My kid makes me so angry! What should I do?
by Guest Author BJ Meurer, one of our trained coaches and seminar presenters
Tell me if this sounds at all familiar:
- Do you have a child who seems to go from 0 to 60 on the emotions scale in 2 seconds?
- Do you find yourself walking on eggshells hoping to just make it through the day without screaming, fighting, arguing, or a meltdown?
- Do you even find yourself contributing to the yelling and you’d like to stop but just don’t know how?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then congratulations! You’re a regular family struggling with emotions like so many other families. Anger is a common emotion in family life. While we often see kids struggling with anger, the truth is us parents often need help with this too.
So what should we do when we start feeling angry?
Anger is a Powerful and Important Emotion
“Be angry and do not sin …” Did you ever think the Bible would tell you to be angry? But that’s exactly what Paul tells the Ephesians. That said, Paul is quick to also warn them to not sin since Paul knows how powerful and dangerous anger is.
Anger itself is not a sin. It is an emotion that God designed as a signal for our hearts. Feeling happy is a signal that something enjoyable is happening. Feeling sad or disappointed is a signal that something special or meaningful was lost. Feeling angry is a signal that something is wrong or that there is a problem.
So if anger is simply a signal to our hearts, then our goal should not be to ignore, suppress, or get rid of anger. Instead, it should be to become better at listening for anger in ourselves so we hear it sooner in the process and respond more appropriately.
Listening For Anger
Listening for anger is the first of 3 essential steps in learning how to develop emotional self-control. So we need to learn our own anger cues.
How do we know when our child is feeling angry? Does he start to growl? Does she clench her teeth? Does he start to yell or bark at others? What are the signals that our child is getting angry? If we can identify these body signals in our child, we can identify them in ourselves as well.
Learning to Stop
The second essential step to managing anger better is learning to stop. Anger is a forward propelling emotion. It pushes us to act, but it rarely lets us act wisely. So we need to stop and take a break instead.
We need to develop a plan for ourselves. That could be sitting on the couch, sitting on the edge of our bed, going on a quick walk, etc. When we have a plan in advance, we are more likely to respond to our children’s misbehaviors calmly by using our plan than when we just wing it and hope we don’t react with anger.
One mom I worked with who struggled with anger told me she found great success in saying to her child, “I love you enough to go take a break. I’ll see you soon” and then disappearing to her bedroom for a little while. What I loved about what she said is that she modeled for her child that it is an act of love to take a break, have a change of heart, and return with a new plan. This is the essence of what we want to develop in our kids.
Moving Forward with a Better Plan
Now while you’re taking a break, you need to make a plan. Start by asking yourself:
- What was going on that I started feeling angry?
- Why was that wrong?
- What would be a better way for my child to move forward? How can I help him/her learn this?
- How could I respond next time my child struggles with this?
For example, sometimes a child’s rude or argumentative response makes us feel disrespected. At that moment anger tells us that our child needs to respond better. He may even need us to model for him the right response. But yelling at that child isn’t going to bring about the heart change we want to see. We need to make a better plan for how to respond to the situation.
The more we take time to make better plans, the more we will find ourselves using those plans in the future without needing that break we were taking before. That’s when we start seeing heart change.
If you’d like some more help, grab your free copy of a resource I created entitled Helping Your Child with Anger and Other Big Emotions. It’s packed with practical parenting tools and strategies to help your child and you do better at conquering big emotions like anger. Here’s the best part. Every tool in the printable has a link to a video where I show you exactly how to start using that tool. So go ahead and grab your copy today.