For Parents: Tactics to Tame Your Temper
Your 8-year-old throws his jacket on the floor. You ask him to hang it up. He refuses. You start yelling.
The details may vary, but you probably have your own tales of losing your temper with your child.
Getting angry—and dealing with it—is part of being a parent. Anger is a natural response to stress, and raising children is stressful. Still, you can take steps to manage your anger so you're more in control and a good role model for your kids. Here's how:
Calm down. "Most important is to exit the situation. It gives you time to get yourself together," says Nancy Samalin, author of Loving Without Spoiling and an internationally known speaker on parenting. Suggested actions: Call a friend to come over while you take a break or take your children for a walk. Ms. Samalin also suggests writing down your feelings to cool off. If you can't walk out of the dispute (if you're driving, for instance), try to count to 10, breathe deeply, repeat a word like "relax" or picture a calming experience.
Express yourself. "What you say when you're angry is what's important. Begin with 'I' statements and keep it short," Ms. Samalin says. Knowing your triggers can help stop confrontations before they start. If your child is whining about something that could lead to an argument, warn him that you're already upset or say that now is not a good time. If you're more upset than your child, take care of yourself first, says Ms. Samalin.
Focus on what's important. "Check with someone else as to whether you are justified in your anger," says Judith Linger, M.D., a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). "An uninvolved third party may help you put things in perspective," she adds. Ms. Samalin encourages parents to ask themselves, "Will this matter a week from now?"
Restore good feelings later. "Go back and let the child know that you're sorry," says Ms. Samalin. That's especially true if you jumped to a wrong conclusion or levied an unusually harsh punishment, says Dr. Linger: "You can help the child learn from your mistake by apologizing forthrightly, honestly and quickly. It will go a long way toward developing a maturing relationship with the child."
If you feel angry with your child almost every day or have trouble controlling your anger, talk to your doctor or a counselor, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.