We know from decades of parenting research that children do best when adults act from a place of loving authority (high expectations paired with high warmth). However, as anyone who is a parent can tell you, sometimes this is more easily said than done. If staying calm is a challenge for you, rest assured that you’re not alone in this struggle. Children bring out the best and the worst in all of us, and being a parent is difficult in ways people don’t understand until they experience it. In addition, many of us were on the receiving end of anger from our own parents, and even if we vowed “never to do that,” we tend to revert to what we grew up with when under stress.
Despite the fact that anger gets triggered so often in parenting, working to control our own behavior is vital if we want the best outcomes for our children. If you’re striving for a mutually responsive relationship, but anger keeps getting in your way of responding kindly and consistently, use these four tips for maintaining self-control.
1. Don’t wait until your patience runs out. If you wait until you’re at the end of your rope before setting boundaries, the possibility for explosive interactions is significantly higher. Instead, work on setting those boundaries as soon as that first spike of annoyance hits. Setting boundaries before you’re fed up allows you to respond to a child’s likely disappointment with compassion rather than annoyance.
2. Start over. When your interactions with your child slip beyond annoyance into anger, this is the crucial moment when things are still salvageable. If you suddenly notice yourself yelling, an easy way to change directions is simply to stop mid-sentence, take a deep breath and say, “I don’t want to yell. Let’s start over again.” This can feel awkward the first few times you do it, but it can be surprisingly effective. Truly, it’s possible for the interaction to turn on a dime and go from confrontation to connection in a moment. Perhaps your child will need a hug, a snuggle or a silly song to reconnect. Then you can move forward again on the same team. [Read more…]