Modeling Anger for your Child

Why getting angry on occasion, may not be a bad thing.

All you parents out there, raise your hands. How many of you have lost your temper with your children and felt like a horrible failure of a parent as a result?  Yeah – me too.

Getting angry is not how I want to parent. You see parents who are mad all the time yelling at your kids and you feel sorry for the child.  That sort of abuse can really damage a child. So when we lose our cool as parents and yell, well, it’s not good.

On the other hand – I do think modeling not just anger, but how to get over frustration and anger quickly without hurting anyone is a good thing. This is one of those important life skills people have to learn. And if we aren’t shown how to do it and aren’t taught how to do it, how will we learn?

I used to work at an SPCA and we had an animal fostering program. So if we had babies without a mom, a volunteer would nurse the pups or kits until they were of adoptable age. We had to tell our volunteers to allow the kits or pups to struggle. Don’t do everything for them. Allow them to struggle. Because if you don’t and you coddle a kitten or a pup, you end up with a psychologically very damaged puppy or kitten. The struggle helps them to be normal.

It’s the same with kids. A little bit of stress and struggle is good for them. A lot – is bad.

So, when I get angry, I don’t hide it. But I also try not to take it out on my kid. I use my words to let him know, I’m getting mad or frustrated and that he should give me a little space so that I don’t blow up. Getting frustrated and angry is normal and ok. Taking it out on others is not ok. Because my husband and I model rationally dealing with our anger and frustration – most of the time anyway – our son has picked up on this and does the same thing. In fact, he’s often so calm about dealing with his anger, others don’t always believe him when he says, he’s getting angry or frustrated.  We, his parents, know better and respect his space when he asks for it. He does the same for us.

What about those times when we do lose our cool?  Well, they don’t happen that often. But when they do, we apologize as soon as we calm down, which is usually within about a half hour. Our son accepts our apologies because he knows, that’s not how we normally handle our anger and frustration and that even the best attempts to be rational sometimes fail.  And that’s a good lesson for him to learn. He apologizes too when he loose his cool. Why? Because that’s the behavior we've modeled for him.

I realize it is hard to be rational when you are angry. But consider what sort of behavior you want to model for your child. Because they learn from example. If you don’t want a kid who screams when they are mad. Perhaps you should try to cut back on your screaming first.

How do you model and handle anger and frustration in your family?

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