Anger is a really uncomfortable emotion. I hate feeling it toward someone else, and I can hardly focus on anything besides wanting to fix things, when I know someone is mad at me. So I get it when a parent expresses distress about their kid being angry. Whether it’s a toddler tantrum or the teen silent treatment, it doesn’t feel good to be the target of their discontent.
FEELING distress over your child’s anger is normal. GIVING IN to alleviate your own distress, however, will, in the long run, cause you more distress. If your child learns that you can be manipulated with anger, you will eventually become emotionally dependent on their happiness. Instead, it’s important to remain firm and kind so your child learns not only where your boundaries are, but also how to recover from their own anger. That’s a life skill!
It starts with having a core relationship of love and respect with your child. When you both know you love each other, and most of the time, that love is expressed through daily positive connection, then on those occasions when you have to make a decision they don’t like, they can be angry at you and you can take it. You don’t need to be their best friend and you don’t need them to like you all the time, because at your core is an understanding that you love them all the time, no matter what.
It helps to create some emotional distance by asking yourself some questions:
- What’s happening from my child’s perspective? Are they tired? Hungry? Stressed? Or just mad that they aren’t getting what they want?
- Is my decision respectful, reasonable and appropriate to the situation? If so, then stand firm and allow your child to work through the anger.
- Is there is an opportunity for problem solving/compromise? If yes, schedule time for a discussion.
For younger children, stay present and help them through the soothing process. Once you know they have those skills, you can walk away and give them time and space. When older kids try to wear you down with badgering, try one of these:
- “This is not open for discussion. I won’t argue with you, and I won’t respond if you continue to talk about this.” Then go about your business and ignore them until they change the subject.
- “You may accept my answer, or you may give me time to think about it and then we’ll discuss possibilities. Which do you choose?” Get back to them within 24 hours, so you are modeling the integrity that you would want from them.
Anger is a natural, normal emotion, and nobody gets out of life without feeling it sometimes. We do children a disservice when we manipulate events, or allow them to manipulate us, to keep them happy all the time. The reality is, kids who can manage unhappy moments are actually happier people! And happier people make for happier families.
Eva Dwight offers coaching to parents and teens. For more information, go to www.evadwight.com.