Mental Health

A Guide To Anger Management For Parents

Don't let anger dictate your parenting journey—empower yourself with tips to control temper calmly and constructively. Here are some tips to control anger as a parent and set a good example for your kids.

By URLife Team
22 Mar 2024

Our daily life involves a lot of tasks and worries; from paying bills to struggling with work deadlines. Amid this chaos, your child barges in saying they can’t find their book, needs help with math, or other siblings are being mean to them. As a parent, you may feel the unhinged urge to stop your kids when their needs suddenly meddle with yours. So, if you are dealing with more problems than usual, then chances are that you may snap easily. And that’s alright, as long as you know when and how to make amends.


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Anger is a very humane response to something which has caused agony. At times anger can help you get things done or allow you to take a stand for what’s right. In the quiet moments, if we're honest, we know we'd handle any parenting challenge better if we stayed calm. But when we're angry, it feels justified. How could this child act so irresponsibly, selfishly, or even cruelly?


Yet, it's crucial to realise that our child's behaviour isn't what makes us angry. We witness their actions ("They hit their sibling again!"), and we jump to conclusions ("They're going to turn out bad!"), which then leads to more negative thoughts ("I'm failing as a parent!"). These thoughts trigger a flood of emotions—like fear, disappointment, and guilt—that we struggle to deal with.


However, feeling angry and managing anger can offer an opportunity to display positive conduct to your child. On the flip side, if you allow anger to control you without giving yourself time to cool down, you might end up saying or doing things that are hurtful. This can escalate problems and lead to conflicts. Moreover, constant exposure to conflict and yelling isn't beneficial for children.


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Why do parents feel angry?

As parents, we all bring our baggage from childhood into the parenting journey, and our children often bring out those old wounds. It's natural for our kids to sometimes behave in ways that push us to the edge. Your child might be triggering your rage, but they aren't the reason for your reaction. According to a 2023 study in the paper Mind, whatever issue makes you feel like snapping has its roots in your past or childhood. We can see this because, in those heated moments, we lose our ability to think clearly and start behaving like children ourselves, throwing tantrums. Another factor may be sociocultural. While it's acceptable to express emotions like anxiety or sadness, expressing anger is often discouraged. Consequently, we may not learn how to effectively manage or channel our anger in constructive ways.


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Effects of Anger on Kids

Parenting is a demanding journey without a guidebook. Everyday scenarios can trigger irritation and anger in parents. When parents are prone to reacting emotionally, they may be more inclined to respond harshly, resorting to excessive punishment or physical discipline.


A 2013 research issued in the journal Society for Research in Child Development indicates that children subjected to harsh verbal discipline are more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression and behavioural issues during adolescence.


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How To Control Anger?

The most crucial rule when it comes to dealing with anger is to avoid acting on it immediately. Despite feeling a strong urge to react and discipline your child in the heat of the moment, it's important to recognise that this urgency is fueled by your anger, which often exaggerates the situation. You'll have ample opportunity to address the issue later when you're calmer and can effectively convey the lesson you want to impart.

1. Recognise your triggers before snapping

Recognise that starting any intervention from an angry state is not helping to resolve the situation positively. Instead, give yourself a timeout and return when you've regained your composure. Physically move away from your child to prevent the temptation of reacting violently. Simply say, in as calm a manner as possible, "I'm feeling too upset right now to discuss this. I'm going to take a timeout to calm down." Pay attention to what situations or behaviours tend to provoke your anger. Identifying triggers can help you prepare and respond more calmly in those situations.


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2. Listen to your anger instead of immediately reacting to it

Anger, like any emotion, is a natural part of being human. However, what's crucial is how we choose to respond to it. Anger often holds valuable insights or lessons for us, but reacting impulsively while angry, except in rare cases where self-defence is necessary, is seldom productive. In the heat of anger, our decision-making is clouded, and we may make choices that we wouldn't make from a rational state. Instead, take the time to understand the root of your anger and consider how you can address the underlying issues in a constructive manner.


3. Calm yourself down before taking action

When anger flares up, it's essential to have a strategy to regain composure. Stop, and ask yourself: Do you really want to let these emotions take control? Remind yourself that it's not an emergency. Shake the tension out of your hands and take ten more deep breaths. If possible, dedicate 20 minutes a day to relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness practice. This can help build your neural capacity to handle moments of upset more effectively. Try to find humour in the situation, as laughter can release tension and change the mood. Listening to music and dancing can also help discharge rage.


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4. Monitor your tone and word choice carefully

Recognise that your tone of voice and choice of words have the power to either calm or upset both yourself and the person you're communicating with. Keep in mind that you serve as a role model for your child, so strive to maintain a respectful and composed demeanour, even in challenging situations. Instead of lashing out or bottling up your feelings, express yourself assertively. Use "I" statements to convey your emotions and needs without blaming or attacking others.


5. Feeling stuck in anger? Don't hold onto it

After acknowledging and making necessary adjustments, allow yourself to release it. If you find it difficult, identify that anger often serves as a defence mechanism, shielding us from vulnerability.


To release anger, search beneath its surface to uncover the hurt or fear beneath it. Perhaps your son's tantrums instil fear in you, or your daughter's preoccupation with friends makes you feel dismissed and hurt.


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6. Keep negative interaction at bay

Every negative interaction scraps away the trust and connection between you and your child. Prioritise what truly matters, such as how your child treats others. While small annoyances like a jacket on the floor may grate on your nerves, it's not worth damaging your relationship over. Keep in mind that a positive and connected relationship with your child strengthens your influence and makes them more receptive to your guidance in the long run.


7. Set limits before you feel overwhelmed by anger

Establish clear boundaries with others to prevent situations that consistently trigger your anger. If you're feeling irritated due to personal reasons—like having a tough day and your child's energy is getting on your nerves—it can be beneficial to communicate this to your children. Explain how you're feeling and kindly ask them to be considerate by toning down the behaviour that's bothering you, at least temporarily. This proactive approach can help prevent conflicts and foster understanding between you and your child. Communicate your limits assertively and enforce them when necessary.


Related story: Working Parents’ Guide To Setting Limits For Kids


8. Avoid physical force under all circumstances

A 2018 study issued in the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against it as harsh verbal abuse may cause mental health problems in preteens and adolescents. If you find yourself struggling to control your emotions and are at risk of resorting to physical force, take immediate steps to remove yourself from the situation, even if it means leaving the room. If physical force is used, it's crucial to apologise to your child, emphasise that hitting is never acceptable, and seek help to address and manage your impulses.


Effective anger management is vital for maintaining healthy relationships and promoting positive child development in parenting. Throughout this article, we've highlighted key strategies for managing anger, including identifying triggers, taking timeouts, and practising self-awareness. It's essential for parents to prioritise self-care and seek support when needed.


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