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Ask Jill Blog

Ask Jill Blog

Jill Kaufman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a dynamic speaker, educator and therapist who has lead workshops and seminars at schools, religious institutions, corporations and community organizations. Ms. Kaufman received her Bachelor of Science from Cornell University and her Masters of Social Work at Rutgers University. Ms. Kaufman is a Certified Parent Educator and looks forward to blogging about topics such as discipline, sibling rivalry, self-esteem, power struggles, consequences, communication skills and limit setting for toddlers through teens.
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Most recent posting below. See other blog postings in the column to the right.

How To Be Angry When You Are A Parent

Children were born knowing how to push our buttons. They try to do something to get us angry and if it doesn't work then they will try something else until it does work. This can get parents very angry. It is okay to think anything you want in your head. I have thought about a lot of things I can't mention. But I have never done it. That is the most important thing to remember - think it but don't do it! You need to calm yourself down before you do something that you might regret. And don't feel guilty about having these terrible thoughts. They are normal!

In fact, don't feel guilty about what you have done in the past. I have acted in ways that I am not proud of. I have yelled at my children and treated my children without respect. There is nothing that we can do about the past except for change how we react in the present. If you need to apologize to your child and explain that you are going to behave differently now, then do that. Recognize that you may not be able to completely change your behavior right away - it may happen over time in small steps. Each step is a success. Focus on your successes and use them to build your self-confidence as a parent.

When you are angry, think of it as a teachable moment. You are teaching your child how to handle their anger. Whether you like it or not, children are learning from us all the time. Teach your child how to calm himself by modeling it. This may not be easy to do because sometimes when you are angry with your child - it can be a very strong feeling. Here are a few methods to control anger:

  1. Count to ten before you open your mouth.
  2. Take deep breaths. If you can lie down, pick a quiet place and close your eyes. Place your hands over your ribs. Take a deep breath slowly through your nose until your stomach feels full. Hold it and count to five. Then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times. Breathing actually turns off the brains' stress hormone and returns the body to a more relaxed state.
  3. Walk away and close the door.
  4. If your children are old enough, take a brisk five-minute walk around the block.
  5. Throw water balloons at the side of your house.
  6. Growl (it beats yelling and screaming).
  7. Go into a closet or bathroom and close the door.
  8. Stop what you are doing, sit down on the floor and don't say a word. Your kids may think you are crazy but that's okay.
  9. If you can't leave the room, go to another place in your mind. Imagine the most relaxing place you have ever been and go there. Ignore what is going on around you.
  10. Turn on some music.
  11. Go outside and scream.
  12. Punch a pillow.
  13. Squeeze something that won't break. Find a ball or a towel and squeeze.
  14. Exercise your anger away. Burn off that extra energy - run, swim, jump rope, pedal a bike do sit-ups, ride a skateboard, hit a baseball, dance, sing.
  15. Shake your anger out. You can do this with your children. Tell them that you are pretending you are a wet puppy. Wiggle as imaginary drops of water fly in every direction. You will feel the tension leave your body.
  16. Tighten your muscles - start with your feet and curl your toes into a tight ball. Tighten your legs, stomach and chest. Next tighten your hands, arms, shoulders, face and head. From the tips of your toes to the tops of your eyebrows - hold your muscles tight and count to five. Then release every part of your body so that you are completely limp.
  17. Jump up and down.
  18. Drink a glass of water.
  19. Call a friend.

It can be difficult to control yourself when you are feeling angry. But we must learn to do it if we want our children to learn how to control themselves. Although it is hard to do, it does get easier with practice. After you have gotten yourself calm, then you can go back to the situation and handle it appropriately. You may even have come to an answer during the time it took to get yourself calm. Or you can ask your child to try to think of an answer or compromise. Anything you do after you have calmed down will be a lot more productive than before.

Never discipline your child when you are angry and unable to control your emotions. You will not think clearly and you will not be able to choose the best way to discipline. It is actually easier to think of solutions when you are calm. You can even put the situation on hold and tell your child that you will get back to them regarding the conflict. You can ask a friend for help with a solution or you can even ask your child if he or she is old enough. Children often are much more creative than their parents.

The times when you are extremely angry with your child are the times that your child needs to hear that you love her. Most children will say that they don't feel loved when their parents are angry with them. In order for our children to have high self-esteem and to have confidence in themselves, we need to show them unconditional love. They need to feel that there is nothing that they have to do, like get good grades or keep their rooms clean, to earn our love. Tell your child, "Even though I am angry, I still love you." She may say, "No, you don't love me." Then acknowledge her feelings. "I can see that you don't feel loved." Wait for a response. You can reemphasize, "I always love you even when I am angry." Ask her if she needs a hug.

I want to reiterate that getting upset and needing to calm down is normal and should be expected from parents. Don't think of yourself as a bad parent or bad person because you get to a point where you need to use these techniques. If you do use these techniques, you are modeling a wonderful method for your child to learn how to handle their emotions. Wouldn't you be happy if every time your child got upset, they went to their room, took a few deep breaths and came out calm and willing to negotiate?

Moderated by Jill Kaufman.

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