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Tips to manage frustration and anger as a parent

With my four kids the long holidays were a mixed blessing, on one hand it meant that all the complex organisation of after school activities with the logistical nightmare of finding two of the kids doing different activities at the same time but in different locations, gave way to a relaxed atmosphere with less limits and lazy days. 

All that was great for the first week or two, after that came the arguing between each other, over the smallest thing and constant cries of I’m bored, mum! Around this time I would find myself saying the sorts of things that I remember my mother saying, I also remembered thinking I would never say these things. 

Do you remember the infuriating answers your mother gave? 

UK Research tells us that 80% of us use tried and tested replies like ‘because I said so’ and ‘wait and see’! Remember…‘you will have someone’s eye out with that’ or ‘what did your last slave die of?’ 

Research carried out by parenting web site, states that one of the strange findings was that most of the 3,000 mothers asked, stated that they were nothing like their mothers!

The reality is that we can’t help ourselves. We teach the way our parents taught us, using familiar methods of disciplining; unless our own experience was a very negative one and we want to do things in a more positive way. 

That presents a problem as well as many of us can’t see a different way to do things so we stick with what we know. 

This is where ‘Band aid Parenting’ comes in. Parents tend to go from one problem to the next and trying to fix problems as they arise. This is exhausting as people feel they go from one disaster to the next just dealing with one issue at a time. No real ground work is going on here. It is so much easier to deal with problems as they arise if you have done the preparation, instead of just sticking a band aid over a small cut and hope it doesn’t get worse. 

People who come to see me are used to me saying that “children are not born holding instruction manuals!” there is no trial run either. We have to have 120hrs supervision behind the wheel of a car before we get our ‘Red P’s’ and even then people give us a wide berth on the road! Put like that, is it any wonder that we feel lost from time to time when handling different situations as our kids grow up? 

Children are always questioning their parents, testing the boundaries, to see what they can get away with. Sometimes a quick throw away remark is all mums can think of, before running out of patience. That’s when the ‘because I said so!’ makes an appearance. 

Parents questioned for this research said that they intentionally used some of their parent’s sayings, as a method of disciplining, despite the fact that they remember not understanding them as a child themselves! 

How is a child six years of age meant to understand parents saying “close the door, were you born in a barn?”, “do as I say, not as I do”, “that’s for me to know and you to find out” or “if you watch too much TV you will get square eyes!”

Children and mother playing

So what can you do to help you feel more in control of the house? 

Firstly, it is OK to ask for help, other people are having the same problems as yourself. All over Australia at some time there are parents wringing their hands in despair as to how to cope.

Remember that:

Everyone gets angry with their kids at some time or another – it’s normal, it’s healthy. 

Kids know just what buttons to push, and they push them! It helps to accept that anger is an honest emotion, but it’s what you choose to do with your anger that’s important. 

Try this one; Press an imaginary internal ‘pause’ button like the one on a DVD player. Then, ask yourself: “What exactly am I annoyed or angry about?” This helps you step back from a situation and puts you back in control, helping to calm you down. Imagine the DVD remote is in your hand as it’s a great way to take control of the situation; it’s so easy to get carried away.

Keep an anger diary. You will probably discover that you get wound up by the same things over and over again. Your anger diary will help you notice your triggers and give you some warning. Is it just when you are hungry or tired and running on empty just before dinner? Or is it when you go into your daughter’s room for the 100th time to tell her to tidy it up? 

Notice physical changes in yourself – what physical signs do you get to warn you that you are about to ‘lose it’? Do you start to breathe faster? Go red? Feel like a volcano that is about to erupt? By starting to notice your physical signs you are again getting back in control. You are becoming aware of your triggers.

Ask yourself: “Is my attitude helping me to get closer to or further away from the relationship I want with my child long-term?” This question immediately takes you out of the here and now and into the bigger picture of your parenting. It immediately changes your perspective.

Talk openly and honestly with your child about how you feel – such as: “I’m tired of telling you this over and over again, it makes me feel…” “I’m angry with you because .” 

Phrases like these teach your child about empathy and immediately takes the emotional charge out of your frustration. You are being a good role model for your child; it is ok to say “sorry”. 

Swallowing your anger is an unhealthy response as it turns inwards and makes you feel unhappy, helpless, stuck, depressed and generally out of control of your life. Identifying that you are getting angry is the first step, and then you need to manage the feeling.

Reading articles or books on parenting is always helpful, BUT unfortunately when you are in the middle of a crisis with the kids it’s hard to remember what the book said and that depends if you had time to read it in the first place!

Up to date research from the UK and USA tells us that parents can manage these difficult situations if they have discussed before how to manage them. 

Clearly you can’t practice a response to ALL the situations your children will put you in, but there are things that help.


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