, but it was the only chance I had.
BUT this sort of scene plays out a lot in homes around Australia.
A parent comes home from work tired, and is not ready to manage children who are working from their own agendas and schedules.
The only response to children’s resistance is an angry “Do it now because I say” which comes out louder and more aggressively than intended. Certainly, in the cold light of day the parent revisits this with regret! More than likely the adult is a dad, but it can also be a mum!
Are you storing up anger?
Frequently parent anger comes from another place. It’s often NOT about the kids. It can be stored up frustration that comes through the front door with you. It’s bottled up and just bursts out when your kids are just being kids....... noisy, wanting to play and wanting to keep doing what they are doing without your interference.
If this is you, then you need to do something to get rid of your pent-up frustration before you come home. Go to the gym; have a run; walk rather than drive to give yourself some thinking time. Anything to help you process your feelings so you don’t bring the bad stuff home!
Are you happy?
Sometimes anger comes from life dissatisfaction, which permeates every interaction you have with your loved ones! If this is the case, you may need some professional help so you can work through your unhappiness.
Is anger your way of communicating?
Some people are just always angry! That’s their way. If this is the case, then professional help can assist. You can always learn and practise better ways of responding to kids.
Are you locked in a power battle?
Sometimes anger is directed at particular kids. We get locked in a power struggle and we become obsessed with winning. You fight may fight and argue about eating but the real battle is “I want to make you.....” rather than “you should eat healthy food” or whatever you are angry about.
If this is the case, then recognise that you are more intent on winning than teaching your kids how to be social and that you are taking your parenting too personally. You need to able to put up with bouts of contempt from your child or teenager without taking them personally! That’s part of the parenting deal.
You’ve blown your top, what now?
Do as you would expect when your kids mess up – restore the relationship! Wait until you and your child have calmed down and make your peace.
It will help you make peace with yourself. Apologising is not a weakness. It’s a strength and it shows you are human.
If possible, explain why you may be angry, but don’t blame work or other extenuating circumstance for your angry response. Taking responsibility for your behaviour will help you change and respond better next time. Besides, it’s what you’d hope your kids would do when they did the wrong thing.
Then sit down quietly and think through how you could respond differently next time. This will help prevent another angry outburst in a similar situation.
Again, this is what you should expect your child to do if he or she was reacting in an angry fashion to a sibling or friend- it’s called thinking time.
Anger can be beaten, but first it must be recognised for what it is- the enemy of healthy parent-child relationships.
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