Managing your anger when your child does something that royally ticks you off is a huge challenge for most parents. But disciplining your kids in the heat of anger often causes more harm than good. You see, when parents react, they often say things they later regret.
The honest truth is that what you say in anger and what you say when you’re calmed down will most likely be two different things.
When you parent out of anger…
You usually say something you later regret.
Your child prioritizes NOT making you angry over good behavior. In other words, their motivation for making good choices is to not make you angry, not because it is the right thing to do.
You are most likely parenting to punish, instead of discipline. Punishment purposes to hurt simply for the sake of hurting, whereas discipline corrects and teaches.
You are venting to your child, instead of guiding them.
When you parent from calmness…
You give yourself time to calm down. With little kids, that should be a shorter time period because they may not remember exactly what they did, but as your kids get older, a longer time between infraction and discipline is okay.
You take time to think about what your child really needs to learn from the situation, not just how the situation made you feel.
Your child sees a model of healthy anger management. It’s okay to admit that what they angered you, but then they see how you controlled yourself and took control over your emotions.
Your child is going to be more receptive to your words. Angry words often get tuned out.
A 7th grader lied to her parents.
When I was in middle school, my dad caught me in a bold-faced lie and instructed me to come see him in his office (in the house) in 30 minutes. Worst half-hour ever!
When I went in to talk with him, he was calm and he asked me questions instead of yelling and lecturing. We talked about the importance of honesty and what happens when you break someone’s trust.
It would have taken less time for him to punish me as soon as he caught me by grounding me, but he chose the harder route; he chose to calm down, think about what was really at stake here and discipline accordingly.
That was many, many years ago, but the lesson I learned that day is still vivid in my mind: when you break someone’s trust by being dishonest, you have to learn it back. I would have not learned that if he’d chosen the easier route of simply grounding me immediately in anger. That reaction might have made him feel better in the moment–like he’d done his parenting duty–but it would not have taught me a life-impacting lesson on the value of honesty.
I left our conversation that day facing the consequence of having to earn back his trust. There was discipline yes, but it was all tied into me having to earn back his trust.
That kind of parenting takes more time. It requires the willingness to step back, assess the situation and do what is best for our child, not what makes you feel better in the moment. Quite honestly, before you can properly parent your child, you must be able to parent yourself.
If you find yourself parenting a lot out of anger, you are teaching your child to also let anger control their behavior. Is anger dictating your response to your child’s poor choices? If so, find a way to step back, think about what your child really needs from you and guide them from a place of calmness.
If managing your parenting anger is a big struggle for you, I can help. Please schedule a free consultation here.