You’re all alone dealing with a houseful of kids who, when they’re not playing nicely together, may be crying, whining, fighting, or running around creating havoc and chaos. You can feel the anger, frustration, and resentment rising in you–you’re ready to blow a gasket! It’s normal to feel resentment and feel as if you’re going crazy. You just want to sit down and cry, or run outside and scream.
Guess what? That’s not a bad option, but there’s a way to do it that won’t freak out your kids. The truth is, holding down your anger only intensifies it, and it will end up coming out in a way you’ll regret. There’s a healthy way to release anger that won’t damage your kids OR leave you feeling like a terrible person.
Here are some strategies that help parents deal with frustration and anger around kids.
Let go of self-judgment. It’s natural to feel intense anger, frustration, and helplessness as a parent. Accept that you’re going to be exhausted and sometimes lose it. Remind yourself you’re doing your best.
Look for anger’s body cues. Step out of your head and into your body. Become aware of how the emotion is making itself known: for example, ears getting hot, surging in chest, rage moving up spine, sweating, and feeling like you’re about explode.
Take a page from your kids’ book. Kids are good role models for expressing emotions. They scream, cry, stomp around, and otherwise go ballistic, then after a few minutes are smiling and happy again. You can do this too, but in a safe place where you won’t frighten the kids.
Find two minutes to let it all out. Excuse yourself to the bedroom, if your kids are old enough, and pound the mattress with your fist, or scream and growl into a pillow. Do it hard, with abandon. If you need to cry, allow the tears to flow. If the kids are too little to be left alone, push against a wall as hard as you can, letting your arms and legs tremble with the effort. Make angry, scowling noises at the wall. While pushing or stomping, make sounds or stick to, “I just feel so angry. I need to get this energy out.”
Interrupt destructive thinking patterns. When you find yourself thinking about how your kids or the situation “should” be, learn to reroute those thoughts. Accept reality and focus on an indisputable truth. For example, “Suzie is the way she is, not the way I want her to be,” or “This feeling is temporary.” Repeat your statement in your mind over and over, and throughout the day.
Communicate with “I” statements and specifics. Instead of, “You kids are driving me crazy,” say, “I would like you to pick up your toys before we have a snack. It makes me happy when our playroom is neat and we can find all the pieces to our games.”
Deal with the present. Don’t make global generalizations such as, “You’re a bad boy.” Don’t drag in words like “always” and “never.” Stay specific and talk about the issue at hand. “I didn’t like it when you hit your sister. Look at how hard she’s crying. Use your words if something bothers you.”
Focus on the positive. When your kids infuriate you, don’t focus on the small stuff that bothers you. Remember to tell your children what you love, admire, value, and notice about them when you’re NOT feeling angry.
Be a good example for your family. Model healthy coping strategies for your family by creating a safe place for releasing anger. At an emotionally neutral time, explain to kids that expressing emotions is healthy, and you’ve created a safe place where anyone can go and get their anger out. Set aside a corner of the basement with a punching bag and a mattress, and show them how to pound pillows and invite them to do the same.
Take care of yourself. Good emotional health in a family starts with you. Find what nourishes you and do it, even it if it’s just for a few seconds here and there. Sip a mug of hot tea or walk outside to feel the sunshine. Or even let the kids spend the afternoon on a play date so you can have quiet time. Be good to yourself.
Find someone for support. Perhaps it’s a best girlfriend who also has kids, or it’s your spouse. Ask for help and call in the support team when you feel like you’re going to lose it with the kids.
The results? You set up a healthy emotional space for the entire family. You’ll take care of your own need to feel centered and to have a sense of well-being. Releasing the emotional energy and focusing on acceptance dissipates anger and restores balance. You’ll feel more calm, clear, and loving–and you’ll teach your kids to do the same for themselves. You’ll calmly accept what is or say/do what you need to in order to keep love, joy, and peace flowing in your household.
Jude Bijou, MA, MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her theory of Attitude Reconstruction® evolved over the course of more than 30 years working with clients as a licensed marriage and family therapist, and is the subject of her award-winning book, “Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.” Learn more at http://www.attitudereconstruction.com./