From 'argh' to 'ahh': how to calm family anger

A calmer parent means a calmer home.
A calmer parent means a calmer home. 

No matter how skilled you are at parenting, and no matter how wonderful your children can be, it’s impossible to completely avoid the unpleasant situations that occur in all families. While reactions to these situations will vary, it’s fair to say that everyone – both children and parents – will sometimes react to these situations by getting angry.

Dealing with your child’s tantrums is one thing, but it’s important you can cope with your own anger in a healthy way. Once you understand where your anger comes from you can change the situation and learn ways to control your reactions.

What sets you off?
Most parents get angry over issues that are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but when they happen on a regular basis they can get blown out of proportion. Some of the most common parenting issues that trigger anger are tantrums, sibling bickering, whinging and non-cooperation. Determine which behaviours most bother you and make a plan to correct each problem that sets off your anger.

Notice your hot spots
In addition to triggers, there are “hot spots” in the day when anger rises to the surface more easily. These are typically times when family members are tired, hungry or stressed, leaving us more vulnerable to anger. This can happen in the early morning, before naptime, before meals or at bedtime. You might also notice situations when misbehaviour increases, and so does your anger: grocery shopping, playdates, or family visits, for example.

Set a plan
Try to work out if there are things you can do differently to ward off some of the issues that spark your anger. For example, if the morning rush brings stress, you can prepare things the night before – set out clothing, pack lunches and collect shoes. Then create a “morning poster” that outlines the daily routine step-by-step for older children.

Once you understand where your anger comes from you can change the situation and learn ways to control your reactions.

If you find that tempers are shorter in the hour before dinner, set out healthy appetizers, enlist the kids’ help in preparing dinner, or get them involved in a craft activity that doesn’t need your constant supervision. If possible, it could also help to set an earlier meal time.

Doing things the way you’ve always done them and expecting different results only leaves you frustrated and angry. Instead, identify your anger triggers and try to take action to change things for the better.

Learn something new
Once you’ve identified a problem, consider several options for solving it. Jot down possible alternatives on paper, or discuss it with another adult. You might want to join the Essential Baby forums and talk about it with other parents there. There’s no reason for you to make decisions in a vacuum – it’s very likely the problems you’re dealing with are common, and there are lots of sources for solutions.

Be flexible
As most adults would know, anger isn’t something that can be dealt with once then never again. As your children grow and change, new issues will always appear. From time to time, take a fresh look at the issues that create negative emotions in your family, then take action to change things for the better.

Let love help
At times of anger, try to hold on to the feeling of love that’s the foundation of your relationship with your child. Take time to play, talk and listen. Hug, kiss and cuddle your child often. When you build up this foundation of positive love and emotions, you’ll find yourself less likely to experience intense anger.<

Get help
If you ever feel you might hurt yourself or your children, make sure they’re safe and then leave the room until you calm down. If the anger ever feels too much, or comes up no matter what you try, it’s a good idea to get some help from a counsellor. You can talk to a doctor for a referral, or contact Lifeline for immediate help.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-