Our kids have the uncanny ability to get under our skin and bring out the very worst in us. We can lose our tempers and yell at our kids in a way that we would never do with a child who wasn’t our own. Indeed, we often treat our loved ones the worst.
Here’s the truth: feeling angry is a fact of life, and we can’t stop that. But, we can take steps to control how we react to our anger. We can get angry without losing our temper, and when we can do that, our parenting becomes much more effective.
In other words, we will do a better job of getting our kids to behave appropriately if we can control our tempers. And, in the process, we will feel better too.
Below are 8 steps you can begin to take today that will help you remain calm and parent effectively when anger overcomes you. You and your child will be better for it.
Understanding our triggers as a parent is the first step in ensuring that we don’t lose our tempers and begin screaming at our kids.
As the mother of a teenager who also has ADD and has a hard time controlling his impulses, I know that what triggers me is his bad attitude. Therefore, when his bad attitude kicks in, and he starts spewing negativity, I need to take a step back and focus on how I’m feeling at that moment.
In my case, my neck tenses, my cheeks feel flushed, and, having a hot temper myself, I can almost taste the words readying themselves to roll off my tongue in response.
Some of your triggers might include your toddler saying “No!” for the umpteenth time that day. Or perhaps when your middle school daughter rolls her eyes at you or your high school son doesn’t do his chores again.
By recognizing my emotional triggers as well as the physical sensations in my body that are associated with them, I am better equipped to say to myself:
“Okay, I recognize this feeling, and it always leads to me losing my temper. Stop it. Take some time to calm down.”
This is called positive self-talk and it’s very effective. The calm and in-control part of your brain is telling the temper part of your brain to cool it.
When you can recognize what frustrates you the most, you are on the path to stopping your temper from boiling over.
Know that we can all learn to be calmer. Think about it. We tell our kids that they need to learn to calm down and not overreact. We can do the same for ourselves.
There are many times when I stop mid-sentence, sit down, and use deep breathing to calm myself. This makes my teenagers nuts—they think I’m crazy when I do this—but it works.
If you are about to lose your temper, consider counting backward, towards calmness, until you are in a different place. Begin with a number that’s higher than your stress level. For some people, this can be 100, which equates to about two minutes. For others, 30 might be sufficient. Whatever number you choose, this exercise buys you time before doing or saying something you might regret.
Again, these techniques might seem silly if you have not tried them, but they really work. There is something about counting and deep breathing that uses a different part of the brain and gives the irritated part a chance to settle down.
When you find you are about to lose it, walk away from your child. Not only does this prevent you from starting down the wrong path, but it also models for your child an appropriate response when they are feeling overwhelmed themselves.
For older kids, feel free to say:
“You know, I’m not ready to talk to you about this right now, so I’m going to be alone for a few moments until I can calm down.”
Too often, parents fall into bad communication patterns that we may have learned from our parents when we were growing up. These can include giving our kids the silent treatment, withdrawing from the family, giving overly harsh punishments in the heat of the moment, yelling, making snide or sarcastic remarks, swearing, and name-calling.
It’s very easy to fall into this pattern, especially when you have a toddler screaming at you or a teenager swearing and getting in your face.
But again, it’s important to remember that you are modeling how to deal with anger and frustration for your child. And you are not just modeling for their childhood and adolescence, but for their adulthood as well.
This is not to say that you can’t express anger, disappointment, or frustration with your child. Often, we need our kids to know we aren’t happy, but we have to find ways to express our feelings appropriately.
Healthy communication relies on both you and your child being calm, so do not approach them if they are still raging at you or you are still too angry to talk.
For both young children as well as adolescents, keep your comments brief and to the point. Here are some examples:
“I don’t appreciate it when I come home from work, and you haven’t done any of your chores. Please do them now.”
“I don’t like it when you take your brother’s toys and make him cry. The consequence for that is that your train now is in time-out for 20 minutes, while you practice better behavior.”
“You know the rule in our house is completing homework before television. No more TV for the night.”
When you are finished, move on to something else. Don’t dwell on what just happened.
For several tips on how to do this, take a look at the following article by Debbie Pincus:
5 Secrets for Communicating with Your Teenager
Also, I highly recommend the James Lehman parenting program called Getting Through to Your Child. He shows you exactly how to communicate with your child in ways that are effective and productive.
For most parents, the worst part about losing our temper is how we feel afterward. Losing our tempers with our kids can lead to significant parenting guilt. And we can’t turn the clock back and undo what we have just done.
Parenting guilt itself can lead us to parent ineffectively in the future. Parents who harbor guilt often have difficulty holding their kids accountable in the future.
Related content: Am I a Bad Parent? How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt
It is important to realize that all parents do things that they regret. After all, we’re only human. So, give yourself a break, and don’t let your guilt about past actions keep you from parenting effectively in the future.
Too often, our tantrums are born out of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Therefore, it’s important not to put yourself in a position of feeling chronically overwhelmed by getting upset over every little annoying thing your child does.
One way to combat this is to think hard about what is most important. Enforce and address what you can for now and let go of the rest.
For younger kids, there are a lot of daily behaviors that can be frustrating. We all know that kids this age are messy, noisy, and have meltdowns.
For middle school and high school kids, the issues may be moodiness, irresponsible behavior, or backtalk.
Pinpoint what your family values are and decide what to tackle. Is it important that your child completes chores, has a semi-clean room, and is respectful? If so, then make it clear what your expectations are, and don’t worry about the other issues for now.
The goal here is that the occasional mess, eye roll, and the moodiness won’t matter as much.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is knowing when to admit you’ve done something wrong and to apologize. Some parents struggle with this, thinking that if they do this they are giving up their power or showing weakness.
But ask yourself what it is you want to teach and model to your child about grown-up relationships. Surely we want to teach our kids the importance of an apology when they’ve wronged someone. There’s nothing more powerful than a parent admitting their faults and offering a sincere apology.
Pick trusted friends or family members who will support you through your parenting years. Find like-minded parents who you feel safe confiding in when you’ve exploded and feel ashamed or guilty. Make sure you nurture these relationships so you have a sounding board (and can return the favor) when you are at your wits’ end.
Important: do not divulge your worst parenting moments to other parents or family members who are judgmental or who express shock or dismay at your momentary lapse in parenting judgment. These people will only make you feel worse about yourself and will suck the energy out of you.
Also, many organizations, including our’s, offer parenting classes and coaching. Take advantage of these resources and learn from the experiences of those who have been through this already.
Lastly, practice self-care by being kind and forgiving towards yourself. Parents are harder on themselves than any other group of individuals I know of. This is born out of intense feelings of love and concern for our kids, as well as the desire to get it all right all the time.
But there’s no such thing as a perfect parent who does it all right, all the time. Most of us are lucky if we can get through the day being a “good enough” parent.
Related content: How To Be a “Good Enough” Parent
Whether you lose your temper once or twenty times, just acknowledge to yourself that you’ve made a mistake and commit to doing better in the future. Know that you aren’t perfect. Know that you may lose your temper again. But also know that you are just human, and you can improve.
So, forgive yourself for past indiscretions and move forward with the goal that you will start each day aiming to try your best.
Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child Makes You Angry
4 Steps to More Patience as a Parent
Empowering Parents Podcast: Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher
Dr. Joan Simeo Munson earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Denver. She has worked with incarcerated individuals, families, adolescents, and college students in a variety of settings, including county and city jails, community mental health centers, university counseling centers, and hospitals. She also has a background in individual, group, and couples counseling. Dr. Munson lives in Colorado with her husband and three energetic children. She currently has a private practice in Boulder where she sees adults, couples and adolescents.
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Hello...I am a single parent of two autistic boys. One 4 and one 7. I am very isolated, not working because I can't even shower with them in the house. The only time I can do anything except damage control is when they are at school.
I lost my only friend...my mother suddenly to cancer last year. Which really toke a toll on my children. My father works out of town from Nov to May.
I am desperately trying to raise these boys. But there is constant fighting ad breaking things...the father is out of control on drugs..so he can't help.
I feel like I am loosing this battle.
I have them in terapy and I am starting today. I just have such a hard time dealing with their emotions and keeping calm. I never spanked my oldest daughter...but my boys seem to not hear me at all.
I can't take them in a store or to a friends house...no body wants to deal with it. So I am always alone.
I don't know if I am strong enough to do this..but I am also not strong enough to let them go. I want to help them..but I am always getting upset.
Desperate mother ?
Hi! My heart goes out to you! If you live in the USA, every state has a state run program for develpemental disabilities. Here in Arizona, it is called aptly enough, "Dept of Develpmental Disabilites". There are many, many benefits that qualifying your children under this program will allow you and them, starting with in home respite providers that are trained to help you with your specific needs, even if its just time for yourself taking a blessed shower or getting away from the house for a few hours!
If you have not already qualified your children, please, please consider doing so, because the stress you are living with is not sustainable and your whole family is at risk.
(((HUGS))) God bless you as you go forward!
You are not alone in this battle I promise you. The fact that you are trying is enough to truly benefit your life and the lives of your children.
For 6 years I worked with kids who had special needs before pursuing my teaching degree. I was very much aware of the struggles parents faced in the journey they had with their children. They had courage, much like you, to fight to find methods that worked. Eventually they found them, and created a family life they were fighting for and loved. You will too.
There are many support groups online as well as tips for raising children with autism. It is likely you will find community support and programs willing to provide assisance. It is difficult, as all kids are, but there are ways to improve the life you have with your girl and boys. Give strategies time to work and be consistent. Most importantly, find a way to take care of yourself too! Find in home sitters that specialize in working with children with special needs, they will not only give you some time to regroup but help impliment some more strategies as well.
From my experience, routine is key! Pay attention to your kids (and your own!) emotional, social, and physical cues/triggers to try and prevent negative behavior. I hope once you get into a routine you'll breath easier and start to enjoy this beautiful journey you and your family are on. Best of luck!
Hi, I have a 3 yrs old son whom is extremely strong willed, lately I feel I have lost control of his behavior and he is getting in trouble at daycare, throwing chairs and hitting and kicking his teacher. He has on occasion done this with me while doing simple things like trying to get him to put pants on in the morning, I usually handle this by explaining to him calmly why he needs pants or why I don't want him doing something, and sometimes have to walk away completely to cool down, when I come back thete is still a fight but he is a little easier to pursuade. However there are times I get frustrated and yell or spank him and my husband yells at him 1 time and he does as asked, my husband has never spanked him. We have even done time out or time away from the situation but I'm currently at a lose and don't know what to do now. I have tried taking things away he enjoys also but he doesn't seem to care. I want to not be the mom that yells or spanks, I want to be in control but still have a loving relationship with him. I just don't know what to do.
Wow.... Thank you so much... I'm a black South African so we believe in good hidings I mean that's how we were raised. Sometimes I find my self mad and not yell or scream but hit my child out of anger but I tried your steps tep of waking away and calm conversation at times I find nOthat my 7 year old didn't even have a clue that what she is doing is wrong... I also I'm still trying to break away from how I was punished as a child and forgiving my self because accepting room for mistake for myself helps me make room t for child to actually make mistakes and do wrong and then teach her from that...
Well I'm still learning to do good as a mother raise my child the best possible was as per every parent...
Thank you for your
question. You make a great point that sometimes, it is more difficult to
take some time for yourself to calm down, especially when you are up against a
deadline like being to school on time. As noted in the article above,
recognizing your own triggers is part of figuring out how you can respond in a
more effective way. For example, if you notice that mornings are a
difficult time for you and your kids, this can help you to be proactive in
avoiding power struggles and https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/4-steps-to-more-patience-as-a-parent/ with them. In addition, I also encourage you to
problem-solve with your children about what they can do differently to make
sure that they are ready on time. We have some great suggestions to help
you get started in our article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/our-morning-routine-isnt-working-6-ways-to-fix-it-now/. Please let us
know if you have any additional questions. Take care.
Kwee I'm not a pro or the author of this article, but I can relate. My daughter turns 15 on Wed. Although she gets out of bed fine, she primps, adds mascara, curls hair and even if she wakes 1.5 hours before the bus comes, inevitably she is "running late". I feel like I'm constantly in a panic to get her out the door. It's starts off nice. "Sweetie, the bus will be here in 10 minutes, please quickly finish up." 5 minutes later - "Honey, the bus is almost here, and your shoes aren't even on, and your backpack isn't packed. Get moving". I can hear the bus pulling up the street, so now my pleasant requests turn into "Move, hurry your butt up, or it's going to leave you" as I'm opening the door trying to get the bus to stop. Very unpleasant way to start off the day (2-3x a week). I've started something new. If you are not ready downstairs, with everything ready, each day BEFORE the bus comes, you don't get any t.v. music or computer, etc. after school when you get home. Enjoy reading or cleaning if you have free time after school. It's started to improve. Even if the bus doesn't leave her, I cannot let her think it's okay to allow 20 other kids and a driver to wait another minute or two while she is running up to the bus. So inconsiderate.
My 6 year old is similar to the issues you are having, just about simply getting out of bed, etc. I set the alarm about 10 minutes earlier than I need to for her, wake her. Go start a pot of coffee, etc. come back in five minutes and if she is still snoozing or not starting to get ready, then I get a little firmer. - "Honey, you need to get out of bed now, or you will be late". That is usually enough motivation, but the point is, I start a little earlier than I need to. I think some people are just not morning people and need that extra 10 minutes of snooze or a few minutes to wake up. My older daughter can get up and sets her own alarm. She is a morning person, but with NO sense of urgency and has no issues making others wait. Trying to break her of those habits.
Good luck to you.
Good article. I came here looking for advice since my teenage daughter occasionally goes BONKERS and has tantrums, mostly over texting and phone use. She turns 15 next week and we have huge trust issues in that she has violated the house rules for phones more times that I can count, so much that it has impacted her school work in prior years until I figured out what was causing her issues and would nip it in the bud, via a parental control app to limit time or apps and give her explicit instructions, such as no texting or phone calls after 9:00 p.m. until 7:00 am, etc. and no texting during class; stuff that seems very reasonable and lock out those apps. We found out she was continuously violating these rules and has friends who help her "get around" our parental locks on the phone. Texting until 4:00 a.m. with boys who were completely inappropriate, asking her if she is a virgin or "What have you done with other boys", etc.. Thank God I never found an actual time where she acted on that, but responses more like "LMAO perv". Even still, totally uncalled for and any conversation at 4 a.m. is crazy, even if homework related, which of course they never are.
Today we had what I call a "knock down drag out" - obviously no one was knocked down or dragged out, but I wanted to, oh I did. Last night I discovered that she had made a new messaging app her default so that it would not save in the history on the synced parental control app and give her more freedom with this other app that I thought was benign, but realize now, needs to be blocked as well. Either way, she used the app to violate rules, deceive, etc. I was pissed. I called her on it and said that it is possible that she won't get her phone back for the entire school year. I said, it's a full time job for dad and I to spend a couple of hours a week going through the logs, checking the history and making sure that you have installed another "go around" app, which of course this week she did. I said "For now, if people want to reach you, they can dial our house phone." She flipped and told me she doesn't know what app I'm talking about, deny, deny, deny. I told her she has lied about this in the past and she is lying about it now and if she doesn't calm down and "own up" to this, it's possible she will not have a very exciting birthday party, or go to Homecoming, when I just spent a bunch of money on a non-refundable dress, since her current reaction to my conversation is making a bad situation even worse. I told her to settle down and think about what she has done and we will talk about it after school. She continued to scream and had a hot curling iron in her hand which she THREW AT ME and I jumped when it dropped on the ground and I proceed to step on it and scalded my foot. There is literally a curling iron burn 6 inches across the arch of my foot diagonally, blistering. I LOST MY COOL. I reached over and slapped her. I left the room. We didn't' talk for about 30 minutes and she left for the school bus.
She had complete rage for me, and thankfully I'm still stronger, but I feel like obviously I lost my composure. I will likely apologize for slapping her, but I know if I had not scalded my foot on a iron she threw at me, it would not have escalated to that level. I'm not a violent person. My kids got an occasional light spanking when little for running down the street without telling me or something else dangerous, but this was a first, and hopefully a last. Don't think I can handle having to physically defend against a teenager throwing heavy or hot items at me.
I've read many articles on this website and I'm finding them to be very useful. I see a common approach with many of these articles and that is to remain calm and walk away from your child while they are having their meltdown. You then come back and talk about the situation a bit and maybe dole out a punishment. My question is, what happens when you and your child are calm and you then try to talk to them or discipline them and they start raging again? Do you start the process all over? My daughter is super sensitive and takes a bit to calm down and I've noticed if I try and talk to her afterwards (once she's calm) she starts getting upset all over again.
You ask a great question. You would allow your child more
time to calm down if she starts to get upset when you first try to talk with
her and then go back and attempt the conversation again. If you find yourself
going back more than a couple of times, you can say something like “I can see
you’re not in a place to have this conversation right now. That’s OK. We do
need to have this conversation, so, until we do, your electronics privileges
will be on hold. Let me know when you’re ready to talk” and then walk away. You
might also consider implementing some of the strategies Janet Lehman suggests
in her article How to Stop Arguing With Your Child: 9 Steps to Take Today. I hope this
helps to answer your query. Please let us know if
you have any other questions. Take care.
My child is ADHD from the very beginning. I knew at 2 years old that she was not like my other nieces and nephews or kids I had been around. She is 13 now and grades are tanked, she is lazy, doesn't care, disrespectful...my marriage has been over for at least 10 years and basically we just live together to get the bills paid. We have seen psychiatrist one after the other...and therapists nothing has really seemed to help. Now we are in the temper tantrum stage in which she plans things with her friends without telling her parents and when we say no...we aren't sure what's going to happen...slamming doors, running off in the rain... If we take her phone which I've had for her grades she lies, finds it and uses it until we figure it out. The TVs and computers are locked down as well due to her going to inappropriate websites...knowing she was there and continued to water over 200 videos.. I have read so many books that I feel I should have a doctorate in this field. I have tried rewarding, talking the phone and all electronics away. She has a beautiful voice and we were planning to apply to a public free performing arts school but her grades are not where they need to be because 1) doesn't care 2) doesn't study and 3) thinks that trying at the test is the effort. She is so obsessed with celebrities that I think if I died and Justin Beiber was playing on TV or radio that she would just step over my body and do nothing. I know this sounds harsh but she is non-compliant and defiant in any request of her. Say ...take your shoes to your room...wait a sec, I am busy or just ignores. She doesn't want to do anything to even make herself look good or to please her parents. Now that we've changed her meds to something that hasn't worked except for her to sleep at night..she refuses to takes anything that may help her get into a better school (in private school 8th grade). She has a beautiful voice in which we pay for private voice lessons, but she will not PRACTICE...she can get into this performing ARTS school, but she will not PRACTICE. I want to run away for I am sick of all the yelling and screaming everyday by her and her dad. Then we start as soon as something is requested of her..such as what is your homework...May I see it? She has 3 D's and will not get into this high school that I am not even sure she cares about anyway. I just don't see any future for my child. I am stressed to the point I can't sleep and have an ulcer. My husband of 25 years pretty much lives here but abandoned me with her since she was born. My family doesn't live her and doesn't understand. I am all alone and sick of it.
My husband calls her stupid, idiot, jackass and blames her for our marital problems. She has a lot that she carries for at times I do see her compassion.