Parents Need to Vent Anger! 4 Steps to Serenity
By Linda Milo
Parents are losing their self-control to their own anger. A friend called me today and told me a very troubling story. She had seen on a T.V. news program the story of a mother driving with her four-year-old child. The mother became angry with her child and couldn't cope anymore with her child's misbehaving. Finally the mother abruptly braked, stopping the car on a busy highway. She pulled over to the side of the highway, opened the door and pushed her child out of the car, slammed the door and just drove away! Luckily, someone saw this poor kid on the side of the highway, stopped and spoke to the child, had the police come by and the mother was eventually found. Unbelievable - dropping your child off on a busy highway because you can't cope with a four year old's misbehaving or with your own anger!
Anger is feeling irked, annoyed, furious, impatient, irritated, frustrated and disgusted. There is nothing wrong with the feeling of anger. Feeling and expressing your anger is healthy for everyone. What is not appropriate is taking your anger out on someone else. Hitting, yelling, and belittling are not the answers for expressing your anger.
Parents are understandably older, bigger, more powerful and stronger than their child. Even with all this clout on the parent's side, parents are uncomfortable with their child's behavior and become angry toward their child. Children are petrified of their parent's anger. If you ask anyone what their worst memory of anger is; it probably relates to their parent's anger with each other or with themselves, the child. When a child hears loud voices, a certain tone of voice, and hears his parents fighting, it plays havoc with him because his relationship with his parents is the foundation of his existence. Parents are irreplaceable figures in the lives of their children. The thought of not having a family life leaves a child believing he will be all alone on this earth. He wonders what will happen to him? Scary stuff for a child to contemplate.
Four-year-old Beth had frequent bouts of temper tantrums, dawdling, rudeness, and just loved to tease her younger brother Ken. Beth's parents were becoming fed-up and angry with Beth because no matter what they did, Beth continued being a hand-full. Beth's parents found themselves nagging, scolding, punishing and finally spanking Beth every time she acted up. They started to feel guilty. Beth's parents knew there had to be a better way to overcome their anger, as well as to guide Beth to more emotionally acceptable behavior, but didn't know what to do. They noticed that their aggressive behavior toward Beth, increased the behavior they wanted to discourage. They came to see their punishment really had no corrective value.
Beth's parents needed some beneficial strategies that would allow their feelings of anger. They needed a demonstration with their child of methods to overcome their anger. It's simple: children learn by imitating. Every child watches and learns from his mother and father. Beth also needed a way to be encouraged to express her anger constructively, not disruptively. Allowing your child to express their anger, to say what's on their minds is a healthy way to connect with your child. Your child's verbal expression of anger is allowing you to know that your child feels safe enough to express an uncomfortable thought.
Many parents know that time-out, being grounded, loss of privilege, and disappointment expressed are far more effective forms of punishment than hitting or belittling. In these cases, a child learns that they are still OK people even though their actions and behaviors were not. The next time you feel angry, try one, or all, of the following:
Step 1: Physical Exercise to Exhaustion Activity
When you're angry, take your child outdoors and take a brisk walk. Tell your child that you are working off your anger. Keep walking until you start to feel calmer and in control. Or you can try jogging, lifting weights, or walking up and down a flight of stairs until you feel exhausted. These forms of exercise always calm everyone down.
Step 2: The Closed Door Gigantic Bear Activity
Tell your child that you are angry and need to let it out. Go into a room; don't invite your child in, just tell your child to wait outside the door. Close the door and pretend you are a gigantic bear! Grunt, groan, stomp around and let it all out! This episode sounds funny, but it allows your anger to come out in a non-threatening way. You may hear a fit of giggles on the other side of the door, as your child will think this sounds very funny. You need to vent and let that anger out.
Step 3: Angry Letter Time
When you become angry, bring your child to a table with two pencils, two envelopes, and some paper. Tell your child that you are writing your anger away. Give your child a pencil (or crayon) and paper. Encourage your child to start writing or drawing. Start writing your "anger letter (just write, don't speak), by placing on paper what it is about your child that makes you so angry, what they did or didn't do. After you finish, put the letter in an envelope unsealed. When you feel angry again, open and read it. Add how you are feeling to the end of it. After you no longer need to look at the letter, dispose of the letter with a ceremony. Make a meaningful occasion out of the disposal. This gesture allows your child to understand that anger can be expressed, placed on paper, and not by physically hurting another person by spanking or yelling.
Step 4: Anger Role Play
Go into a room alone and place two seats facing each other. Imagine your child sitting in the other seat. (Don't invite your child to this activity!) Tell your imaginary child how angry you are with him/her. Then move to the empty chair and speak as he/she would speak to you. Them jump back to your chair and discredit your child's argument or logic. Tear it to shreds! Go back and forth, playing yourself and your child as long as you need to. You can share this Anger Role Play with your child once you vent all your anger out and can demonstrate how effective this technique is to expressing anger and feeling refreshed by its outcome.
Remember, feeling and expressing your anger is healthy for everyone.
About The Author
Linda Milo, a.k.a., "The Parent-Child Connection Coach" specializes in helping mothers and fathers turn their parenting challenges into a more livable, more workable, and more enjoyable family life. Call Linda at 310-458-2079 for a FREE 45 minute consultation on any parenting problem you are facing. Through her Parent-Child Connection Program, Linda's clients enjoy a healthier and a stronger parent-child bond with their child.