Parenting Anger: Is it me or them?
It had been a day filled with tantrums, power struggles and testing, testing, testing. I felt like I was doing all the right things, listening to my kids’ feelings, validating their experience, and extending my patience well beyond what I should need to do.
Yet, everything I did felt like the wrong thing.
I cut the toast wrong.
Hurried them out the door too quickly.
Buckled the car seat incorrectly.
Spoke too loudly.
Anything I did—you name it—the kids seemed unhappy. The day carried on and on like this until my frustration and anger boiled over, spilling out of my mouth and permeating the air like a thick fog.
I flipped my lid. I was done.
How to Deal with Parenting Anger
Parenting is filled with emotions that take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and within that range of emotions falls anger.
While some may think that getting angry about the frustrations of parenting is the wrong thing to do, the truth is that anger is normal, healthy and completely expected. Any normal person coping with the frustrations of daily life with kids is going to feel anger at some point. It’s how we cope with our anger and move forward that makes the most pivotal difference.
One of the things I learned during my own struggles with parenting anger was to use Language of Listening to coach myself through the emotions. I started to SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) to myself each time I started to feel angry:
SWYS: “What you want doesn’t matter.”
This may seem like an unusual SWYS statement to start with, but in my deepest moments of parenting anger, I believed that what I wanted did not matter—to anyone. I felt powerless trying to control my kids’ behaviors. I felt like nothing was going the way I wanted it to, and I felt frustrated that no one seemed bothered by this except for me.
To help myself move past the anger and frustration, I validated those feelings first. I would pace in the middle of my living room talking to myself:
Me: "What I want doesn’t matter. The kids are only interested in what they want to do. And here I am getting more and more angry about the situation."
SWYS: "Yep. You’re right. What you want doesn’t matter. Ugh. So frustrating!! Any normal person would feel frustrated in this situation!
After I coached myself using SWYS, I started coming up with some CAN DOs for myself that allowed me to express my anger and frustration without taking it out on the kids.
CAN DO: “You’re angry, AND you want to yell. There must be something you CAN DO.”
Each time I’d come up with all sorts of crazy things, like go into the master bathroom and scream in the shower. Sometimes I’d scream into a pillow. And sometimes I’d go onto the balcony and scream out there. The neighbors probably thought I was nuts, but to me, I was dealing with the anger so I could return and be the calm parent I wanted to be.
Each time I was able to calm down, I named my own STRENGTHS. As parents, we don’t do this enough. Encouraging ourselves and recognizing the things we do well is incredibly important for success.
STRENGTH: “You are purposeful, controlled, and calm in your parenting.”
At first glance it may seem like yelling off your balcony isn’t all that controlled or calm, but being angry—or even yelling—was never the issue for me. Dealing with the anger by yelling at my kids and frightening them was the main problem I wanted to solve. I wanted to deal with my anger in a way that allowed my kids to see that I was angry but that kept me from yelling at them or judging or shaming their behaviors.
As strange as it initially felt to coach myself through this type of situation, it actually worked. I started to feel calmer, more controlled and happier as a parent. I was able to see my kids’ challenging behavior as their way of letting me know they needed more coaching and guidance.
After about a month’s time passed, much of my anger went away because I stopped seeing anger as a useful parenting tool. In the past when I felt angry, I did it because I wanted to feel powerful and take control of the situation. I thought the anger would be enough to scare my kids into better behavior, improved listening, and abundant cooperation.
Except, the anger never did much to change the situation. Most times it made it worse. It definitely did not improve the kids’ behavior. And to top it all off, the yelling and anger only seemed to drain ME. That didn’t work for me, so I dove deeper and deeper into coaching myself using Language of Listening.
I still get frustrated and angry, but it’s far below the intensity I ever experienced before. By letting go of the anger and focusing on coaching myself to be the parent I wanted, I was able to nurture a calmer, happier and more connected home.
That’s the thing I love most about Language of Listening. It’s a coaching tool that you can use not just with others, but with yourself. Give it a try. The results may surprise you.
Lauren Tamm is the author of The Military Wife and Mom blog, where she writes on practical parenting, enjoying motherhood, and thriving through the ups and downs of military life. Connect with her on Facebook or Pinterest.