Parental Anger: How to Develop Coping Strategies

By Jill Oestreicher Gross

No matter who or what is the cause of your anger, constructive responses start with having realistic expectations, knowing your triggers and coming up with some simple strategies for handling feelings of anger when they arise.

We've all been there: Our beloved child is in a monster-like state, aggravating us to no end by throwing tantrums, nagging us while we are on the phone, refusing to clean up, or coming home with falling grades. Our blood is boiling and our nerves are frayed - what's an angry parent to do?

Anger is one of the most common human feelings, and it is natural to become angry at your children - but how you cope with that anger is integral to a good relationship. And it's not just our kids who can raise our ire - spouses, parents, in-laws and siblings can cause anger and elevate our stress level. No matter who the cause or target of your anger is, experts agree that shouting and attacking their character is hurtful and won't fix the problem.

Common Triggers

Many triggers can elicit a parent's anger, so it's important to identify the specific behaviors that you find most aggravating. Then you can begin to develop strategies for handling them. Heading the list for many parents is whining, not following directions, resistance to getting ready in the morning, stalling at bedtime, bickering with siblings, and insolence.

Coping with your feelings of anger without assaulting your child's personality is important. Giving yourself a cool-down period, expressing your feelings using "I" and not "you" statements and having compassion for your child can help everyone get through difficult moments, experts advise.

According to the late Haim Ginott, Ed.D., a renowned educator, child-development expert and author of the landmark book Between Parent and Child, parents need to accept the fact that they will get angry with their children, that they are entitled to feel angry without guilt or shame, and that they are allowed to express their feelings.

Bridget Santella, a mother of three in Novato, Calif., describes the "out-of-control" feelings of anger she experienced following a downturn in her 14-year-old son's grades. These feelings and the household discord caused her to look for the underlying problem in the situation, she says.

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