It doesn’t help that there are always the endless pressures of life: appointments we’re late to, things we’ve forgotten until the last moment, health and financial worries -- the list is endless. In the middle of that hectic momentum, enter our child, who has lost her sneaker, suddenly remembered she needs a new notebook for school today, is teasing her little brother, or is downright belligerent. And we snap
Parents’ uncontrollable outbursts rarely improve children's behavior. Don't you secretly wish they would? Wouldn't parenting be easier if you could yell at your child, "Get dressed right now, young lady. Stop playing around and wasting time. You're going to make me late for work and I’ll lose my job," and your daughter would jump into her clothes and then climb into the car, waiting patiently while you put on your makeup and make one quick phone call?
You might think a child would comply with angry demands to avoid the unpleasantness of these scenes, but that usually isn't the case. Some children become immune to your anger; they ignore it, while for others, anger has a contagious effect; children fight back with an angry defensive response of their own.
Parents need to find effective, realistic ways to deal with anger. Children are gifts … treasures … jewels. As angry as you may be, remember how much you love them. Never let yourself forget that – first and foremost.
If you were treated with anger when you were a child, remember it and feel it. Remember how bad it felt? So why would you want to inflict the same hurt on your children?
1. Set limits BEFORE you get angry. Often when we get angry at our children, it’s because we haven’t set a limit, and something is grating on us. The minute you start getting angry, it’s a signal to do something. No, not yell. Intervene in a positive way to prevent more of whatever behavior is irritating you.
2. Make and post a list of acceptable ways to handle anger. When you feel this angry, you need a way to calm down. Many people can harness their biology and get it under control just with awareness: Stop, breathe, remind yourself it isn't an emergency. Shake the tension out of your hands. Take ten more deep breaths. If you need to make a noise, hum.
3. Take Five. Recognize that an angry state is a terrible starting place to intervene in any situation. Instead, give yourself a timeout and come back when you are able to be calm. Move away from your child physically so you won't be tempted to reach out and touch him violently. Just say, as calmly as you can, “I am too mad right now to talk about this. I am going to take a timeout and calm down.” Exiting does not let your child win. It impresses upon them just how serious the infraction is, and it models self-control. Use this time to calm yourself, not to work yourself into a further frenzy about how right you are.
4. Listen to your anger, rather than acting on it. Anger, like other feelings, is as much a given as our arms and legs. What we’re responsible for is what we choose to do with it. Anger often has a valuable lesson for us, but acting while we are angry, except in rare situations requiring self-defense, is rarely constructive, because we make choices we would never make from a rational state. The constructive way to handle anger is to limit our expression of it, and when we calm down, to use it diagnostically: what is so wrong in our life that we feel furious, and what do we need to do to change the situation?
5. Remember that “expressing” your anger to another person can reinforce and escalate it. Despite the popular idea that we need to “express” our anger so that it doesn’t eat away at us, there’s nothing constructive about expressing anger to another person. Research shows that expressing anger while we are angry actually makes us more angry. This in turn makes the other person hurt, afraid, or angry, and causes a rift in the relationship. So discharge your anger physically if you need to, but then calm yourself and consider what the "message" of the anger is before you speak with the other person.
6. WAIT before disciplining. Make it a point NEVER to act while angry. Nothing says you have to issue edicts on the fly. Simply say something like “I can’t believe you hit your brother after we’ve talked about hitting being against the rules. I need to think about this, and we will talk about it this afternoon. Until then, I expect you to be on your best behavior.”
Once you’ve taken a ten minute timeout and still don’t feel calm enough to relate constructively, you can say “I want to think about what just happened, and we will talk about it later. In the meantime, I need to make dinner and you need to finish your homework, please.”
After dinner, sit down with your child and, if necessary, set firm limits. But you will be more able to listen to his side of it, and to respond with reasonable, enforceable, respectful limits to his behavior.
7. Avoid physical force, no matter what. 85% of adolescents say they've been slapped or spanked by their parents (Journal of Psychopathology, 2007). And yet study after study has proven that spanking has a negative impact on children’s development that lasts throughout life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends strongly against it.
8. Avoid threats. Threats made while you’re angry will be unreasonable. Since threats are only effective if you are willing to follow through on them, they undermine your authority and make it less likely that your kids will follow the rules next time. Instead, tell your child that you need to think about an appropriate response to this infraction of the rules. The suspense will be worse than hearing a string of threats they know you won’t enforce.
9. Monitor your tone and word choice. Research shows that the more calmly we speak, the more calm we feel, and the more calmly others respond to us. Similarly, use of swear words or other highly charged words makes us and our listener more upset, and the situation escalates. We have the power to calm or upset ourselves and the person we are speaking with by our own tone of voice and choice of words. (Remember, you're the role model.)
10. Still angry? Look for the underlying feelings. Don’t get attached to your anger. Once you’ve listened to it and made appropriate changes, let go of it. If that isn’t working, remember that anger is always a defense. It shields us from feeling vulnerable. To get rid of anger, look at the hurt or fear under the anger. If your daughter’s so obsessed with her friends that she’s dismissive of the family and that hurts you, or your son’s tantrums scare you, work with those feelings and situations, and address them. Once you get to the underlying feelings, your anger will dissipate.
11. Choose your battles. Every negative interaction with your child uses up valuable relationship capital. Focus on what matters, such as the way your child treats other humans. In the larger scheme of things, her jacket on the floor may drive you crazy, but it probably isn’t worth putting your relationship bank account in the red over.
12. Keep looking for effective ways to discipline that encourage better behavior. There are hugely more effective ways to discipline than anger, and, in fact, disciplining with anger sets up a cycle that encourages misbehavior.
13 There is no shame in asking for help. The shame is in reneging on your responsibility as a parent by damaging your child physically or psychologically.
6. Have you ever become so angry at someone in traffic that you cut them off, tailgated or rolled down your window to yell at them or made an obscene gesture?
7. Have you ever surprised yourself by how angry you got or what you did while angry?
8. Have you ever broken an object (glass, table, chair, ashtray) or punched a wall during an argument?
9. Has anyone ever said that s/he is afraid of you?
10. When angry have you ever raised your hand or shaken your fist at anyone?
11. Have you ever slapped, hit or laid hands on other person when angry?
12. Has anyone ever suffered an injury of any sort as a result of your anger?
13. I get angry when I am interrupted.
14. I get angry when I have to wait.
15. I get angry when I feel criticized.
16. People would describe me as sarcastic
17. I’ve said things when angry that I later regretted.
18. Most of my problems have to do with the way other people act.
19. I think other people are too sensitive.
20. Its difficult for me to overlook other people’s mistakes.
21. I hold grudges.
22. Others think I tend to overreact.
23. I get angry or impatient when there isn’t enough time to do what I want to do.
Count your number of "YES" answers. Answering yes to 5 or more of these questions suggests that anger management therapy may be helpful.
1. Do you find it difficult to remain calm when someone has an opinion, which differs from yours?
2. Do people describe you as two different people – a “Dr. Jeckyl” when calm and a “Mr. Hyde when angered?
3. Do your spouse and/or friend avoid conflict with you?
4. Are you a “yeller”?
5. Would others describe you as “prickly” or “too sensitive”?
Answering “Yes” to any of the following questions may be a sign of a anger management problem. The more you answer “Yes” the more likely it is that you have an anger management problem.
Anger is actually often a “secondary emotion”. By that, we mean that anger can actually be a reaction to other underlying and more vulnerable feelings. A good way to visualize this is what is known as the “Anger Iceberg”. As seen here, the anger emotion (that is exposed and witnessed) covers up the primary emotions that are underneath. Anger is typically expressed in one of 3 ways:
1. Aggressive Anger: Anger in this instance is specifically directed at another person, with the specific goal of hurting them (physically or psychologically). Examples of aggressive anger are physical violence, yelling, derogatory comments, name-calling, etc.
2. Passive Anger: Passive anger usually refers to the internalization of the expression of the anger emotion, specifically, by NOT dealing directly with the situation that caused the primary emotional feelings. Since the feelings are internalized, the results are later exhibited through actions like holding a grudge, maybe getting even with someone, spreading gossip or rumors, or even damaging a person's property.
3. Assertive Anger: This is by far the best way to effectively communicate feelings of anger. Assertive anger is an expression that is direct but also non-threatening to the person involved. Assertive anger is characterized by individuals making statements such as “ I feel angry when you…”
If you have a hot temper, you may feel like it’s out of your hands and there’s little you can do to tame the beast. But, you have more control over your anger than you think. You can learn to express your emotions without hurting others—and when you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met. Mastering the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it will get, and the payoff can be huge. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier, more satisfying life.
Child abuse, domestic violence, road rage, workplace violence, divorce, and addiction are just a few examples of what happens when anger is mismanaged.
One out of five Americans has an anger management problem. Anger is a natural human emotion and is nature's way of empowering us to "ward off" our perception of an attack or threat to our well being. The problem is not anger, the problem is the mismanagement of anger. Mismanaged anger and rage is the major cause of conflict in our personal and professional relationships.
We all know what anger is, and we've all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.