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Anger Management for Parents

It is not anger itself that is bad, but your expression of it, that can be harmful.  You do not have to be caught in the fight or flight response. There are ways to deal constructively with your anger that leaves everyone’s self-respect intact.


Notice when you are getting angry

The first thing is to become aware of how your body reacts when you are getting angry. Often thoughts register in your body before you are even aware of your corresponding feelings. Do you:

  • clench your teeth?

  • talk quickly?

  • feel your heart beat faster?

  • get flushed?

  • sweat?

  • feel hot or cold?


Take note where in your body you show your anger. With practice, you will be able to notice as your irritation is rising, before you burst. If you catch your anger while it is still small and easier to manage, you will have greater success in following the rest of the recommendations without exploding.  

Calm down

This concept, similar to counting to 10, will give you time to bring oxygen back into your brain and to reactivate the thinking part of your brain so you can do more than “see red.”

By regaining your composure, you can select how you want to act, rather than automatically reacting in familiar, but possibly not so helpful, ways to the situation.


Although easier said than done, with time you can learn to:

  • slow down your breathing,

  • unclench your jaw,

  • speak more slowly and quietly,

  • or relax your hand.


You may need to:

  • take 5,

  • engage in physical activity,

  • visualize a calm image such as a cloud or rainbow,

  • or repeat a mantra such as “I can handle this, “or “This too shall pass,” or “ I can be angry and still think.”


As a result, you will be calmer and in a better position to respond.


Consider what is making you angry

In the heat of the moment, you may not even be aware of what is annoying you. Getting to those underlying feelings and the reasons behind them can make a huge difference.

If you discover that it is one of your unmet needs causing the trouble, you can work to find ways to get what you need, such a break or time with a friend.

If it is your children’s behavior that is the issue, you can learn about typical child development so you will know if your expectations of them are realistic. Much of parents’ anger comes from thinking that their children are deliberately trying to “drive them crazy.”

When you learn to take the behavior less personally, you may be able to let go of some of the anger and react with less irritation and with more compassion. Furthermore, you are more likely to come up with more effective and creative solutions to change the interaction.


  • For example, knowing that a typical 9-year-old is restless, you may realize that having this child sit through a long family dinner is difficult for him. You may notice that after 30 minutes he tends to pick a fight with his younger brother. Rather than criticizing him and starting a fight at the table, you can understand that this behavior is part of being 9 and plan to have him get up and refill water glasses or clear the table.


Look for other underlying emotions


As you think about your experience, check if “angry” is truly the best word to describe your emotion. Is there an underlying feeling that needs to be addressed that more accurately defines your reaction?

The clearer you are about your emotions, the better you will be able to share your feelings and find solutions to the problems. It is also helpful to place your emotions on a continuum. Are you:miffed? —> annoyed? —> frustrated? —> irritated? —>exasperated? —> furious? —> enraged?


Again, the better you can describe your experience, the easier it is to manage your reactions.


Use an “I” Message to share your feelings

Once you are clear about what bothers you, you can use an “I” message to communicate your displeasure. The goal of an “I” Message is to reveal your experience without blaming or shaming others. You take responsibility for your reaction, which avoids those end-of-day regrets.


An “I” Message has three parts:

  • I feel… (you will have determined this in the previous step) sad

  • When I see/hear… (be descriptive) you call your sister mean names,

  • Because… it is important to me that you two are kind to one another.


Ideally, after using an “I” Message, you can let your children know what they need to do to remedy the situation. Many children are uncomfortable when confronted with their parents’ displeasure. By showing them how to correct the situation, you are leaving their self-esteem intact.


An effective “I” Message would be: “I feel sad when I hear you call your sister mean names because it is important to me that you two are kind to one another. You can apologize to her and we can talk about what else you can say to her when you don’t like what she does.”


Another example: “I am furious when I see your new bicycle left out in the rainbecause we just bought it and I don’t want it to rust. Now go put your bicycle in the shed.”


Remember: You want to stick to the current issue and not bring up past misdeeds.

Ideas to Think About:

  • Accept anger as a normal, human, inevitable feeling. Parents are going to get exasperated with their children; don’t judge yourself harshly because you are angry.

  • Look for underlying issues that may be causing the anger. Deal with it before it gets out of control.

  • Direct the anger at the appropriate source.

  • Examine your expectations of your child.

  • Focus on the essential; decide which rules are really important; let some things go.

  • Exit or wait – do not overwhelm a child with too much intensity. Walk away or count to ten.

  • Don’t pretend you are not angry when you are.

  • Consciously plan how to express your feelings – remember you can think and feel at the same time.

  • Use calming techniques.

  • Use ‘I’ Messages – the goal is ‘anger without insult.’

  • Stay short, to the point, and in the present.

  • Avoid physical force, threats and statements that attack or blame.

  • Use humor and restore good feelings.

  • Create a signal system for your children – so they know that you are getting increasingly angry. At a certain point, they can know they need to give you “space.”

  • If you find that you react in a way that is too harsh, you can apologize to your child and tell him what you wish you had said or how you wish you had reacted.

  • Take time for yourself.

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