Anger is not a singular event or response to an exact, precise trigger. It has roots and is connected to a web of interlocking dynamics. It is connected to what we were taught, both implicitly and explicitly, about expressing our feelings.
As adults, we must develop a new way of recognizing anger, ultimately to let it go. Its reach can be far and deep. It can be destructive and counterproductive. Fear is the precursor to anger and anger to depression or anxiety.
It often shows up when we are overwhelmed and taxed.
Depending on how your own parents taught you to handle this energy, you either learned that you could express it or suppress it. And so too, it will go on. Think for a moment, what do your coping strategies teach your kids? Here are some tips from the Pragmatic Parent blog:
Identify what makes you mad Spend several days observing your reactions to your children. When you lose your patience and yell, what is going on within and around you? What is going on internally that can be contributing to yelling? Look for patterns.
Test calming techniques Calming techniques are the methods you use to stay calm when you feel your temper begin to form. Before losing patience, ask the kids to play quietly in their rooms for five minutes and get some space.
Be honest with kids Say “I feel frustrated when you don’t listen.” When kids see adults acknowledging feelings and hearing it said out loud, they may respond by helping make the situation better.
It’s time to let go Part of letting go of control is learning to say “yes” more. When the kids want to change plans or even skip a nap, most of the time that’s OK. There is much more give and take when we collaborate. When we allow ourselves to be more adaptable, we aren’t wound as tight.
The apology your child needs Sometimes we yell. We try hard not to; we try to calm down and take some time to step away from the situation, but that doesn’t always work. If we do slip up and raise our voice, the first thing we need to do is apologize and share our feelings with our child. Teaching children that adults make mistakes, and taking responsibility for the situation lessens the pressure on your child. Parents modeling this behavior teaches kids how to admit when they’re wrong and properly apologize.
Remember change takes time This process is slow and involves the personal desire to do better. Recognizing that you want to change is a start. You probably won’t succeed immediately. But eventually, you’ll be more conscious of your triggers and ways to calm yourself. Changing yourself takes conscientious practice; go gently.
Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth age 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.